The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Discordant note on song
- BJP govt cracks Mataram whip

Raipur, Aug. 28: Chhattisgarh’s BJP government today stoked the raging controversy over Vande Mataram further by making its singing compulsory at every educational institution in the state, including madarsas, on September 7 to mark the national song’s centenary.

The state cited a directive from Arjun Singh to justify its move although the human resource development minister had explicitly said last week that no one could be forced to sing the song.

Arjun’s comments came at a meeting on terrorism organised by Muslim bodies, where he was asked to clarify just this directive which told states the song should be sung at all educational institutions on September 7.

Arjun’s clarification catapulted the issue — a touchy subject even in pre-Independence days — into Parliament where it led to a furore.

Muslim leaders have for decades argued that the lyrics are at odds with Islam’s stand against idolatry, and imams have issued fatwas against Muslims singing them.

The BJP, ready to brand any opposition to Vande Mataram “anti-national”, plans to line up 200 Muslims in Parliament on September 5 to sing it and has asked each of its chief ministers to enforce its rendition on September 7 at educational institutions in their states.

“The (Chhattisgarh) government has issued a circular making it compulsory to sing Vande Mataram on September 7 at 11 am in all educational institutions,” state school education secretary C.K. Khetan told The Telegraph.

Asked whether Arjun’s directive had said the singing was mandatory, Khetan explained that since it “did not mention singing Vande Mataram as ‘optional’, the state government examined the matter and issued (the) circular making it compulsory”.

Several state madarsas today vowed to defy the directive.

“We will not sing Vande Mataram in the madarsas,” said Mustafi, an official of the Hamid Ali Madarsa here. Citing the fatwas, he added: “We are only following instructions from higher authorities.”

The circular asks the institutions to ensure singing of at least the first two stanzas. “On completion of 100 years of acceptance of the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram as the national song, the Centre has decided to make mandatory its recitation in all educational institutions,” it said.

September 7 would actually be the song’s 101st anniversary, marking the culmination of its centenary celebrations.

Vande Mataram was adopted as the national song by the Congress on September 7, 1905, a move that immediately ran into a wall of protest from Muslim leaders.

At Jawaharlal Nehru’s behest, the Congress Working Committee in October 1937 “recognise(d) the validity of the objection raised by Muslim friends to certain parts of the song” and truncated its public presentation to the first two stanzas. On January 24, 1950, Independent India made the song’s status official.

Last week, Arjun had said: “We decided that the only way to celebrate the event was to sing it. But this does not mean everyone should sing — there is no compulsion.”

Madhya Pradesh’s BJP government had last year made the song compulsory at all government offices on the first Tuesday of every month. The ritual continues, but participation has remained optional.

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