“Vande Mataram partitioned”

via Bala published on August 21, 2006






“A most telling instance in point is the one relating to Vande Mataram.That celebrated song first appeared in the historical novel Ananda Math of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. It was a hymn of love of motherland sublimated into an ecstatic devotion to the divine mother –Bharath.In that exalted vision was manifesting the trinity of Saraswathi(The goddess of knowledge and culture), Lakshmi (The Godess of beauty and wealth) and Durga(The Godess of Strength and Energy).


When Bengal was partitioned in 1905, Vande Mataram became the battle song of the entire Nation. Congress too, thereafter,adopted it as the National Anthem and it was Rabindranath Tagore who sang it for the first time in the Congress session. To the British imperialists the very utterance of that simple expression VANDE MATARAM became the proverbial red rag to the bull. The Lt.Governor of East Bengal had ordained that no one should utter that word; it was a ‘crime’. Thousands of young men had mocked that order and braved the British lathis and boots in the streets of Barisal by their thunderous roar of VANDE MATARAM.They had shed their blood and sanctified that word into a potent and holy ‘RASHTRA-MANTRA’. It soon became the joyful and inspiring chant playing on the lips of the literate as well as the illiterate, the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, the old and the young-in fact of one and the-men, women and children. Hundreds of revolutionary heroes ascended the gallows with that final obeisance to the Mother. Gandhiji would often extol the grandeur of the song. At Comilla,in 1927,he said that the song held up before one’s mind the picture of the whole BHARAT-ONE AND INDIVISIBLE. These two simple words had,indeed,wrought miracle which even thousands of speeches and articles could not have acheived.It became the cry of the awakened and resurgent national soul.


It was at the Kakinada session of the Congress in 1923,That at the first blow was struck at this National Anthem. During those years, the reputed singer and patriot Vishnu Digambar Paluskar of Maharashtra used to fill the inaugural session of Congress with his deep and resonant music of Vande Mataram.However,when he came on the dais this time he was stopped by the President-Maulana Mohammed Ali.The Maulana exclaimed that singing of music was taboo in Islam and as such he would not permit it.The entire assembly was stunned;everyone,including the high-ups and stalwarts adorning the Dias, sat dumbstruck, unable to think out a reply to the President. Paluskar, however struck to his post. In a voice of righteous indignation he retorted to the Maulana,’The Indian National Congress is not the monopoly of any one particular sect nor is this place a mosque, where singing could be prohibited. You have therefore no authority to prevent me from singing Vande Mataram.Moreover,if singing in this place is against your particular religion, How is it you could tolerate music in your presidential procession?The Maulana of course had no answer to this challenging question,but left the dias while Paluskar went through the singing.


The Congress was now beset with a fresh anxiety.VANDE MATARAM was proving an ‘irritation’ in the path of ‘winning over Muslims’.Congress,as we know, had remained unruffled in the face of the mighty assault, and even banning of the VANDE MATARAM,by the British. It had, after passing through that fire, even adopted it as its National Anthem. But now in the face of Muslim opposition, it began to waver. In 1922,it had already adopted Mohammed Iqbal’s Sare jahan se accha, Hindusthan hamara  as the associate National Anthem just to satisfy the Muslims.


The real test for the Congress regarding Vande Mataram did not materialise till 1937-when elections to the Provincial Assemblies were held and the Congress was returned to power in seven Provinces. The Congress Government,in line with past Congress tradition ,began commencing the Assembly proceedings with with Vande Mataram.The Muslim League, equally true to its tradition, declared a war against it. The League Members in the Assembly raised a storm of protest and staged walk-outs. The Congress Working Committee(CWC) was scheduled to meet in October 1937 at Calcutta. The Muslim League conducted its session earlier and denounced Congress-ruled States as ‘Hindu States’.And the most weighty testimony it adduced was the singing of the VANDE MATARAM in Assemblies !!


  The League condemned the Congress for ‘Vandemataram as the national anthen upon the country’ and termed it as ‘callous, positively anti-Islamic, Idolatrous in its inspiration and ideas and definitely Subversive of the growth of genuine nationalism in India’. The League further called upon ‘Muslim members of various legislatures and public bodies in the country not to associate themselves in any manner with this highly objectionable song’


When the CWC met a few days later, it was haunted by the spectre of the League’s opposition and formulated its policy on ‘Minority Rights’.If Hindu-Muslim unity-without which the British would not part with power-was to be acheived,the Muslims should not,at any cost ,be allowed to feel displeased. Their sentiments should never be injured,for what ever reason .Accordingly,the congress decided to  ‘CUT OUT’ those portions of VandeMataram ‘Which were likely to offend the Muslim susceptibilities  as indicated in the League’s resolution. Only the first two stanzas of the song depicting  the physical picture of the mother land were retained and the rest dropped’.Indeed,it was in those subsequent stanzas that the real essence of our nationalism and the spirit of the Freedom Struggle were enshrined .


  However,the Congres considered these stanzas as ‘Containing certain allusions and religious ideology which may not be in keeping with the ideology of other religious groups in India’. and upheld ‘The validity of objection raised by Muslim friends to certain parts of the song’. The Congress further gave its organizers ‘Freedom to sing any other song of an unobjectionable character in addition to,or in the place of Vande Mataram’


The last sentence clearly indicated that the Congress had even taken away the unique position of VANDE MATARAM as the National Anthem and ‘Placed it on par with other National songs” 

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