South Asia Citizens Wire | September 14, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2287

[1]  Pakistan:  
-- Women activists deplore rape law compromise (Reuters))
-- Appeasing the Mullahs: Protection of Women 
(Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2006 of Pakistan 
[2]  Sri Lanka: V. Anadasangaree, awarded the 
2006 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the 
Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence
[3]  India:  Hindutva Noise about Vande Mataram
-- Loyalty test (Rajeev Dhavan)
-- Wrong Chord (Seema Mustafa)
-- The song and the non-singer (J Sri Raman)
-- Garbled history and out of tune too (Jawed Naqvi)
-- Song For The Nation - Vande Matram Controversy (Ram Puniyani)
-- Five lives of Vande Mataram (Sabyasachi Bhattacharya)
[4]  India:   Malegaon - An Unexploded Bomb (Smruti Koppikar)



Gulf News
13 September 2006



Islamabad: Pakistani women activists deplored 
yesterday a government decision to give in to 
religious conservatives opposed to the amendment 
of Islamic laws dealing with rape and adultery.

The laws, which make a rape victim liable for 
prosecution for adultery if she cannot produce 
four male witnesses, were introduced in 1979 by 
military ruler Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq and have drawn 
widespread criticism both at home and abroad.

Human rights campaigners have long pressed for 
the repeal of the laws, known as the Hudood 
Ordinances, but nevertheless welcomed government 
efforts to amend them, including taking rape out 
of the sphere of religious law.


But an opposition alliance of religious parties 
objected to the changes, saying they were a 
danger to society, and threatened to withdraw 
from the national and provincial parliaments if 
they were passed.

In the face of the protests, the government said 
on Monday it was accepting three of the 
conservatives' demands, including one keeping 
rape under the Islamic law, although it will also 
be a crime under the penal code.


The government also accepted adultery being made 
a crime under the penal code, subject to up to 
five years in prison.

Rights activists said the concessions would water 
down the impact of the changes and would be 
confusing, with rape and adultery being crimes 
under both Islamic law and the penal code.

Asma Jahangir, chairwoman of the Human Rights 
Commission of Pakistan, said: "Last night was the 
nail in the coffin."

"They have hoodwinked women into believing that 
this is a law for the protection of women. It is 
a law for the protection of religious 
extremists," she said.

o o o

Asian Centre for Human Rights

Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2006 of Pakistan

Today, 13th September 2006, the government of 
Pakistan is scheduled to present the revised 
draft of the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws 
Amendment) Bill, 2006 before the Parliament. On 
11 September 2006, the government had to defer a 
vote on the proposed bill, which seeks to amend 
the Offence of Zina (Enforcement Of Hudood) 
Ordinance, 1979 following stiff opposition from 
the hard-line Islamic lawmakers belonging to the 
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and Pakistan Muslim 
League (Nawaz). The Hudood Ordinance introduced 
by then military general Zia-ul-Huq in 1979 to 
appease the fundamentalists in order to 
consolidate his rule has victimized thousands of 
women of Pakistan.

Apart from vehement opposition from the MMA and 
the PML (Nawaz), President Pravez Musharraf did 
not have any intention to repeal the Hudood 
ordinance. The government only sought to amend 
the requirements under the Hudood Ordinance to 
prove rape, while silencing the likes of Mukthar 
Mai by making disclosure of the identity of any 
alleged raped woman or her family member a 
punishable offence under the proposed law. 
Therefore, it is not surprising that government 
has already given in to the MMA and the PML 
(Nawaz) and proposed to keep both the Hudood 
Ordinance and Penal Code to try rape and adultery 
cases. It is the judge, not the victim, who will 
decide whether to try the rape and adultery cases 
under Hudood Laws or Criminal Laws.

Plight of women under Hudood Law:

The Hudood Ordinance, among others, criminalizes 
adultery and non-marital sex, including rape. It 
further victimizes the women victims by providing 
virtual impunity to the rapists and prosecuting 
the victims instead.

