A separate state for Kashmiri Pandits is not the way forward

25 years have passed since the exodus began but no one has really stood up for the Kashmiri Pandits. (Image: Reuters)

25 years have passed since the exodus began but no one has really stood up for the Kashmiri Pandits. (Image: Reuters)

On January 19, 2015, the Hindu community of the Kashmiri Pandits completed 25 years of exile. Following the outbreak of Islamist insurgency in Kashmir during the late 1980s, Kashmiri Pandits started finding themselves at the receiving end of a mindless wave of violence unleashed by terrorist groups. The mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley began on the night of January 19, 1990, as the valley reverberated with slogans of “azaadi”, “nizam-e-mustafa” and “la ilaha illallah”.

Militant outfits like the Hizbul Mujahideen had issued open threats to the Kashmiri Pandits to leave Kashmir. Those who managed to escape the violence and migrate to the Jammu region have lived to tell tales of how the mosques’ loudspeakers were used to intimidate the Pandits. Various derogatory slogans were chanted, urging the Kashmiri Pandit men to leave.

The ethnic cleansing of the Pandits clearly indicated the failure of the Indian state to provide adequate security to the community. Thousands migrated via the use of private transport in order to escape the wrath of the militants, whilst others, instead of being protected and guarded, were pushed to move out of the Kashmir valley by Governor Jagmohan. The government failed to prevent the persecution of a people who held allegiance to India close to their hearts.

In his book, ‘Our Moon has Blood Clots’, renowned Kashmiri Pandit author, Rahul Pandita, spoke about the gross injustice meted out to the Pandits. Whilst writing for Open Magazine, Pandita mentioned that nearly 32,000 houses belonging to the Kashmiri Pandits have been burnt down since 1991.

While it is difficult to state statistically the scale of the tragedy, as per Amnesty International an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Kashmiri Pandits left the valley after repeated threats from terrorist groups. In 2010, the state government of Jammu and Kashmir said that 219 Kashmiri Pandits have been killed by militants since 1989 but the figure was disputed by an organisation named the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti whose survey claimed that the death toll stood at 399. Some organisations have gone to the extent of claiming that thousands were butchered and mutilated. Hence, the real scale of the tragedy is unclear.

Now, 25 years have passed since the exodus began but no one has really stood up for the Pandits. The Indian National Congress (INC), which positions itself as the epitome of secularism in Indian politics, has never taken up their cause as vigorously as it should have. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has talked about Pandits quite often but has failed to move beyond rhetoric. It appears that the Hindu nationalist BJP views them merely as a vote bank because BJP’s track record in this matter is something not to be proud of.

Both the parties have headed coalitions at the centre and led national governments since the exodus happened but none could reverse the ground situation or ensure the resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. The regional parties in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, namely the NC and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have exchanged power in the state several times but have never gone beyond making ceremonial gestures towards the Pandits.

The so-called mass leaders of Kashmir, who hold protests and rallies regularly when human rights abuses are carried out by the Indian army, have never really dissented with the same zeal for the human rights of the Kashmiri Pandits.

In the last few years, how many angry protests have we seen in Kashmir demanding the resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley?

The answer is obviously disappointing. Why is it that the state of Pakistan, which has repeatedly raised the issue of Kashmir at the United Nations, never spoken in favour of the Kashmiri Pandits? Are they not Kashmiris? Why this selective discrimination?

President Musharraf could see the carnage against Muslims in Gujarat but not the communal violence of which the Pandits became victims. Let us stop this hypocrisy.

It is high time that the Indian state woke up from its slumber and gave justice to the Kashmiri Pandits. They have been wronged for too long. Though the community has rebuilt itself through tireless hard work, it requires the active support of Indians from all classes, communities and regions.

On the 25th anniversary of the exodus, Arnab Goswami’s hyper nationalist programme, The Newshour aired on Times Now, abruptly ended a debate on Kashmiri Pandits to relay BJP President Amit Shah’s press conference live in which he would go on to name Kiran Bedi as his party’s chief ministerial candidate for the Delhi elections.

