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Sunday, 8 November 2009

Vande Matram In Deoband

Controversies do not take much time to take birth. If the place of birth is India, and the source of controversy is religion, then the speed gets much better. One of the largest Sunni organizations in South Asia is Jamiate Ulema-e- Hind. It commands a wide following across the length and breadth of India. On 3rd November in the previous week, the Islamic organization convened the 30th general session at Deoband, 150 kilometers away from the capital of the country. One significant dimension of the annual session was the constructive initiative on the part of the Darul Uloom Deoband and Jamiate Ulama-e-Hind. The organizers were making a good futuristic point. They had invited some popular personalities from contemporary India like Baba Ramdev and Swami Agnivesh; and also the Union Home Minister and Mr Sachin Pilot. Not only were they requested to share the dais with the popular religious figures from Indian Muslims but, more importantly, were given sufficient time address the congregation. The Jamiat along with the constituents from the Darul Uloom-one of the oldest Islamic seminaries in India-passed more than twenty resolutions. The resolutions which warmed the hearts of the union minister and other representatives of the majority community concerned with “terrorism”. The resolution condemned terrorism and wanted everyone who is resorting to violence including the naxals, to come round to the exercise of the peaceful means. For which, the resolution adds, the Jamiat and the Darul Uloom would help them and also plead their case strongly before the people against whom they are bearing deep resentment. The union minister showered profuse praise and admiration on the Muslim organization for reiterating her commitment to the interest of the nation, and also for making possible a common platform for Hindus and the Muslims. The Minister went back to his routine business, and then, yes, the monster raised her head; the controversy began.

Not everyone saw the bridge which was sought to be constructed by the Jamiat and the Uloom between the Hindus and the Muslims. Some only saw the pillars and the thin air in between. They took out the communal microscopes from their bags and began to scan the resolutions passed in the convention. Among others the convention passed a resolution against the singing of the National Anthem. The reason given was that some of the verses of the song are not in harmony with the basic tenet of Islam i.e., worshipping only one God. This one was enough for the communally tainted eyes to paint the entire convention and the conveners as anti national. They also railed against the Home Minister. He did not take much time to issue statements in self defense. He informed the adversaries that he was not present at the time the said resolution was passed. The resolution, Sachin Pilot, attack, defense all combined together very soon to reach the headlines of the newspapers and the television studios. No doubt the controversy died down in a matter of days. The reason for that is not that the intensity of the nature of the controversy was less or marginal; actually the current disarray and disorder in the saffron camp following repeated self punches saved the country a lot of space, time and energy. Otherwise everything was ready for a real showdown between the parties involved in the row over the Vande Matram.

There are a couple of things worth noting. Let me begin with the first. Except for a few Muslim individuals and organizations, the Vande Matram controversy remains unsettled. The Darul Uloom has already placed on record a fatwa against the singing of the vande Matram. And the reason is not too far away. Just a cursory glance at the widely accepted translation of the song from Bengali to English by Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that the image of mother goddess, and the bowing before her goes against the seminal grain of Islam; where even bowing before one’s own mother or even the Prophet is strictly forbidden. At the time of independence there was a debate whether the song should be made the National Anthem .The objections raised were on many counts, not least of which is the presence of the idolatrous depiction of the mother country. The other centered round the history of the composition of the song. The song was sung by militant sadhus in Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s novel Anand Math; a starkly anti Muslim novel. Though the historical section was partially forgotten, the point of contention at the time of its adoption revolved around some of the offensive verses. Subsequently some of the verses were deleted and the rest in her existing form was retained as the National Anthem. Despite that the objections against its rendition by the Muslims did not go away completely. Yes, A R Rehman a Muslim, is one of the finest singers of the song and Hasrat Mohani, Ashfaqullah and others sang the song with deep and profound  emotion. However all this did not satisfy the major Muslim organizations. Hence the Fatwa and the recent resolution to reaffirm the attachment to the original religious decree. The General Secretary of Jamiate Ulama �e- Hind, Mehmood Madani, believes that the singing of the Vande Matram is not compulsory. Then why are the fatwa and the resolution seen as unconstitutional. How come, due to this, the Muslims turn anti nationals overnight?

As it is not many seem ready to understand the nuances of the problem. Probably no one can; because the song forces a rethink or revaluation of the difference between love and worship. Can a line be drawn between their conceptual base and the material manifestation in different actions? The Muslims, and they say it time and again, love the land of their birth and of their ancestors but refuse to put themselves in the category of the worshippers. The song Vande Matram imposes an imagery of worship upon them. Some Hindus want Muslims to be put to the test of the song. If they participate in the rendition, leave aside the anxiety over love and worship, they have passed the test of loyalty to the nation; if they debate and hesitate their eligibility is suspect and if a rejection comes in the direction of the Anthem, they had better pack their things and go, well, where exactly?

Frankly a preternatural communalist does not heed reason. He, whether a Muslim  or a Hindu, feeds on hate and prejudice. He needs an excuse to substantiate the inner malice. Of all the resolutions passed by the congregation the focus was exclusively zeroed in on  Vande Matram. As if nothing else was done during the conventions. The convention placed a broad focus on so many issues and passed other resolutions. Like Terrorism; a word which was almost become synonymous with the Muslim community, and is pestering India on many fronts. That does not strike a chord with them. The resolution against terrorism in her various forms, without excluding naxalism , is not in line with their internal aims. For a moment even if this and all the other ‘positive’ resolutions are cast away, the very endeavor to bring together members of the two communities on a common dais should have been enough gladden the hearts. That did not take place; swords were out on mere one resolution out of more than twenty. Once again the community members had to come out with clarifications and pleas for a discussion and a free debate on the matter. The truth is that the albatross of “antinationalism” refuses to cease nibbling on their patriotic chests. Would it ever come off them?

Author is Assistant Professor at Kashmir University. Email: javjnu@gmail.com


  1. The very reason why the other two stanzas of the song was left off was because it had religious references. Even after that if muslims have a problem with it, nobody can help them.

  2. And yeah.....the media hasn't focused on the other resolutions like

    1. rejecting 33 per cent reservations for women in legislatures as "bringing women into the mainstream would cause social problems"

    2. Condoms are the cause for AIDS.

    Yeah....thought provoking resolutions......

    Guyz, if you want to live in 7th century, nobody has a problem with it. But you shouldn't expect others to find it acceptable in the 21st century.