I am very clear on one thing right from the time I was child: No one can compel anyone to sing anything which he/she does not want to sing. There is not even an iota of doubt in my mind that no law and no court can compel anyone to sing anything against his/her wishes. Our Constitution guarantees not just the right to freedom of speech and expression as envisaged in Article 19 but also guarantees to remain silent to what one does not wish to sing.
Having said this, let me refer here now to the latest judgment by the Madras High Court which culminated from a goof-up by the Government of Tamil Nadu. A government job applicant – K Veeramani had in his entrance exam for the post of BT Assistant written to a question that Vande Mataram was written in Bengali. The examiner said that it was Sanskrit. The applicant challenged it as he missed by just one mark. The applicant contended that in all the books he had read, Bengali was mentioned as the language in which Vande Mataram was originally written.
Following this, the Judge had directed the Advocate General of Madras High Court – R Muthukumaraswamy to apprise the court of the correct answer in order to settle the dispute over the linguistic origin of the song. When the case up on , the Advocate General informed the court that Vande Mataram was of Sanskrit origin but had originally been penned in Bengali by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. The Judge directed the Teachers Recruitment Board to award the mark to the petitioner.
Needless to say, the Hon’ble Madras High Court should have focused only on this. Instead what we saw is that it stipulated that the national song Vande Mataram should be compulsorily sung and played in all schools and educational establishments across the State at least once a week. Justice MV Muralidharan also ordered that Vande Mataram should be played in all Government offices and institutions, private companies, factories and industries at least once a month. Certainly I must say here that patriotism cannot be thrust upon anyone. Singing of national song or anything else must be purely voluntary.
Be it noted, Justice Muralidharan also made it clear that nobody should be forced to sing the national song provided there were valid reasons. This itself proves that it is just not correct to force anyone to sing Vande Mataram or anything else which he/she does not want to sing. Singing or not singing anything cannot be made a crime by any law.
But the moot question that arises here is: Who will determine these valid reasons and what standards will be applied haven’t been specified? All this will only serve to provide more leeway to authorities and moral brigade to harass a common person who is just concerned about how to earn his/her bread and butter! Moreover, every citizen have been guaranteed the fundamental choice by the founding fathers of our Constitution to sing what they want or not to sing at all! No law and no court can force any citizen to sing any song whether it is national song or anything else! Patriotism cannot be forced at gun point or lawpoint or any other point!
This latest order of Madras High Court is reminiscent of the Supreme Court direction in November 2016 on the compulsory singing of the national anthem in cinema houses. We all know how some fringe elements exploit such orders to further their own narrow vested political interests by forcing people from a particular religion or group to sing something which they feel their religion does not permit them to sing! This is why I very strongly feel that no one should be forced anyhow to sing anything against his/her wishes because this is no way to usher in nationalism.
Truth be told, there are many who don’t like to sing any song but they love our nation as much as we do. Why should they be made to sing any song against their wishes? Why should goons be given a pretext to attack those who refuse to sing song? How can this be legally justified?
Don’t we know that there were incidents of physical assaults on those who did not stand up when the national anthem was played in theatres and in some cases even the physically disabled people or those who can’t hear properly or see properly were beaten up! What sort of nationalism is this? Such sort of forced nationalism cannot be justified under any circumstances! All courts right from bottom to top must guard against giving such judgments which can be misconstrued by goons to further their own vested interests or the vested interests of their political masters!
Nationalism cannot be forcibly spoon-feeded. What is the guarantee that those who sing Vande Mataram or any other song would be good citizens or would not indulge in anti-national acts or corruption? Who invited Pakistani invader Gen Pervez Musharraf who masterminded Kargil war in which we lost more than 500 brave soldiers as per official figures? Who gave Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan unilaterally for more than 20 years which is even now continuing? Those politicians who love singing Vande Mataram and other songs!
Everyday our brave soldiers are dying because of the proxy war being waged by our rogue neighbour – Pakistan and yet our politicians who keep chanting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Vande Mataram etc etc” are not ready to declare Pakistan as a “rogue and terror” nation just like Kuwait did recently and severe all ties with Pakistan! No national party is willing to support the likes of independent MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar who has tried several times to bring in a private member Bill to declare Pakistan a terror state! Most shameful!