Under section 8 of the Ordinance, a rape victim 
is required to produce at least four adult male 
Muslim eyewitnesses, who have physically seen the 
act of rape against the victim, in order to prove 
her case. Section 8(b) further provides that in 
order to testify as witnesses, the Court must be 
satisfied that the witnesses are truthful persons 
and abstain from major sins (kabair). The 
four-witness requirement makes it virtually 
impossible to prosecute the rapists. It places 
the onus of proof on women in the most 
discriminatory manner. But if a woman who claims 
she was raped fails to prove her claims she can 
be convicted of adultery, which is punishable by 
death in the most stringent circumstances.

The Hudood Ordinance also considers sexual 
intercourse as adultery whether it is with or 
without the consent of a woman, who is not 
married with the man. As a result, thousands of 
victimized women face conviction. According to 
the National Commission on the Status of Women, 
80 % of the 6500 women prisoners in the jails are 
victims of the Hudood Ordinance. The Hudood 
Ordinance does not allow the women's release on 

According to a 2002 report by the Human Rights 
Commission of Pakistan, a woman was raped every 
two hours and gang raped every eight hours. 
However, because of social taboos, discriminatory 
laws and victimisation of victims by police, many 
were not willing to reveal the crimes committed 
against them.

Half hearted reforms:

On 7 July 2006 President General Musharaff 
promulgated an ordinance called "Law Reform 
Ordinance 2006" to facilitate release of women 
detained on various charges, including violation 
of the Hudood laws. As many as 1,300 women 
prisoners out of the total 6,500 languishing in 
jails were expected to have been released.

On 21 August 2006, the proposed Protection of 
Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2006 was 
tabled in the National Assembly. The Bill inter 
alia seeks to bring rape under the purview of the 
Pakistan Penal Code, to repeal the requirement of 
four-witnesses to prove a rape, and to make 
adultery a bailable offence. 

While these measures are welcome, Pakistan 
government also sought to silence Mukthar Mais. 
The proposed Bill introduced a new offence under 
Section 502 B of the Pakistan Penal Code which 
provides that "Whoever publicises any case of 
zina or rape whereby the identity of any woman or 
her family member is disclosed shall be punished 
with imprisonment which may extend to six months 
or fine or with both".

This has been opposed by Pakistan Peoples Party 
which proposed the victim must have the right to 
speak to the press.

General caves in before the Mullahs:

When the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws 
Amendment) Bill 2006 Bill was tabled in the 
National Assembly on 21 August 2006, it was 
promptly rejected by the opposition Muttahida 
Majlis-i-Amal. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) 
joined the MMA which accused the government of 
"following a Western agenda to secularise 
Pakistan". The bill was then referred to a 
special committee of the National Assembly for a 
review and evolving a consensus before being 
debated. However, the MMA and Pakistan Muslim 
League (Nawaz) boycotted the committee.

On 4 September 2006, the parliamentary select 
committee approved the Protection of Women 
(Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2006 and presented 
it before the National Assembly. However, the MMA 
threatened to quit Parliament and provincial 
governments if the government did not withdraw 
the proposed bill. This forced the government to 
defer debate on the bill.

But on 11 September 2006, the government 
virtually withdrew the original bill when it 
agreed to review and revise the bill.

The government has reportedly reached an 
agreement with the MMA over the changes in the 
proposed bill. Under the agreement reached with 
the MMA, rape will remain under the purview of 
the Hudood Ordinance, but judges can also choose 
to use secular evidentiary procedures and 
standards such as DNA tests or other medical 
means, to establish rape under the Pakistan's 
Penal Code if the circumstances of evidence and 
witnesses call for it.

President General Musharraf, who drew 
international condemnation by his remark that 
rape was a "money-making concern" in Pakistan in 
reference to gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, is 
unlikely to get any kudos for caving in to the 



