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Sunday, November 08, 2009

The politics of Vande Mataram

Engineer points out that the nationalistic paean has always been politicised (see box)-he recalls that the controversy over it had helped both the Muslim League (which refused to sing it) and the Shiv Sena (which insisted on it) win seats in the 1974 BMC election. He himself finds the song unobjectionable. "Vande Mataram means `I pay my respects to the motherland. Even if you translate it as `I bow to my motherland, what objection can there be to doing so?'' he asks. "The Mughals made courtiers bow to them and perform sajda (respectfully lowering and then lifting your hand to your forehead repeatedly). Why was this not condemned as un-Islamic? Simply because the emperor had power! In fact, Islamic scholar Mujaddid Alf Sani had objected to this practice in Jehangir's time, only to be thrown into prison.'' Writer Sajid Rashid recalls singing Allama Iqbal's Naya Shivala in his Urdu school, a song which contains the lines Patthar ki mooraton mein samjhaa hai tu khudaa hai/ Khaak-e-watan ka mujh ko har zarraa devtaa hai (You think that God resides in the stone idols/ Each speck of the motherland is God to me.) "Ulema of every sect consider Iqbal to be a devout Muslim. Why is there no furore against this well-known song?'' asks Sajid. Interestingly, the Pakistani national anthem has a line that says, `Blessed be the sacred land'. The politics of Vande Mataram


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