The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Patriot’ Gaur faces the music

Bhopal, June 20: Discordant notes are already ringing shrill over Madhya Pradesh chief minister Babulal Gaur’s order to make the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory once every month in state government offices, cabinet meetings and schools, starting from July 1.

In its “advice” to the Gaur government, the state legal department has said while it can organise choral singing of the national song, the government cannot enforce participation or penalise anyone who does not take part.

The general administration department has been told that under Article 28 (1) and (3) of the Constitution, the government’s “order” to enforce the singing of Vande Mataram cannot be made compulsory or punishable. The legal department even quoted earlier Supreme Court and high court rulings as examples.

Earlier this month, while making the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory, Gaur had also said state government employees would have a dress code and badges on which their names would be written.

The announcement sparked a debate with Muslim organisations, civil rights activists and a section of the Congress opposing it and the BJP and Sangh parivar questioning the opponents’ patriotism.

Gaur, however, is not the first to pass such an order, which he thinks will inculcate patriotic feeling and boost work culture among the babus in his state departments.

In November 1999, the minister for basic education in Uttar Pradesh, Ravindra Shukla, had issued an order to make singing Vande Mataram compulsory.

The BJP, which was in power at the Centre, initially supported Shukla but later home minister L.K. Advani said the singing could not be made compulsory. Shukla was subsequently removed from the basic education department.

Congress and Indian Union Muslim League leaders in Madhya Pradesh claim that Gaur’s order violates Article 28 (1) and (3) of the Constitution. Article 28 (1) reads that “no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state funds”.

Article 28 says “no person attending any educational institution recognised by the state or receiving aid out of state funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction... imparted in such an institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such an institution”.

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