7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 PARIS 07 SP, France


12-09-2006 4:00 pm The Director-General of 
UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura has designated 
President of the Tamil United Liberation Front 
(TULF) Veerasingham Anadasangaree as the laureate 
of the 2006 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the 
Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence. The 
Prize was attributed on the recommendation of an 
international jury. The members of the jury are: 
Andrés Pastrana Arango, former President of 
Colombia; Bahia Hariri, President of the 
Commission for Education, Science and Culture of 
the Lebanese Parliament; Inder Kumar Gujral, 
former Prime Minister of India; Sergei Markarov 
and Manu Dibango, both UNESCO Artists for Peace.
Born in Sri Lanka in 1933, Mr Anadasangaree 
became the President of the Tamil United 
Liberation Front in 2002, after working as a 
teacher and lawyer. As an indefatigable advocate 
of democracy and peaceful conflict resolution, he 
has contributed to raising awareness of the Tamil 
cause in a spirit of dialogue, while seeking to 
promote non-violent solutions to Sri Lanka and 
opposing terrorism.
The $100,000 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize was 
created in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th 
anniversary of the birth of the Mahatma Gandhi, 
thanks to the generosity of the Indian writer and 
diplomat Madanjeet Singh, who is also a UNESCO 
Goodwill Ambassador.
Dedicated to advancing the spirit of tolerance in 
the arts, education, culture, science and 
communication, the Prize is awarded every two 
years to an individual or an institution for 
exceptional contributions in the promotion of 
tolerance and non-violence.
In 2004, the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the 
Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence was 
attributed to the Bangladeshi writer and 
journalist Taslima Nasreen.
The Prize-giving ceremony will be held on 
International Day for Tolerance celebrated every 
year on 16 November.

Source: Press Release N°2006-113
Author(s)       UNESCOPRESS
Updated: 12-09-2006


[3]  Hindutva Noise about Vande Mataram

The Times of India
13 September 2006

by Rajeev Dhavan

Indians are being cajoled to fight for a song. 
Atal Bihari Vajpayee now wants the controversy 
closed. For him, the song is no more than a 
symbol of devotion. But, that is precisely what 
the controversy is about. The converse 
proposition is that those who do not sing Vande 
Mataram are not devoted to India.

So, singing Vande Mataram is not a symbol, but 
emerges as a test. Those who do not agree to 
being forced to sing the song are branded as 
opposed to Bharat Mata.

Devotion is a matter of inner feeling. You can 
persuade but not force people to have inner 
feelings. Symbolism is another matter. In our 
context, national symbols such as flags and songs 
were 19th century inventions to coalesce and 
promote what Benedict Anderson called 'imagined 

Perhaps, what the BJP is really saying is that 
their idea of India is only 'imagined' and they 
need to put it together through songs and appeals 
to Bharat Mata. The upshot is that I cannot love 
my India for what it is worth, but I must accept 
and propagate the BJP symbols of nationhood to 
prove my worth.

But, why should a song like Vande Mataram, which 
was a song of liberation, be transformed into a 
song of oppression? Why should it become a 
devotional litmus test of Indian nationalism? 
That is what it has become. Its divisiveness is 
as prominent as the controversy that fuels it.

Newspapers and magazines are full of news and 
pictures on Muslims agreeing to and singing the 
Vande Mataram with gusto. Do they have to be 
coerced into demonstrating their national 
fervour? Sonia Gandhi is attacked for missing a 
Vande Mataram function.

  Not to sing Vande Mataram may put us in peril. 
We may not be attacked, but we may be subjected 
to public obloquy. Equally, we may be socially 
targeted and challenged.

The Constitution's guaranteed freedom of speech, 
which includes the right not to speak or sing, is 
based on the good common sense that restrictions 
to free speech must be (a) reasonable and (b) 
clearly related to certain aspects of public 

Being forced to comply with the BJP's symbolism 
of India is not one of them. Although in the 
Jehovah's Witnesses case (1986), the Supreme 
Court struck down Kerala's compulsory order to 
sing the national anthem on technical grounds, 
there was much wisdom in not forcing singing the 
national anthem but simply ensuring that it was 

Americans remain so even if they claim the right 
not to salute the national symbols of flag and 
anthem. Even during the Second World War their 
supreme court declared in 1943 that compulsory 
flag salutes were not necessary.

In 1990, the court invalidated laws which 
punished the mere desecration of the American 
flag. India's Prevention of Insults to National 
Honour Act, 1971 does not force compulsory honour 
but indicts deliberate dishonour.

