AFTER THE issues of cow slaughter and religious conversion, the BJP and the RSS are warming to the compulsory singing of Vande mataram to revive their Hindutva plank.
The BJP government in Chhattisgarh has already issued a circular to all educational institutions in the state, including madrasas, to ensure the recital of Vande mataram on September 7 to mark the centenary celebrations of the national song. Other BJP-ruled states — Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh — are likely to follow suit.
The issue will figure prominently at the three-day BJP conclave opening in Dehradun on September 7. The meet will discuss the party's election strategy for the states going to polls early next year (UP, Uttaranchal, Punjab).
The BJP has listed Vande mataram, along with the alleged denigration of Hindu gods in government textbooks, as major campaign issues.
The latest controversy began after HRD Minister Arjun Singh wrote a letter to chief ministers. He said the year-long commemoration of 100 years of Vande mataram's adoption as the national song was coming to a close on September 7. "As a
befitting finale to the commemoration year, it has been decided that the first two stanzas of Vande mataram should be sung simultaneously in all schools, colleges and other educational institutions throughout the country,” Arjun Singh had written.
Muslim clerics were quick to express their disapproval. In Hyderabad, Maulana Syed Shah Badruddin Qadri, president, the Sunni Ulema Board, asked Muslims not to sing the national song. He said Muslims should not send their children to schools where Vande mataram was sung. In Allahabad, the shahi imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, described any attempt to make Muslims sing the national song as “oppression of Muslims”.
After Arjun Singh said it was not mandatory to sing Vande mataram on September 7, BJP leaders created a furore in Parliament.
Two days ago, BJP chief Rajnath Singh vowed to take up Vande mataram as one of the main election issues in Uttar Pradesh, declaring that the party would make its singing compulsory if voted to power in the state. On Sunday, BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “Those who want to live in India have to sing Vande mataram.”
The Sangh Parivar’s mouthpiece, Panchjanya, described Vande mataram as the soul of Indian nationalism. “Every citizen, at every place, should sing Vande mataram,” it said.
The journal criticised Arjun Singh for declaring — following protests from the Muslim clergy — that the singing of the national song was optional for schoolchildren. Vande mataram was adopted as the national song at the Congress’s Varanasi session on September 7, 1905. It was accorded that status officially, bringing it on a par with the national anthem, by the Constituent Assembly on January 24, 1950.