A controversy that is often simulated

We in the academic professions often tell our students that unasked for answers are not substitutes for unanswered questions. The article by A Faizur Rahman ‘Islamic monotheism is not under threat’ (TNIE, November 11) in response to an earlier one by S Gurumurthy ‘How did it turn unsafe?’ (TNIE, November 9) falls under this category. The issues raised in the original article were four-fold.

Does the home minister of this country agree with the resolution by the convention supporting the fatwa by the Deoband seminary directing the community not to sing the National Song? Second is the Deoband assertion that it had not issued any fatwa against Vande Mataram singing or asked children to skip classes on the issue on September 7, 2007 (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/if-vande-means-salutation-muslims-to-sing-along/20762-3.html). It also asserted that it had steered clear of the issue, saying it has no ‘role to play’ in the controversy and it has been dragged into it ‘unnecessarily’. If that was so in 2007, then how come in 2009 the song has become a threat to monotheism?

The third issue is Sikhs/Christians etc do sing it and there is no ecclesiastical order or Hukumnama against it. Actually, during the freedom struggle it was extensively used by Sikh freedom fighters. The fourth issue is that the Constituent Assembly on January 24, 1950, unambiguously adopted a resolution stating that the National Song and National Anthem were of equal status and every member of Constituent Assembly — including Muslims — endorsed it.

But the article by Faizur Rahman does not give proper responses to these specific points and unambiguous questions. Instead, he goes on a tangent like a politician, and like a politician he adopts the strategy of abusing the author as a substitute for answering serious issues.

Let us face the fact that the controversy on the National Song did not start in 2007 with Arjun Singh’s decision to celebrate the centenary of the song, as suggested by Rahman. The controversy is pre-Independence and as early as the Thirties, and it was used by the leaders of the Muslim League to create divisions. That time it was about the song itself. The controversy is not called for since in many Gulf countries ‘salutations’ are offered to the ‘respected amirs’ and ‘sheiks’. In conferences in many of these countries (where the author was present) the audience stand up when the king or amir or prince enters the hall. If that is not showing reverence and salutations then what is it?

The controversy is just a simulated one. These are issues which are called ‘Ambient Conflicts’. It is like the burning coal kept covered by ash. It is neither glowing nor fully put out. But as and when required by politicians this coal covered with ash is puffed through a pipe to kindle it and make it big. In Tamil Nadu the Hindi issue and Sri Lankan Tamils issue belong to this genre. The same is the story of Vande Mataram. Marriage laws or Vande Mataram or educational reforms or mother tongue — any subject can be kindled suddenly to make it a major issue.

Hence the political contours become obvious when we look at the way these issues are brought to light. It is an existential reality that we do have large groups of different sets of ‘believers’ in every context in our country. For instance, it is easy for Raj Thackeray to raise the banner of Marathi manoos to hit out at his opponents and easier still for some Tamil groups to dub some policies of the Central government as an ‘Aryan conspiracy’. In a similar fashion, politicians belonging to some Islamic factions periodically bring up the Vande Mataram issue to achieve some political gains.

Forget about the meaning of Vande Mataram — millions of Indians went to jail and shed blood singing this song during the freedom struggle. Unfortunately or calculatedly, Jinnah and the politicians and groups he nurtured did not see the interior of any jail during the freedom struggle. From that point of view it is required for all to stop this controversy since it belittles the sacrifices of the millions who went to jail and suffered under the British. At least they and their memories require salutations from our heart. Their martyrdom should not be wasted in the midst of these futile controversies about what Vande Mataram means. Don’t we know it after 60 years of freedom and more than 100 years of the song? Some leaders want a group of Sanskrit/Hindi/Urdu scholars to be assembled to find the etymology of Vande!

Shame on all of us. Where have we reached? Are we saying millions of Indians went to jail and some the gallows singing this song in their hearts and lips without knowing the meaning? Is this commission to investigate/study and analyse the etymology of Vande going to solve all problems? Whom are we kidding? The committee members may want to visit all the countries of the world to study the contemporary practices in chanting national songs.

As is always said — you cannot wake up a man who is awake. When politics takes a primary role in dealing with national symbols and the martyrs of our freedom movement, one can only say — can we stoop any further?

It is imperative that the media — both print and electronic — do not give any significance to these objections since they are political and kindled on occasions to test political waters. Thankfully, millions of our countrymen are still inspired by the extraordinary song of Bankim Chandra, and it will reverberate in the hearts of Indians for centuries to come. More importantly, the four issues raised by the original article need serious deliberation.

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