But why this fight over symbols now? Whose 
symbols are these? Who contrived them for 
contemporary consumption? Why exactly are they 
being forced down as loyalty tests? It is not 
necessary to get drawn into controversies over 
the historical or even historic role of Vande 

The real question is the reason for the revival 
of Vande Mataram as a symbol and test for 
nationalist loyalty. The revival comes from the 
BJP and sangh parivar. Their goals are not the 
goals of a secular India.

  BJP's policy of revivalism is entirely political 
for the purpose of inciting social sentiments to 
create vote banks based on divisiveness. BJP's 
rise to power through the anti-Babri masjid 
movement and by directly and indirectly targeting 
minorities is well known even to a point of 
destroying libraries and paintings.

But we must get to the root of what the sangh 
parivar is trying to do. What the BJP has tried 
to construct is a new pseudo-religion. The title 
of this faith is Hindutva. Its colour is saffron. 
Its credentials are aggressively coercive.

But the BJP obviously feels that its newly 
devised Hindutva faith needs something more. For 
them, the faith needs a song. The revival of 
Vande Mataram now provides a song to support 
their new faith. Vande Mataram deserves better 
treatment than to become the instrument of 
communal politics.

It does not seem to matter if Vande Mataram, 
which was meant to unite people, is now used to 
divide them. During colonial rule, Vande Mataram 
was appropriated as a counterblast to the British 
making 'God Save the Queen' compulsory. The 
effect of Vande Mataram was electric. The 
constituent assembly honoured the song.

No one wants to dishonour Vande Mataram. It has 
its place in history. But advocating the 
compulsory singing of Vande Mataram is not to 
honour the song but to add fuel to a new Hindutva 
and to target minorities, especially Muslims, 
with a loyalty test.

The parivar creates communal tension and then 
pretends to complain about its creation. To 
create provocative friction by coercive 
compulsion is destructive. It is targeting 
besieged minorities that is anti-national.

The writer is a senior Supreme Court advocate.

o o o

Asian Age
September 8, 2006


by Seema Mustafa

I am not a Muslim, so while I will not pray in a 
mosque, I will respect the religion and those who 
practise it. I am not a Hindu, so while I will 
not visit a temple, I will certainly respect the 
religion and those who practise it. I am not a 
Christian but I will visit a church as it is so 
peaceful and spiritual, I will respect the 
religion and the believers. I am an atheist, but 
I am content not to thrust this on those who 
believe in God and their faith. I do not want to 
sing Vande Mataram, so I will not, but I will not 
take away the others' right to sing it with 
passion every day of the year. I will respect 
what they believe, but I will ask them not to try 
and force me to do something that is against my 

I will not allow anyone to force me to do 
something against my will. I will resist those 
who try to convert me by force, and embrace those 
who have persuaded me to agree with logic and 
argument. I will fight those who question my 
patriotism on the basis of arguments they have 
forged and symbols they have created. I will 
fight those who insult our national anthem and 
defile the Constitution of India and the rule of 
law that is not just mine but the nation's Holy 
Book. And that includes those who are becoming 
ugly in their demand that every single citizen of 
India sing Vande Mataram to prove his patriotism, 
for this demand in itself is against the Indian 
Constitution that does not endorse force and 

The BJP, a rudderless divided force, has no 
issues and hence seized upon Vande Mataram to 
create division and discord. Of course, as always 
these fanatics were helped by a bunch of Muslim 
clerics who jumped into the controversy with 
their stupid remarks and their regressive 
ideology. That was all the BJP leadership needed, 
and on Thursday they were all out wearing their 
brand of patriotism and nationalism on their 
sleeves as they sang Vande Mataram with the 
warning: if you do not you are not a patriot. The 
spotlights were placed effectively by the 
television channels and the Hindutva brigade on 
the Muslims for not being patriotic enough to 
sing Vande Mataram as a community. Muslim leaders 
never known for a progressive idea were brought 
out of the woodwork by the television anchors who 
grilled them incessantly on their patriotism as 
defined by Vande Mataram.