The channel’s news selection reflected the lack of importance attributed to the cause of the Kashmiri Pandits. Though social media has enabled their cause to be taken up in a big way, this issue needs to make it to the front page of newspapers and generate nationwide empathy and support for the Pandits. We cannot afford to let it slip away.

There is a need for the government to initiate confidence building measures between the community of the Kashmiri Pandits and the Kashmiri Muslims. The spirit of Kashmiriyat or the composite culture of the place cannot be restored unless the Pandits are resettled in the valley.

But the real question is whether the two communities trust each other.

Will the Kashmiri Pandits be willing to go back to the same neighbourhood, and will the Kashmiri Muslims welcome them with open arms?

We need to realise that the road to reconciliation lies in integration and not segregation. This is the reason it would be unwise to support those who ask for a separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits in the name of Panun Kashmir. The partition of India failed to resolve communal problems. From time to time, different religious communities have been persecuted on both the sides of the border. Hence, there is a dire need to stop resorting to segregation and aspire for integration.

As Kashmiri Pandits await justice, we must rise up to the occasion and put a stop to this indifference.

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/25862/a-separate-state-for-kashmiri-pandits-is-not-the-way-forward/

(This article was originally published in The Express Tribune.)

Advertisements

The Islamophobic Saint, Vivekananda!

Vivekananda (Reuters)

Vivekananda (Reuters)

Some months back I had written a piece titled “Indian Icons whose perspective of Muslims and Islam will shock you.” The concerned write-up was published by Youth Ki Awaaz.com and attracted exceptional controversy primarily because of the controversial nature of the subject. A learned law graduate and an acquaintance of mine has written a rebuttal to my piece in which he has alleged that my piece is so biased that it, “has the potential to make Hindus lean towards being anti-Muslim and Muslims lean towards being anti-Hindu, and in the context of Indian Muslims, even make them lean in favour of being anti-national and help Pakistanis engage in anti-India propaganda.” The fact that the author through his own words exhibits the same sickening bigotry of associating Muslims with anti-India propaganda and helping Pakistan shows that he himself suffers from considerable Islamophobia in regards to Indian Muslims. He cites Islamist terrorists of the Indian Mujahideen and Muslim youth who burn crackers after India’s defeat to Pakistan in a cricket match as a proof of a “large number of Muslims” who are not loyal to the country. While there is no denying that Indian Mujahideen is certainly an anti-India terrorist outfit, there is also no evidence to suggest that Indian Mujahideen comprises of even 100 Indian Muslims. Similarly, the figure of those who celebrate after Pakistan’s triumph over India in cricketing ties might not even reach 1000. I wonder how this negligible lot who doesn’t even comprise 0.1% of the population of Indian Muslims be deemed as “large”. The Sachar Committee itself stated that the Indian Muslim community had never as a whole indulged in anti-national activities.

In his write-up the author has claimed that my write-up tries to portray that only Muslims are victims of prejudice. I would like to bring this to everyone’s notice that my articles on “Anti Semitism Among Arabs” and “Hinduphobia Among Misguided Muslims” have been appreciated by individuals of the likes of Economist and Former Economic Policy Advisor to Rajiv Gandhi, Dr Subroto Roy and Canadian Author Mr Tarek Fatah, respectively. I have also written a piece exposing the communal speeches made by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Founder of the Aligarh Movement. It is therefore preposterous to suggest even for a moment that I am over protective towards what Mr Thadani describes as “my Muslim community”. I would have certainly liked to spend time on the issue of Partition of India as Mr Thadani seems to suggest that Muslims were primarily responsible for the Partition along with the Muslim League. I wonder how come he found out that the bulk of the Muslims supported Muslim League and not Congress at a time when Universal Adult Franchise didn’t exist and only 11% or so of the population was entitled to vote during the 1946 elections in undivided India and only half of them exercised their right. Also, I find it hard to decipher as to why the majority of the Muslims chose to stay back in India and not go to Pakistan, something which they supported in large number as claimed by Mr Thadani. I recommend that he read Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar’s book titled, “Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist” in order to find out who actually partitioned India: The Muslim League or Muslims. There are several other books too based on official documentary records of the transfer of power which took place between the British and India. “Partition of India: Legend and Reality” by HM Seervai and “The Sole Spokesman, Jinnah, The Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan” by Dr Ayesha Jalal shall certainly help Mr Thadani in understanding the subject better.

