It is most unfortunate that a unifying poem, describing the exact
glories of our nation in a precise manner, had to pass the acid
test of undue criticism and resistance. May be this happens with
every great creation, which only adds to it's qualities after
passing the acid test. Roots of such undue criticism and resistance
can be traced in the shrewd tactics of British rule, the basis
of which was creating a duality between Hindu and Muslim communities.
The initiatives to refuse Vande Mataram as a unifying song were
seen in the 1923 Kakinada Congress. A Himalayan persona in the
field of Hindustani classical music-Pandit Vishnu Digambar
Paluskar started reciting Vande Mataram, as per routine norms.
It was Congress leader Maulana Ahmed Ali who tried to stop him
albeit success. Pandit Paluskarji recited the full version, not
paying heed to the demand. Here Vande Mataram, for the first time,
was accused of being 'communal'.
What must have prompted the Muslim leaders to create a controversy,
which essentially was out of place? One often wonders as before
this their own 'Khilafat' movement conventions used
to start with Vande Mataram. The same Ahmed Ali, Shaukat Ali, Jafar
Ali leaders used to stand up and respect it's recital. Even Barrister
Jinnah, later a vehement critic of Vande Mataram, used to scold
anyone who didn't stand up.
Let's examine their exact accusations and their correctness (if
any!) In their opinion the song depicts a portrait of Hindu goddess,
amounting to idol worship which is banned for a true Muslim. The
critics said that the song can't represent a diverse nature of
various sects, religion and vivid traditions of worship. Instead
according to them, it depicts idol worship and hence they will
not go with it.
Another accusation points out the anti-Muslim nature of the song.
As the heroes of the novel Anandmath in which Vande Mataram
was first published, rehearse it aiming to destruct their 'enemies'
which could well be the Muslim community itself. A description
of the nation-goddess says that she is 'Ripu-Dala-Varini',
meaning destroyer of the enemy's force.
How far is all this true?
Starting from the second accusation, the novel has a canvas of
time, wherein, certain anti-Muslim feelings were starting to erupt.
The reason being not the anti-Muslim nature of Bankimchandra
the writer, but varied sociological circumstances that time. Howsoever,
the main characters does not depict any particular 'enemy' as
such. They do aim, of course, to destroy any force which will
weaken their nation, their mother. The same author uses various
adjectives towards the beloved nation mother, such as 'Dhana-Dhanya
Dayika' (one which offers food and wealth), Sharat-Sundri
(beauty in the autumn), Dhatri-Dharitri (one which beholds
us and bears us) in an article, written just before creation of
Now, any force likely to weaken this status is worth being destroyed.
Any invasion, any piracy or any undue advancement to loot it's
vast resources, is bound to get resisted; and Muslims as they
are sons of this very soil itself, are expected for their fullest
participation and sacrifice for such an advancement. Where's the
question of resisting these feelings? Bankim, in his true nature,
does not sound anti-Muslim at all. In an article written in 1874
for 'Bangadarshan' he says, ''Bengal is not the sole property
of Hindus. Generations together Hindus and Muslims have co-existed
together in Bengal. Today, unfortunately, they seem to be drifting
away. For everybody's good, I for one, advocate brotherhood in
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For this, it is urged that the elite upper class Muslims should
start using Bengali in their daily chore of life, instead of Urdu-Farsi
alien here." Some of the prominent Muslim writer thinkers,
have themselves absolved Vande Mataram from such narrow-minded allegations.
Prominent amongst them, is Maulana Ahmed Raza. He wrote a volume,
named 'Vande Mataram' and the Muslim community in Bengali
language to cross the so-called arguments. Published later in 1944,
he writes in this volume…"certain elements amongst us deny
simple facts of life (nation as mother) by portraying it as idol
worship. Any simple thing like touching the feet of parents
or to hang a frame of national leader on the wall or to pay respect
to a national leader, on dais…everything can't be 'idol' worship.
Such are the people who create a scare in the minds of common people,
Making a hue and cry that it is 'anti-Muslim', such thoughts
only drift you from your aim…liberation of nation. Your thinking
power itself gets eroded with such thoughts!" He further writes,
" for those who have liberal view should look upon Vande Mataram,
from a holistic view point in totality and then they will
see that it does not have idol worship"
In his view, controversy is created, because of the linguistic differences
and differences in interpreting the song in the vocabulary of Urdu-Farsi.
As the word Puja (worship) is used while respecting any influence,
for the good of human society. It can be Ishwar-Puja (worship of
god), Vrikshapuja (tree worship) or Guru-Puja (worship of a teacher).
But Muslims use the equivalent word 'Ibadat' only for the devotion
to all powerful, prophet Mohammed only. It is reserved. It
is not used to describe respect towards anyone else, which is earthly.
The Farsi word 'Bandagi' also has similar connotations. Here
is where the difference of interpretation comes.
He refers to a volume written by an opponent to Vande Mataram-Maulana
Akbar Khan. This very man, in his volume Musta-pa Charita describes
the land of Arabs as Hey Arab Manav-er adi MATRUBHUMI (the original
land-mother of Arabs and humans). Now here is an opponent who himself
calls his land as the 'mother'.
July 1937 witnessed elections and formation of provincial cabinets
in eight states out of eleven being governed by the Congress party.
Opposition to Vande Mataram was again put forward as an issue-probably
needed to strengthen the Muslim league formed in 1906. In the typical
appeasing tradition, the Congress leaders set up a ''committee''
to review Vande Mataram. Members of this committee were Rabindranath
Tagore, Subhashchandra Bose and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It
was said that Vande Mataram was split in accordance to decisions
made jointly by Mr. Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore. This greatly
hurt Rabindranath Tagore and on 2nd of November 1937 he published
a statement in this regard, saying that no fraction of the society
should feel enemity towards this song, as it is a great inspirer.
1938 Haripura Congress witnessed only first two stanzas of this
great creation being rehearsed. It was split. Still it didn't appease
enough to the league leaders. On the 17th March 1938, Barrister
Jinnah in the Muslim league convention demanded that the songs should
be entirely discarded- from the novel as well as from the congress!
Also along with it he presented a new 'charter' of demands. These
included sanction of cow slaughter, Urdu as a national official
language and league flag getting an equal status. Such adamant was
his nature. Banning Vande Mataram, being broadcast from radio triggered
many events. In fact Music and composers of Vande Mataram is by
itself a very interesting chain of events in the history.