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I-Day row: UP madrasas divided on anthem, united against Yogi’s videography order

Senior Barelvi clerics decided in a meeting that students of Bareilly madrasas must not be made to sing the national anthem on Independence Day because it was “written in praise of King George V, a Britisher”. They, instead, opted for the recital of ‘Sare Jahan Se Achha’– a patriotic song penned by poet Muhammad Iqbal in Urdu.

lucknow Updated: Aug 15, 2017 09:25 IST
Team HT
Team HT
Hindustan Times, Bareilly/Meerut/Lucknow/Aligarh
Madrasa,Independence Day,Muslim clerics
A worker gives the finishing touches to a gigantic Tricolour at a Thane factory. Muslim leaders have said the Uttar Pradesh government should not “question their patriotism” by asking them to videograph the Independence Day celebrations at madrasas. (Praful Gangurde/ HT Photo)

While madrasas in Uttar Pradesh were divided on making their students sing the national anthem during Independence Day, a recent state government directive requiring them to videograph the celebrations drew near-unanimous criticism.

Influential Barelvi cleric Asjad Miyan, whose decision applies to 1,000 madrasas across the state, resolved to oppose the government order in toto. While the religious leader was in favour of celebrating the day, he did not want the educational institutions under his jurisdiction to either make students sing the anthem or videograph the proceedings.

However, not everybody saw eye to eye with Miyan. Mufti Abu Zafar – who heads the Deobandi mosque in Bareilly – announced that students of madrasas under his jurisdiction would sing the national anthem as per government instructions.

Deobandis, like Barelvis, are a prominent sect of Sunni Islam. Over 3,000 madrasas in western Uttar Pradesh are affiliated to the Darul Uloom Islamic seminary of Deoband.

Meanwhile, Bareilly district magistrate Raghvendra Vikram Singh said the administration had taken note of dissenting voices in the Muslim community. “We have intimated the government about the Barelvi cleric’s decision and are waiting for directions,” he said.

While many madrasas in Meerut were found to be gearing up for Independence Day, few approved of the government order to videograph the celebrations. The authorities of many such institutions said it ill behoves the government to seek proof of the Muslim community’s patriotism in this manner.

Nayab shahar qazi Jainus Rasheedin, Meerut president of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind, said madrasas in the city celebrate Independence Day and hoist the Tricolour every year. Both he and Syed Ahmad – mufti of the Nurool Islam madrasa – objected to the government order mandating that the proceedings be videographed.

The Darul Uloom Farangi Mahali, a madrasa in Lucknow’s Aisbagh Eidgah, celebrated the 71st anniversary of the country’s Independence in a big way. “We are holding a photo exhibition on the country’s freedom fighters at our historical madrasa. Hundreds of students are taking a keen interest in this regard,” Eidgah imam Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli told HT.

However, Maulana Gufran of the Darul Uloom Nizwan Farangi Mahal in Aishbagh seemed affronted by the state government directive. “We are proud to be Indians, but government orders like these raise a question mark on our patriotism. This is not fair,” the cleric said.

He, however, agreed to record the celebrations on a mobile phone and send the clip to the authorities concerned.

In a petition filed before the high court in 2014, Ajit Gaur – a resident of Aligarh – had alleged that “a large number of madrasas in Aligarh and other places across the country do not sing the national anthem on either Independence Day or Republic Day”. On February 8, 2015, the high court asked the state government to ensure that madrasas hoist the national flag and make its students sing the national anthem.

“I filed the petition in the high court, and it delivered its verdict. Now the Yogi government has issued necessary orders in this regard, which must be welcomed,” Gaur told HT.

No to national anthem in Bareilly

Meanwhile, senior Barelvi clerics decided in a meeting that students of Bareilly madrasas must not be made to sing the national anthem on Independence Day. “The national anthem was written in praise of King George V, a Britisher, and singing it belittles the struggle of our freedom fighters. We have unanimously decided that such a song will not be sung,” they said in a press release.

The clerics decided that the madrasa students will instead sing ‘Sare Jahan Se Achha’, a patriotic song in Urdu by poet Muhammad Iqbal.

The district administration criticised the decision, and issued prohibitory orders. “Such orders can affect peace in the area. I have asked district administrative officials to take action against those who prevent children from singing the national anthem in madrasas. The police have also been informed about it,” said Bareilly district magistrate Raghvendra Vikram Singh.

(Inputs from Chandan Kumar, S Raju, Rajeev Mullick and Pradeep Saxena)

First Published: Aug 15, 2017 09:25 IST