Without wasting much time, I would now like to address the core issue. In my earlier write-up, I had furnished quotations which showed that Vivekananda, Tagore, Ambedkar, Gandhi, Patel and Nehru had certain wrong perceptions about Muslims and Islam.  Mr Thadani agrees with me in regards to the Islamophobic views of Mr Patel and Dr Ambedkar and has hence made my job easier. In Part 1 of his rebuttal to my piece, he has only defended Vivekananda. Perhaps, he shall defend others in a later piece which has not yet been published. Nevertheless, through this write-up of mine I shall try to puncture the counter arguments put forth in order to absolve Vivekananda of harbouring any form of Islamophobia. While talking about Vivekananda, I had stated in my piece, “The great saffron saint, Vivekananda, stated in the World Parliament of Religions that he hails from a civilization which holds all religions as true but astonishingly, the same Vivekananda while answering a few questions of the Editor of Prabuddha Bharat said, “Every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more.” Vivekananda did not even hold Prophet Muhammad in high regards. He said, “He (Muhammad) was not a trained yogi and did not know the reason of what he was doing. Think of what good Muhammad did to the world and think of the great evil which has been done through his fanaticism.” Vivekananda’s perception about Islam can be judged from his comments about the Quran. Vivekananda stated that the Quran advises Muslims to kill the Non Muslims if they did not become Muslims.” Mr Thadani began his argument by stating that I concede that Vivekananda held all religions to be true in their own way and that his teacher, Ramakrishna was for a brief period of time a practising Muslim and a practising Christian. I must clarify that I never conceded that Vivekananda held all religions as true. It is something which only he can answer. I just quoted what Vivekananda said at the World Parliament of Religions and then I went on to mention the shocking statements given by Vivekananda only to expose the hypocrisy which was associated with his remarks. Also, it does not matter what Ramakrishna did as I did not even mention him during my discourse.

I must admit that Mr Thadani has been most intellectually dishonest in his rebuttal. I had raised three points in connection with Vivekananda’s Islamophobia and Mr Thadani has not been able to bust even one. Firstly, Mr Thadani has stated that Vivekananda’s controversial quote, “Every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more” is “more in the context of Christian missionaries being propagated under British rule and their misrepresentation of Hinduism than having anything to do with Muslims.” I think that it is my duty to inform the readers that Mr Thadani has invented a lie to defend Vivekanda. I will reproduce a part of the conversation where this statement was made by Vivekananda to the Editor of Prabuddha Bharat. Here is the conversation: (as published in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 5, Pages 233-4)

Interviewee: “I want to see you, Swami”, I began, “on this matter of receiving back into Hinduism those who have been perverted from it. Is it your opinion that they should be received?”
Vivekananda: “Certainly,” said the Swami, “they can and ought to be taken”. He sat gravely for a moment, thinking and then resumed, “Besides” he said, “we shall otherwise decrease in numbers. When the Mohammedans first came, we are said – I think on the authority of Freishta, the oldest Mohammedan historian – to have been six hundred millions of Hindus. Now we are about two hundred millions. And then every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less but an enemy the more.”

