Sunday, June 11, 2006

Fatwa on Vande Mataram: Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel and two stanzas of the song

Movie based on Anand Math
Once again the issue over Vande Mataram [originally Bande Mataram in Bangla] has cropped up. Exactly a year ago there was a similar hue and cry over the issue.

First of all, the fatwa is absolutely uncalled for. Everybody is aware of the history of the hymn [song] and the context in which it was written.

But the strange debates on TV channels and the aggression among self-righteous and jingoistic anchors who are least aware of Bankimchandra and his Anand Math, complicates the situation.

How can someone call it 'imposing' the song, they wondered. And then a participant says, 'Hindustan me.n rahna hoga, Vande Mataram kahna hoga' [If you have to live in India, you must sing Vande Mataram].

To set the record straight, Bankim Chandra's novel Anand Math from where this song has been taken was nearly pro-British and fiercely anti-Muslim. It was written a few decades after 1857 but the novel portrays Muslims are outsiders and enemies.

Having heard so much about the novel, I bought it a few years back and was taken aback by the intense anti-Muslim pitch and the aim of eliminating Muslims and pulling down all the Mosques and Muslim shrines. It is much more shrill than the present day RSS' rhetoric.

In this novel, the protagonists exhort others to kill Muslims, clearly spreading hate.That the novel was written by a Bengali and set in Bengal, the state where both communities shared the same language and culture--much more than several other states, comes as a shock.

Hindu revivalism is understandable but not fanaticism and blind hate. It was this reason why not only Pt Jawaharlal Nehru but also Subhash Chandra Bose opposed this hymn. No wonder a socialist like Ram Manohar Lohia called the novel a blot on Indian national struggle because it hailed the British.

What about the tens of thousands of Indian who laid their lives for the independence? Just two stanzas of the hymn were approved to be sung in the late 30s in the Congress Working Committee. Unfortunately,  Bankim Chandra had done his BA with the Haji Mohsin Fund but wrote such a fierce anti-Muslim novel.

Novel & Comic for Kids based on Anand Math
Only the ignorant would term the novel as patriotic. It was basically against the Muslim dominance [population-wise] in Bengal. Otherwise Muslim representation was abysmally low in Bengal.

The fatwa would do little good because it will only be construed as the 'kattar-pan' [fundamentalism] of Muslims without giving a thought to this fact that it is a hymn in praise of Goddess Kali. I am not against Vande Matram.

But the song shouldn't be forced on anybody, particularly in schools. It is no litmus test for patriotism, rather it is a song that comes from a book that praised our colonial masters.

Now, if you have any more doubts.

Please go to this link and READ my take: 'From Pro-Vande Matram to Anti-Vande Mataram'