Absurd. Totally absurd. And as if to highlight 
the differences, the Congress leadership, always 
confused and disoriented on such matters, 
organised a big rally in Delhi and all the 
worthies queued up to sing Vande Mataram. The 
result was predictable: the BJP immediately 
zeroed in on Congress president Sonia Gandhi for 
her failure to publicly mouth the words. The 
Congress reaction was defensive as always. She 
was not well, said her spokespersons, implying 
that if she was, she would not have hesitated to 
climb atop the dais set up by Arjun Singh and 
Ambika Soni and sing the song. But why? Why could 
they not say that while she has full respect for 
Vande Mataram, she did not see the need to stand 
on a public platform and sing it to convince the 
BJP of her nationalism?

After all, the Left leaders, the regional 
leaders, scores of legislators, the Dalit 
organisations, the Christian organisations, the 
Muslims, the Sikhs did not see the sense of 
making a mockery of a belief. All respected the 
song, but many did not want to sing it. No one 
ridiculed those who decided to publicly 
demonstrate their so-called nationalism, but many 
made it clear - Sikhs included - that they 
reserved their right to sing or not sing Vande 
Mataram. For they know that nationalism has 
little to do with singing a song, but everything 
to do with respecting and maintaining India as a 
secular democracy. That can only be if we respect 
each other's freedoms, and while demanding our 
rights, perform our duties. So just as no one 
should usurp the mandate to compel others to sing 
a song that is not the national anthem, no one 
should prevail upon a community not to sing it 
either. It is an individual's choice and should 
be left to the citizens without interference from 
the maulanas or the Sangh Parivar. After all, 
A.R. Rehman sang Vande Mataram with passion, and 
I do not think he has received a message from his 
God that he is no longer a Muslim. Just as there 
are many in the BJP - one will not name them - 
who might find it difficult to enter Heaven's 
door despite standing for hours to sing all the 
patriotic songs they know!

Of course I am not God, but then as an atheist I 
have given to myself the freedom to interpret 
God's will. The ringing of bells at the temples, 
and the sounding of azaan five times a day, 
become meaningless when the devout insist on 
placing signs outside their places of worship, 
"Dalits not allowed" and "Women not allowed" 
respectively, and then insist that this is true 
religion and true faith. What is the point of a 
patriotic song if it is used to divide and spread 
hate? What is the point of a religion if it kills 
and maims and seeks to establish the supposed 
superiority of one over the other? What is the 
point of a religion if it discriminates against 
castes and women and humanity at large? What is 
the point of a patriotism that divides the nation 
into a majority and a minority, and seeks to 
create second class citizens?

The BJP is clearly a party without issues. It has 
spent days and weeks over Vande Mataram, with the 
singing or not singing of the song preoccupying 
its national executive at Dehra Dun, that should 
instead have been discussing a strategy to 
effectively address the plethora of problems 
facing the nation. It is so torn apart by 
factionalism that real issues have ceased to 
matter. For the maulanas, of course, these have 
never mattered. They cannot look beyond their 
limited constituency. The Congress, instead of 
opting out of an engineered controversy, again 
tried to compete with the BJP and ended up 
falling on its face. As it always does when it 
seeks to fight with the extreme right-wing 
parties for their platform of nationalism and 
communalism, instead of clearing its own mind of 
the gathered cobwebs, and speaking out for true 
secularism and pluralism.

There are few countries as diverse and as rich in 
culture as India. There are few countries with 
such huge problems and difficulties either. In 
one state people are dying of drought, in another 
they have been consumed by floods. In one 
community an uncle can marry his niece, in 
another a cousin can marry cousin, in yet a third 
both relationships are taboo. Some tribals in 
Jharkhand eat rats, others do not touch meat, 
still others refuse to touch garlic and onions: 
the diversity of India is visible in her 
dialects, customs and food habits. And instead of 
soaring high on the ability of a nation to manage 
her contradictions, to tolerate and accommodate, 
we have political parties seeking to push the 
people into a monolithic structure of hate and 
intolerance. This is anti-nationalism, this has 
to be fought and countered.