I think the Muslim connection with this shameful quote of Vivekananda has been well proved. It’s amusing to see a man who used to claim that all religions are true, worry about the demographic growth of a community which might outnumber his own community soon. This frustration drove him to label all converts from Hinduism as enemies of Hindus. Over here, Vivekananda sounds more like a Muslim fanatic Mullah who would recommend death for apostasy as is carried out in Islamist countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Mr Thadani has tried to justify Vivekananda’s comments by stating that, “an apostate of any religion would tend to be an ideological enemy or opponent of his former religion”. His euphemistic analogy hasn’t impressed me. Vivekananda’s tone clearly implied what he meant. In fact he went on to say, “Again, the vast majority of Hindu perverts to Islam and Christianity are perverts by the sword or the descendants of these. It would be obviously unfair to subject these to disabilities of any kind. As to the case of born aliens, did you say? Why, born aliens have been converted in the past by crowds, and the process is still going on.” These words are indicative of two things. First, Vivekananda held that majority of conversions from Hinduism to Islam and Christianity were through the sword which is factually incorrect (although forced conversions did take place) and second, Vivekananda’s contempt for Hindu apostates as he labelled them “Hindu perverts” and people of other faith whom he called “born aliens”.

We again get a glimpse of Mr Thadani’s intellectual dishonesty when he addresses the issue of Vivekananda’s comments regarding the Prophet. I wrote in my piece, “Vivekananda did not even hold Prophet Muhammad in high regards. He said, “He (Muhammad) was not a trained yogi and did not know the reason of what he was doing. Think of what good Muhammad did to the world and think of the great evil which has been done through his fanaticism” but Mr Thadani has only addressed the issue of Muhammad not being a trained yogi and has ignored other aspects of the quote. I will again quote Vivekananda to prove his disdain for the Islamic prophet, “He was not a trained yogi, and did not know the reason of what he was doing. Think of what good Mohammad did to the world, and think of the great evil that has been done through his fanaticism! Think of the millions massacred through his teachings, mothers bereft of their children, children made orphans, whole countries destroyed, millions upon millions of people killed! So we see this danger by studying the lives of great teachers like Mohammad and others. Yet we find, at the same time, that they were all inspired. Whenever a prophet got into the superconscious state by heightening his emotional nature, he brought away from it not only some truths, but some fanaticism also, some superstition which injured the world as much as the greatness of the teaching helped.” The quote which I have presented clearly shows that Vivekananda considered Muahmmad a fanatic and held his teachings and not rather misinterpretations of his teachings for being responsible for the massive bloodshed caused in the name of Islam.

My third argument was in regards to Vivekananda’s comment about the Quran. Vivekananda disparaged Quran and Muslims in one go when he stated, “And so also with the race. That race which is bound down to itself has been the most cruel and the most wicked in the whole world. There has not been a religion that has clung to this dualism more than that founded by the Prophet of Arabia, and there has not been a religion, which has shed so much blood and been so cruel to other men. In the Koran there is the doctrine that a man who does not believe these teachings should be killed; it is a mercy to kill him! And the surest way to get to heaven, where there are beautiful houris and all sorts of sense enjoyments, is by killing these unbelievers. Think of the bloodshed there has been in consequence of such beliefs!” In this quote we see Vivekananda calling Muslims the “most cruel” and “most wicked” race in the whole world. He has also gone on to suggest that the Quran advises Muslims to kill Non Muslims. When I had brought a similar statement of Mr AB Vajpayee to the notice of Mr Thadani in the past, he had said that “he did not know that Vajpayee passed such irresponsible remarks about the Quran”. I wonder how he would now defend Vivekananda’s remarks on the Quran. Perhaps, this is the reason why he chose to ignore this issue in his long rebuttal. Vivekananda made the mistake of making wrong claims about the Quran multiple times. He said, “The Mohammedan religion allows Mohammedans to kill all who are not of their religion. It is clearly stated in the Koran, Kill the infidels if they do not become Mohammedans. They must be put to fire and sword. Now if we tell a Mohammedan that this is wrong, he will naturally ask, “How do you know that? How do you know it is not good? My book says it is.”