Even former Rajya Sabha MP Maulana Mehmood Madani who is also leader of Jamiat-e-Ulema had demanded sometime back that Pakistan be named “Aatankistaan” and India should severe all ties with Pakistan but our mainstream parties who enjoy singing national songs are just not prepared for it and feel very strongly that no matter how many soldiers are killed but relations with Pakistan must remain intact! Corruption is silently killing so many people more than that of terror killings and there are so many corrupt politicians who never tire of singing national songs yet shamelessly and wantonly indulge in corruption by nexus with corrupt contractors, engineers etc in making weak roads, weak bridges and weak buildings etc thus directly ensuring that many innocent people are killed in the most brazen manner! Thus there can be no two opinions about the irrefutable truth that moral character is the biggest asset and this should always be stressed upon right from childhood but nowadays it seems that more focus is attached on national songs etc which alone is just not enough!
It is most unfortunate that sparks flew in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on as the ruling BJP MLAs slammed Samajwadi Party’s Abu Asim Azmi who opposed a demand for making the singing of the song mandatory in the schools and colleges of the State. What is most disconcerting to note is that Maharashtra Public Works Minister and BJP leader Chandrakant Patil even went to the extent of saying that those who want to live in the country must say Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai! This is just not done!
India is a very liberal and democratic country where everyone is free even to worship any God of his/her choice or not worship any God and remain an atheist! How can anyone be forced to worship a particular God or Goddess? I myself consider Bharat as father and not as Mata so will those who disagree with me beat me up? Same is the case with singing of national song or anthem. If some person does not like singing anything, that does not imply that he/she is an anti-national or does not love his/her country!
I am reminded of 1994 when my faith in Lord Shiva was completely shattered and my best friend Sageer Khan took a vow from me that I would worship Lord Shiva till my last breath just like he himself worshipped Allah. He rightly said to me to always remember that anything can be changed but parents, religion which includes God whom we worship right from our childhood days and nationality can never be shunned or changed! I had to agree not at gunpoint but because of friendpoint which he pointed towards me and while visiting temple alone I used to utter “Matha to tekna hain tekna hain tekna hain Shraddha nahin hain bhakti nahin hain paar matha to tekna hain tekna hain tekna hain, naak to ragaadni hain Sageer Khan ne kahan hain Sageer Khan ne kahan hain”.
An old priest used to observe me daily and one day he said to me that, “You are doing a crime by worshipping Lord Shiva against your wishes and Lord Shiva will be more angry with you”. I said that I don’t care but I have to fulfill the vow which I gave to my best friend Sageer. He said that “Lord Shiva will be most angry with your best friend Sageer Khan because no God wants that anyone should worship him/her against his/her own wishes and your best friend Sageer Khan has committed the biggest sin by forcing you to worship Lord Shiva whom you don’t want to even see”! From then on I decided to always go to temple only with true dedication and not because of gunpoint or friendpoint – Sageer Khan! Also, Sageer himself never wanted that I should worship Lord Shiva in a disinterested manner or in a forcible manner. He used to say that one must worship with full dedication and zeal. For 2 years he ensured that I regularly went to temple by accompanying me regularly and it was just a coincidence that the temple where we both bowed our head was always of Lord Hanuman!
Same is the case with singing of songs. No song whether it is national song or national anthem can be forced on anyone whether it is Waris Pathan or Abu Asim Azmi or anyone else! Singing of song or anthem has to be purely voluntary! There should be no coercion at all under any circumstances. Just because a person does not sing a song or anthem does not make him/her an anti-national and just because a person sings a song or anthem does not make him/her a true patriot! This is what we all especially those who are educated must understand and stop quarreling over such trivial issues like illiterate people! Also, Supreme Court itself had on a writ petition on this specific issue of singing of national song clearly stated that there is no mention in the Constitution of the national song that Vande Mataram is meant to be.
Let me now conclude by quoting what the former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian known for his impeccable credentials and genius whom all Central Governments keep consulting from time to time and even has headed many important Committees like the one on National Education Policy had to say in this regard: “I believe that most people in India are patriotic, while they may not be overly demonstrative about it all the time. Love for one’s country is something that comes naturally and can’t be forced. Nothing can be ensured by using force. The national anthem and Vande Mataram deserve to be respected but binding people by rules can’t ensure patriotism. In my view, it is not to be brought to the bazaar by saying that every shop and every courtroom will sing it every morning. While I respect the spirit of the Madras High Court ruling. I am critical of its application. By asking to play Vande Mataram in every classroom and every office, the court is certainly overdoing it. We should accept and accommodate different views. I think that a debate on patriotism or Vande Mataram, per se, is not required. There are insufficient debates on what’s affecting the country like poverty, preventive medication and education. Our government, Parliament, media and judiciary are not paying attention to these vital subjects.”
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.