UP madrasas defy Yogi govt order, refuse to sing anthem, record I-Day events

In Kanpur, Meerut and Bareilly, three of Uttar Pradesh’s biggest madrasa centres, many Islamic schools sang only Saare Jahan Se Accha and hoisted the Tricolour.
Children at a madrasa in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, celebrate Independence Day on Tuesday.(PTI)
Children at a madrasa in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, celebrate Independence Day on Tuesday.(PTI)
Updated on Aug 15, 2017 10:11 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Bareilly/Meerut/Kanpur | ByChandan Kumar and S Raju

Many madrasas across Uttar Pradesh defied on Tuesday a controversial state government diktat that asked staff and students at the Islamic educational institutions to sing the national anthem and videograph Independence Day celebrations.

In Kanpur, Meerut and Bareilly, three of the biggest madrasa centres in the state, students sang Saare Jahan Se Achha, a 20th century patriotic song penned by the poet Mohammad Iqbal and didn’t record proceedings, saying they didn’t want to give proof of their patriotism. (Live updates)

“Students hoisted the flag and celebrated the occasion with traditional fervour. The government order is an attempt to test our patriotism which is wrong,” said Haji Mohd Saleeh, convener of the Sunni Ulema Council.

The controversy was sparked by a circular passed by the Yogi Adityanath government last week that asked the Islamic schools to hoist the Tricolour and sing the national anthem at 8 am. The order, which made photography and videography of the event mandatory, argued that visual proof would help the board in encouraging participants to better their performance in the future.

But many of the state’s 16,000 madrasas didn’t take the order well and many prominent clerics publicly opposed the order. UP has one of the highest proportions of Muslims in the country, nearly a fifth, and just 600 of the madrasas are government aided.

In Bareilly, students at the Manzar-e-Islam – the biggest Barelvi madrasa in the city – hoisted the Tricolour but didn’t sing the national anthem. Instead, around 500 students gathered at the open prayer hall to sing ‘Sare jahan se achha’. The madrasa authorities also refrained from videography. Mediapersons were not allowed to cover the main event, which lasted for over an hour.

“Traditionally, we do not sing the national anthem during Independence Day or Republic Day celebrations. We only followed convention this time,” a senior cleric told HT on the condition of anonymity.

The decision to oppose the government order was taken by senior cleric Asjad Miyan, a descendant of 20th century Islamic religious leader Ahmed Raza Barelvi. Ahmed Raza’s dargah (shrine) in Bareilly is the most revered religious site for members of Sunni Islam’s Barelvi sect. It manages over a thousand madrasas.

Barelvi clerics justified their decision, alleging the national anthem was written in praise of George V, the then king of England. “Singing of the national anthem belittles the struggle of our freedom fighters. Thereby, it has been unanimously decided that such songs will not be sung on Independence Day,” they said in a press release.

In Meerut, all madrasas organised Independence Day programme on their premises and hoisted the Tricolour. Teachers and Muslim clerics addressed the students on the sacrifices made by all communities, including Muslims, in India’s freedom struggle.

Mufti Syed Ahmad of madarsa Noor-ul-Islam in old city said, “We cannot worship anyone else other than Allah.”

In Kanpur too, orders to videograph the event or sing the national anthem weren’t followed. Haji Mohd Saleeh said the students sang ‘Saare jahan se Accha’ to show their love towards their country. “For us it is also a national song,” he said.

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