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A new twist to Vande Mataram issue

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Vadodara (UNI): When the whole nation intensly debates over singing of ''Vande Mataram'' on September 7, an eminent Sanskrit scholar and former director of M S University's Oriental Institute, Rajendra Nanavati, has given a new twist to the controversy by claiming that Vande Mataram was never announced as India's National Song. ''It is absolutely wrong and misleading to claim that this is the centenary year of the Song without any historical evidence or record,'' the scholar told UNI today. Mr.Nanavati, a former HoD of the Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit languages in the M S University of Baroda, has served legal notices to both union HRD minister Arjun Singh and Gujarat's Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Department secretary for their recent circulars which claimed that Vande Mataram was accepted as the National Song in the 1905 AICC session held at Varanasi.

Taking strong exception to the governments' direction for organising the event nation-wide on September 7 to mark the occasion, Mr Nanavati said, ''I don't understand the significance of of the date when the Song has never been accepted as the National Song at any forum.'' Mr Nanavati also said, September 7 could not mark the completion of the 100 years of the Song as no event had taken place on that particular day in history and even the AICC session held at Varanasi in December, 1905, had not passed any resolution on the Song even as it was regularly being sung at every AICC session since 1901. Mr Nanavati, in his legal notice served on Saturday, urged the respondents to treat it as notice and, under the Right to Information Act, has sought all necessary facts, figures and details and sources of information regarding the basis on which the government had declared ''Vande Mataram'' as National Song on September 7, 1905.

The 67-year-old retired principal of the Baroda Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya (BSM) said Vande Mataram, composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya on November 7, 1875, was sung by Gopal Chandra Dhar in Raga Deshmalhar for the first time in 1876. Six years later, the song became a part of Bankim Chandra's famous novel ''Anandamath'' published in 1882. In the Calcutta session of AICC in 1896, Rabindranath Tagore sang Vande Mataram and wanted it to be declared as the National Song, Mr.Nanavati said, adding that from 1901 onwards it was accepted as the ''Song of the AICC''. Quoting the proceedings of the 1905 Varanasi session of the AICC, Mr Nanavati claimed the session was held in December and not in September.

Though the session began with the singing of Vande Mataram in the presence of leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Surendranath Banerjee, no resolution was ever passed to declare it as the National Song, he argued. The scholar further said that, in fact, Vande Mataram was to be declared as India's National Anthem after Independence but ''Jana Gana Mana'' took its place because of a last minute is understanding'' among the then leaders of the Congress. However, Mr Nanavati said, Vande Mataram was given the equal status with our National Anthem when India became a sovereign democratic republic in 1950.

Asked about the present row over the singing of the Song on September 7 across the country, Mr Nanavati the same thing had happened way back in 1923 at the Kakinada session of AICC when Maulana Mohammad Ali, who was presiding over the session, took exception to the singing of Vande Mataram saying that religious feelings of Muslims are not given proper respect in the Song. Barring Maulana Mohammad Ali, the song which was then sung by noted vocal singer and musician Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, was appreciated by all others present. The scholar said this religious feeling had, in fact, injected the feeling of separation among the Muslims which slowly gathered momentum with the Muslim League openly raising the issue following its poor performance in the elections.

Revealing the mystery behind the HRD Minister's stress on reciting only the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram on September 7, Mr Nanavati said following the objection of the then Muslim League leaders, the very same policy was adopted at the Calcutta sittings of the AICC in October 1937, after Tagore was able to convince Pandit Nehru that there was nothing objectionable in the first two stanzas of the Song. The AICC made the compromise on the recitation of the full Song as the Muslim League had already passed a resolution expressing its anguish over the issue, the scholar said.

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