Mr Thadani has presented certain quotes to show that Vivekananda wasn’t Islamophobic. The fact is not that I am not aware of those sayings; the fact is that Vivekananda was acting like a hypocrite while passing these statements. On one hand, he was acting like a universalist, on the other a communal bigot. Today, the world is suffering from the scourge of Islamist terrorism. People are killing in the name of Islam and destroying places of worship claiming that it is the Quran and Islam itself that has validated it. We need to ideologically destroy such kind of assertions as is being done by liberal moderate Pakistani cleric Tahir Ul Qadri. But if we read someone like Vivekananda then we’ll think that the Islamist terrorist is the true representative of Islam since the views of Vivekananda and the Islamist extremist regarding Islam are the same. Mr Thadani has quoted Vivekananda and mentioned that he said, “Nevertheless, among these Mohammedans, wherever there was a philosophic man, he was sure to protest against these cruelties. In that he showed the touch of the Divine and realized a fragment of the truth; he was not playing with his religion, he was talking, but spoke the truth direct like a man.” Should we absolve Vivekananda of the sin of Islamophobia just because he stated this? Certainly not! Because before stating this, he said, “Some Mohammedans are the crudest in this respect, and the most sectarian. Their watchword is: There is one God, and Mohammad is his Prophet. Everything beyond that not only is bad, but must be destroyed forthwith: at a moment’s notice, every man or woman who does not exactly believe in that must be killed; everything that does not belong to this worship must be immediately broken; every book that teaches anything else must be burnt. From the Pacific to the Atlantic, for five hundred years blood ran all over the world. That is Mohammedanism!” Through his words, Vivekananda makes it clear what he considers to be Mohammedanism.

I would not waste my time further by elaborating on Vivekananda’s sickening teachings regarding Islam. I would like to end by presenting a few more quotations of Vivekananda which expose his Islamophobic view of Muslims as being violent and butcher-like and his biased understanding of history. Vivekananda said, “To the Mussulman, the Jews or the Christians are not objects of extreme detestation; they are, at the worst, men of little faith. But not so the Hindu. According to him, the Hindu is idolatrous, the hateful kafir; hence in this life he deserves to be butchered; and in the next, eternal hell is in store for him. The utmost the Mussulman kings could do as a favour to the priestly class — the spiritual guides of these kafirs — was to allow them somehow to pass their life silently and wait for the last moment. This was again, sometimes considered too much kindness! If the religious ardour of any king was a little more uncommon, there would immediately follow arrangements for a great yajna by way of kafir-slaughter.” According to Vivekananda, we Muslims, consider Hindus as merely objects of slaughter in this life. Vivekananda held Islam and Muslims responsible for initiating violence in India. Probably he did not read about the treatment meted out to the Shudras or the persecution of Buddhists by Brahmin rulers like Pusyamitra Sunga. He said, “”You know that the Hindu religion never persecutes. It is the land where all sects may live in peace and amity. The Mohammedans brought murder and slaughter in their train, but until their arrival, peace prevailed. Thus the Jains, who do not believe in a God and who regards such belief as a delusion, were tolerated, and still are there today. India sets the example of real strength that is meekness. Dash, pluck, fight, all these things are weakness.” There is no point arguing any further. If people do not recognize Vivekananda as an Islamophobic even after reading these quotes, then they will never accept the truth and can continue worshipping him as a saffron saint.

References:
Vivekananda’s interview with the Editor of Prabuddha Bharat:
http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_5/interviews/on_the_bounds_of_hinduism.htm

Arun Shourie’s twin articles regarding Vivekananda in which he flaunts Vivekananda’s hateful perceptions regarding Islam with great pride: http://arunshourie.voiceofdharma.com/articles/19930131.htm
http://arunshourie.voiceofdharma.com/articles/19930213.htm

Vande Mataram – A Midway

Vande Mataram was originally written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay as part of his novel 'Anandmath' in the year 1882.

Vande Mataram was originally written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay as part of his novel ‘Anandamath’ in the year 1882.

