India at 70: Making patriotism a coercive act is objectionable and unconstitutional | editorials | Hindustan Times
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India at 70: Making patriotism a coercive act is objectionable and unconstitutional

States such as West Bengal have resisted the heavy-handed diktats of the government on celebrating Independence Day in the manner that New Delhi deems fit. Why do Muslims have to express their nationalism more loudly than the majority community ?

editorials Updated: Aug 14, 2017 17:08 IST
Schoolchildren rehearse on the eve of Independence Day in Ludhiana.  The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation made the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in civic schools.
Schoolchildren rehearse on the eve of Independence Day in Ludhiana. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation made the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in civic schools. (Gurpreet Singh/Hindustan Times)

Patriotism appears to be the flavour of the Independence Day week. Governments in the Centre and states are creating a nationalist frenzy among the citizens, by way of instructions on hoisting the tricolour and singing patriotic songs. But as the nation turns 70, a disturbing new trend is expecting minority educational institutions to flaunt their patriotism and furnish evidence of the same. Last week, the Yogi Adityanath government instructed 8,000 madrasas affiliated to the Uttar Pradesh Madarsa Shiksha Parishad to organise programmes on August 15 that pay a tribute to freedom fighters. The circular issued by the Parishad to minority welfare officers expressly stated that officers should ensure shooting of videos at madrasas and keep recordings as evidence. Just last week an influential Muslim preacher from Mumbai asked madrasas to fly the national flag on Independence Day. Also the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation made the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in civic schools. Yesterday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray demanded that the Union government enact a law making the singing of Vande Mataram mandatory. Also, the Madras High Court ruled that ‘Vande Mataram’ must be sung at least once a week in Tamil Nadu’s schools and colleges.

The idea has created a kerfuffle among Muslims since the lyrics of Vande Mataram deify the Motherland. Leaders of the community argue that Islam prescribes ‘vandan’ (worship) only for Allah. Even when India became independent, Vande Mataram was among the songs considered for the status of national anthem but the idea was discarded when a section of Muslims perceived it inappropriate. The suggestion isn’t just odious but also unconstitutional. In February, observing that the Constitution didn’t have provision for the concept of a national song, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain a plea that directed the Centre to frame a national policy to promote Vande Mataram. A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said Article 51A (fundamental duties) of the Constitution required the promotion and propagation only of the National Anthem and the Tricolour.

States such as West Bengal have resisted the heavy-handed diktats of the government on celebrating Independence Day in the manner that New Delhi deems fit. Why should the voluntary expression of patriotism through singing Vande Mataram become a mandatory act? Also, do Muslims have to express their nationalism more loudly than the majority community and furnish proof of their patriotism on a day to day basis? This doesn’t agree with the ideals of freedom or secularism that India set out with in 1947.