Left to themselves, the people will not spew hate 
and communalism. Vande Mataram would not have 
become such a gigantic issue if the politicians 
had left it to the people to take a decision to 
sing or not sing it. Rehman had secularised the 
song, others would have followed. But to force a 
view down peoples' throat, to ban a movie, to 
burn movie halls, to burn books, to attack people 
because they wear jeans, is to take on the role 
of a self-seeking cultural police force, to 
become the Taliban. This will invite resistance 
from democratic India that loves her freedom and 
will not easily allow anyone to take it away.

o o o

Daily Times
September 05, 2006

by J Sri Raman

o o o

September 4, 2006


by Jawed Naqvi

TWO essential components of any song are its tune 
and words. Vande Mataram is a 19th century 
Sanskrit song that celebrates a utopian 
motherland which, to those who understand the 
meaning, is an allusion to India of their dream. 
There are references in an adapted version of the 
song to Durga, the Hindu goddess of power.

Durga is a multi-faceted deity who excels in 
putting erring men-folk in their place, if 
necessary by violent means. In Gujarat and other 
parts of western India, Durga rides the lion but 
by the time she is deified in Bengalshe switches 
over to the tiger as her mythical vehicle. Her 
visage thus changes according to geography. The 
talents of the calendar artist also play a role 
in this calibrated mutation. There are a few 
other variants to Durga.

She is known as Parvati, Shakti, Uma, Kaali, 
Mahishasura Mardini and by several other names. 
Some time after independence, the Indian 
parliament after considerable debate decided to 
make Vande Mataram a national song, nearly at par 
with the national anthem. That the national 
anthem was also written in the ancient Indian 
classical language of Sanskrit is perhaps a 
factor in the inability of a vast majority of 
Indians in failing to comprehend its meaning.

At some point, however, during the anti-colonial 
movement, Vande Mataram became a battle-cry 
against British rule. It was used to campaign 
against the communal partition of Bengal by Lord 
Curzon in 1905. Some Indian Muslim leaders feel 
the decision to give the song parliamentary 
sanction was incorrect. The government of the day 
however decreed that the first two stanzas be 
accepted as the complete song since they 
contained no reference to Durga.

Ever since it was adapted by the Bengali novelist 
Bankimchandra Chatterjee in the late 19th 
century, the song was understood mainly by the 
Brahminical elite. But today others in the 
Hindutva stable of the RSS, and some of their 
clones in the Congress, claim to be competent to 
speak and divine the essentially Sanskrit verses.

Poet and secular activist Javed Akhtar spelled 
out a possible way out for himself from the moral 
quandary. "If a narrow-minded Muslim preacher 
asks me not to sing it, I will most certainly 
make sure that I sing the entire song to my 
heart's content. But if someone from the RSS 
presses me to sing it I will refuse to comply 
with even a single line."

Historian Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, author of a 
book on the song, is incensed by a current 
controversy whereby the federal government wants 
that the song be sung in all schools on September 
7. The order has given the votaries of Hindutva 
as well as orthodox Muslims a field day on TV. "I 
find it highly objectionable to see the song 
being used as a litmus test of one's patriotism," 
says Mr Bhattacharya.

After the song was sung at the Congress party 
session in Varanasi in December, 1905 to protest 
the partition of Bengal, it became the 
front-runner to be India's national anthem. But 
it lost out to Rabindranath Tagore's more secular 
Jana Gana Mana following opposition from Muslim 

There is another problem with the singing of 
Vande Mataram, particularly when the requirement 
is mandated by the state itself. Which tune of 
Vande Mataram is one to sing if sing it we must? 
The classiest composition was rendered in 1920 by 
a not so widely known Maharashtrian singer 
Vishnupant Pagnis. His Vande Mataram in Raag 
Miyan ki Sarang is by far the most captivating 
tune ever recorded. Only trained singers can 
attempt to make a worthwhile attempt to try it 
out. A 78 rpm version is still around, 
fortunately, for those who want to compare it 
with a tardier composition in Raag Desh played 
now a days in parliament. Or are we to sing the 
rabble-rousing Lata Mangeshkar version performed 
for the communal film, Anand Math? Or is the 
yuppy version the better choice, the one in which 
the Sanskrit mother is replaced by the more 
western Mama by Muslim composer A.R. Rahman?

