More on Vande Mataram!!!!I discussed the subject with a few friends and others... well, certain things need to be clarified.. even though I love the song...
Vande Mataram, adopted as the National Song by the Constituent Assembly on January 24, 1950, was caught in a political storm once again in the past week. Now, a little more detail about the context in which the resolution was passed that day will help make sense of the controversy and the debate.
This resolution was adopted on the last day of the last session of the Constituent assembly and it was indeed in the form of a statement by its Chairman, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. In other words, there was no debate, whatsoever, immediately before or after it was made. Prasad simply declared ``the song, Vande Mataram which has played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honoured equally with Jana-gana-mana and shall have equal status with it’’ and the House endorsed the idea.
It is not that the issue was not debated at all. The song, instead, was subjected to scrutiny by all sections of the nationalists for over three decades before it was finally declared as the National Song. And there were important leaders of the Indian National Congress, including Jawaharlal Nehru, who were not excited in the same way as many others in the fold with the idea of celebrating the song. That it was decided in 1937 to retain only the first couple of stanzas and not the entire song revealed this so clearly.
And this had a political logic. In the context of the Muslim Mass Contact Programme, that the INC had launched at that time, it was bad political strategy to yield grounds to the Muslim League. Moreover, it is also a fact that the portions of the song that they decided to delete were indeed added by Bankim himself to the text in 1881 when Anand Math was serialized in a magazine. In other words, the song, as conceived in the few years between 1872 and 1875 contained just 12 lines.
Thus, there was a consensus, more than a decade before Prasad declared Vande Mataram as the National Song that Bankim had added several stanzas to his original script and the lines that were added conveyed messages that were inimical to the agenda of building a secular, democratic republic. It is also necessary, to recall at this stage, that Prasad did represent the section in the national movement that was inclined to look at nationalism on the basis of cultural notions and hence closer to the idea of patriotism as it was expressed by Bankim in his Anand Math and in that sense with all the stanzas!
This indeed became clear with Prasad’s positions as President of the Republic and was the cause for the conflict that came up, at various stages, between him and Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister through the fifties. The most serious of this was in the context of Prasad’s attendance when the Somnath temple was refurbished and Nehru’s objections to that. Prasad was also criticized by Ram Manohar Lohia for his direct association with the Brahminical-Hindu order and the irony of the President of a secular democratic republic endorsing that order. Lohia’s reference was to the fact that Prasad had gone about cleaning the feet of the priests at the temple in Varanasi.
The point is that the adoption of Vande Mataram as the National Song did not, in any way, represent a consensus of any kind among the generation of freedom fighters at the time they embarked upon the nation building project on January 24, 1950. And in this sense, it was not imperative for generations that grew up in the decades after that to consider singing of the song as a necessary condition to establish their love for the nation. Lest it be glossed over, we did witness movements and leaders raising objections to the rendition of Jana-Gana-Mana too. Atul Bora, who led the student movement in Assam in the early Eighties spoke against the National Anthem on grounds that a song in Bengali language being treated the National Anthem offended the aspirations of the Assamese people at that time.
Well. The BJP and other sangh parivar outfits did not call the AASU and the AGP that was born out of it as anti-nationals in the same way they react to the objections by a section of the Muslim clergy to a rendition of Vande Mataram. The BJP and the AGP are allies in not just the electoral arena but in their attitude towards the members of the minority community too. This only points to the fact that the BJP’s ``love’’ for Vande Mataram does not emerge from any notions of patriotism or the legacy of the freedom struggle. Instead, it is just another handle for the outfit and its cadre to intimidate the members of the minority community. And a section of the Muslim clergy too facilitate this by declaring that the rendition of Vande Mataram by members of the community is un-Islamic!
Be that as it may. An important question that arises in this context is about the role of the RSS and the Hindu Maha Sabha, the two outfits from where the founding fathers of the Jan Sangh came from, in the struggle for freedom of which Vande Mataram had become a battle cry. Well. While the RSS had, time and again, declared its indifference to the struggle, the Hindu Maha Sabha, consisted of personalities who actually sided with the British for most part of the freedom movement. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the tallest of the Jan Sangh’s leaders had continued as Finance Minister of Bengal until February 1943; that is for several months after the Quit India movement was launched and thus played a role in crushing the movement.
When the BJP leaders, all of them being the proud legatees of Mukherji, now define patriotism only on the basis of the willingness of the Indian people to sing Vande Mataram, there is indeed a problem. It is another matter that Arjun Singh and his likes extol the citizens to sing that song on September 7, 2006, it amounts to nothing but reducing patriotism and nationalism to a synthetic category. In other words, teflon patriotism. A coating of Teflon, we know, ensures that nothing sticks on the surface and this brand of patriotism too is not meant to stick!