One of the sticking issues in the secular-communal debate in Independent India has been regarding the singing of Vande Mataram which happens to be the national song of India, a country comprising of a strong 1.28 billion people. Vande Mataram was originally written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay as a part of his novel ‘Anandamath’ in the year 1882. The song generated massive controversy during the 1930s when India’s movement for independence against the British was beginning to take a decisive note. The Muslims of India raised objections concerning the lyrics of the song which they considered to be sectarian and idolatrous. Ever since then, Vande Mataram has been an issue which has managed to polarize Hindus and Muslims of India. The debate has got murkier with the some Sikh and Christian organizations joining the anti-Vande Mataram bandwagon.

Since the Muslim groups have historically been most vociferous in their opposition to Vande Mataram, it becomes imperative to first analyze the objections raised by them. The first and most fundamental objection is in regards to the meaning of the term ‘Vande’ which Sri Aurobindo, a Hindu revivalist scholar, translated as ‘Mother, I bow to thee’ in his translation of Vande Mataram. While some sects among Muslims might be seen occasionally prostrating before shrines, the majority theological opinion among Muslims is that their religion does not allow them to bow in front of anyone except Allah. The second and the more serious objection is in regards to the sectarian nature of the song. While the third stanza possibly refers to Hindu Goddess Kali, the fourth stanza mentions the Hindu Goddess Durga by name. Metaphorically, the poem identifies the Land of Bengal with Hindu Goddesses. The third objection concerns ‘Anandamath’, the novel in which Vande Mataram appeared for the first time. The novel revolves around the Sanyasi Rebellion which took place against the Muslim Sultanate in Bengal during the late 18th century. Some have claimed that the novel endorses the idea of Hindu nationalism and portrays Muslims in bad light. In January 1999 issue of English magazine Frontline, AG Noorani wrote an article titled, ‘How secular is Vande Mataram?’ in which he pointed out towards certain sections of the novel which appear to be anti-Muslim. He stated that in the last chapter of the novel, Satyananda, the protagonist of the story, is persuaded by a supernatural figure to bring a halt to fighting as Muslim dominance in Bengal had been destroyed. The supernatural figure tells Satyananda that the British would now rule over them and they were their (Hindus) friends and could not be defeated in battle.

The second question is why Vande Mataram is so important to the idea of India. It has been noted by scholars that Vande Mataram was the slogan raised by patriotic Indians during their long and arduous struggle for independence against the British Raj. The whole purpose behind making Vande Mataram the national song was to give respect to the memories of those freedom fighters who laid down their lives while uttering these words in defiance of the British rule. The British had even banned the usage of the term ‘Vande Mataram’ fearing massive civil disobedience and agitations. When Vande Mataram ran into trouble in the 1930s, the Congress Working Committee appointed a Commission in October 1937 under the President-ship of Nehru to look into the matter. The Commission ruled in favour of the patriotic nature of the song. However, the Commission also took note of the objections raised by the Muslims. Eventually, it was decided that only the first two stanzas of the song would be song as they contained nothing which could hurt anyone’s religious sentiments. The Commission also pointed out that it was only the first two stanzas which had been regularly sung by the people. It went to the extent of saying that the other “stanzas of the song are little known and hardly ever sung.”

While the Congress did make substantial adjustments in regards to Vande Mataram, the stand taken by them was not enough to please the Muslims as they still objected to the use of the word ‘Vande’ whose meaning by now had become a bit ambiguous. In a letter written by Rabindra Nath Tagore to Subhash Cahndra Bose, he stated, “The core of Vande Mataram is a hymn to Goddess Durga: this is so plane that there can be no debate about it. Of course Bankimchandra does show Durga to be inseparably united with Bengal in the end, but no Mussalman can be expected patriotically to worship the ten handed deity as Swadesh. This year many of the special Puja numbers of our magazines have quoted verses from Vande Mataram – proof that the editors take the song to be a hymn to Durga. The novel Anandamath is a work of literature and so the song is appropriate in it. But Parliament is a place of union for all religious groups and there the song cannot be appropriate. When Bengali Mussalmans show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self defeating.” Mahatma Gandhi advised the Muslims of India to appreciate the historical significance of Vande Mataram but warned against mandatory imposition of the song on them.

