Friday, 10 May 2013

Latest controversy on the national song Vande Mataram

Recently we were greeted by the news of a member of parliament walking out from the Lok Sabha while the national song Vande Mataram was being played. The speaker of the house has expressed her disagreement with what the MP did. The MP has justified her walking out for "religious" reasons.
This issue keeps resurfacing over and over again. It has become so politically motivated that one does not know what the real intention of people opposing or supporting singing the national song is. The fact of the matter is that the first two stanzas of Vande Matram is India's national song. The national song of India does not disrespect any religion. Singing it does not make you less in whatever religion you follow. The original song does have reference to Maa Durga but that this not the national song today. The first two stanzas of the original song constitute the national song today. People who make a controversy out of the national song citing history are not really secular in my view they are anti thesis of what it means to be secular. How does one undo the history of our freedom struggle and the part played by the national song just because someone thinks it is not secular?

The crux of the intellectual argument made against Vande Mataram is perhaps present in the often cited article by Mr A G Noorani. There are other arguments made using terms not so much in the vogue in India regarding cultural nationalism against civic nationalism with an assertion that Vande Mataram represents cultural nationalism where as India only needs civic nationalism. Where as the fact is that any civil nationalism in practice has never subverted the culture of the land, say in a country like France it has meant that the French language has predominated. We cannot in India seek to subvert our own culture so as not to sound anti-secular. Breaking of coconuts and lighting lamps are part of our culture and any government cannot say that we are secular so we won't do this in official functions.

I do not agree with Mr Noorani on several of his other views specially on Kashmir and I do not consider him truly secular either. His article cited above though full of references and historical context failed to impress me. These intellectual positions are probably being used to justify the unjustifiable. The historical context of the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram as a national song should be seen only as the freedom movement(which is why it was made the national son g in the first place) rather than the story in the novel Anand Math and its interpretations. The national song deserves full respect devoid of petty sectarian politics.

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