The most important question is can singing of Vande Mataram be made compulsory for all? The plain and simple answer is no! In the year 1985, a school in Kerala expelled students belonging to the Christian sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses for not singing the National Anthem, ‘Jana Gana Mana’. The father of the children, Bijoe Emmanuel, took the matter to court. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the children’s right to not sing the national anthem. The Supreme Court stated, “The Fundamental Rights of the appellants under Art. 19(1) (a) and 25(1) have been infringed and they are entitled to be protected. The expulsion of the three children from the school for the reason that because of their conscientiously held religious faith, they do not join the singing of the National Anthem in the morning assembly though they do stand respectfully when the National Anthem is sung, is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of conscience and freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. Therefore, the judgment of the High Court is set aside and the respondent authorities are directed to re- admit the children into the school, to permit them to pursue their studies without hindrance and to facilitate the pursuit of their studies by giving them the necessary facilities.” The Supreme Court further added, “There is no provision of law which obliges anyone to sing the National Anthem nor is it disrespectful to the National Anthem if a person who stands up respectfully when the National Anthem is sung does not join the singing. Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung. It will not be right to say that disrespect is shown by not joining in the singing. Standing up respectfully when the National Anthem is sung but not singing oneself clearly does not either prevent the singing of the National Anthem or cause disturbance to an assembly engaged in such singing so as to constitute the offence mentioned in s. 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act.” It was possibly because of this court judgement that Former India Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee clarified regarding the singing of Vande Mataram in the year 1998 and stated that it was not compulsory to sing the song.

An important aspect of the Supreme Court’s judgement regarding the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to not sing the national anthem was that the children never disrespected the song as such and stood up quietly while the song was being sung as a mark of respect. Going by the precedent set by the Supreme Court, no minority group in the nation including Muslims have the right to disparage Vande Mataram as the verdict of the Supreme Court concerning the national anthem can also be extended to the national song. They are not entitled by law to take part in the singing but they are also not supposed to create hindrance while the national song is being sung. Recently BSP Member of Parliament Shafiqur Rehman Burq raised a stir when he walked out from the House when Vande Mataram was being sung. I gave a long thought to the actions of the old man and I have finally come to the conclusion that he didn’t take the right step. If anybody does not want to be a part of the procedure then they should walk out prior to the singing starts. Walking out during the process is going on, can indeed be perceived by many as insulting.

The final part of the controversy lies in deciphering the stand of minorities as a whole about Vande Mataram. While a Christian institution in Patiala did object to the song on account of its controversial nature, Father Cyprian Kullu of Jharkand stated that Vande Mataram should not be dragged into politics as it was our national song and concluded by saying that it had no religious connotations. The Sikhs too have a contradictory stand on Vande Mataram. While school going Sikh boys and girls might have no problem with the song, some Sikh bodies like Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee have expressed their reservations and declared the song as opposed to basic tenets of the Sikh faith. Sikh opposition to Vande Mataram also stems from the anti-Vande Mataram stand of their famous leader Master Tara Sing. As far as the Muslims are concerned, there have been innumerable fatwas issued against Vande Mataram but there are some Muslims like Arif Mohammed Khan who do not see anything wrong in the contents of the song. Arif Mohammed Khan has written an Urdu translation of Vande Mataram called ‘Tasleemat, maan tasleemat’. Sufi Musician AR Rahmann came out with a musical album called ‘Vande Mataram’ on the 50th anniversary of India’s independence. We can conclude by saying that singing Vande Mataram is a matter of choice. While some might exhibit their patriotism for the land through the recital of their song, others might abstain from it due to religious compulsions. Nobody’s allegiance should be judged on their ability to sing a particular song. While the Hindus pledge allegiance to the country by worshipping it as ‘Motherland’, Muslims too have their own way of patriotism as the Prophet said, “Love of one’s homeland is part of faith.”