At any rate, why does a secular country like 
India, which boasts of a scientific temper and a 
liberal constitution allow itself to be caught in 
non-essential quarrels between religious groups? 
It is difficult to guess the answer straightaway. 
But it is curious that the country spends quite a 
lot of time and effort in cultivating religious 
constituencies by strange acts of omission and 
commission. The Indian army, for example, is 
deployed to help conduct a Hindu pilgrimage in 
strife-torn Kashmir every year. The country's 
foreign ministry is directly engaged in 
supporting pilgrims to visit Mansarovar and Mount 
Kailash in Tibet. The snow-clad mountain is the 
mythical abode of Shiva, the god of destruction, 
Durga's consort. The home ministry on its part 
spends a fortune in sending Muslim contingents 
for Haj to Saudi Arabia every year. It would be 
impossible to find another nation state in this 
age that colludes with religious groups with the 
taxpayer's money, to perpetuate its garbled sense 
of secularism.

There is some garble also in the Indian state's 
perception of its own recent history. The 
ineptitude looms like a social menace as the 
country progresses to next year when 150 years of 
the 1857 uprising against British rule will be 
celebrated nationwide, in tandem perhaps with 
other South Asian countries. The problem presents 
itself in various layered and nuanced ways. In a 
subtle way, almost imperceptibly the essential 
difference is sought to be obliterated among the 
so-called national heroes. Ask a school child to 
name a few national heroes he or she is likely to 
throw up names like Shivaji, Rana Pratap, Rani of 
Jhansi and Bhagat Singh. If the school is very 
secular they would add the name of anti-British 
Ashfaqullah or even Company Quarter Master 
Havildar Abdul Hamid, who the legend has it 
single-handedly destroyed Pakistani Patton tanks 
with an assault rifle and some hand grenades in 

Thus in one slide we are saddled with frames from 
idolised men and women who fought the British 
occupiers alongside those who fought the Mughals 
(read Muslims) and even those who fought 
Pakistan. This garble sometimes seems deliberate 
and is of a piece with the historiography 
patronised by both the Congress and the 
opposition Hindutva groups. Sometimes there are 
feeble protests, like the recent one against the 
chief minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje 
Scinida, a Hindutva activist. Her forebears sided 
with the British when the rebel Rani of Jhansi 
was being hunted by colonial troops. They 
declined to help the Rani. She was booed recently 
when she unveiled a statue of the rebel Rani.

The great ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, was 
similarly let down by the Marathas and the Nizam 
of Hyderabad alike when he single-handedly took 
on the British in epic battles. Tipu's heirs are 
today believed to be roaming the streets of 
Kolkata, unsung while the votaries of the 
Marathas and the erstwhile 'razakaar' supporters 
of the Nizam have found a place in parliament 
where they all sing -- occasionally out of tune 
-- Vande Mataram.

o o o

31 August, 2006


by Ram Puniyani

After Arjun Singh, MHRD Minister clarified that 
singing of the (August 2006) of Vande Matram is 
voluntary, on 7th September, the supposed 
centenary year of this song, BJP went hammer and 
tongs blaming Congress for this 'appeasement' of 
minorities. In the meanwhile a section of Muslims 
had protested that the song is asking for worship 
of deities other than Allah, and that is 
something, which Islam does not permit.

One could see the charged BJP members shouting 
Vande Matram in the upper house of the 
parliament, led by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Various 
Hindutva ideologues gave a threat that those who 
do not want to sing this song should leave the 
country. BJP is planning to sing the song on its 
party head offices on that day. Chattisgarh has 
already issued the circular to all the schools, 
including the madrasas to sing this song on that 
day, and other BJP ruled states, MP, Gujarat, and 
Rajasthan are on the way to issue the same. In MP 
the singing of Vande Matram in the offices on 
every Monday has been implemented. One recalls 
that in the aftermath of the Mumbai riots, the 
Shiv Sainiks had asserted to the peace marchers 
that it is mandatory to sing Vande Matram.

A section of Muslim clerics including Shahi Imam 
of Jama Masjid, have raised the objection to it 
saying that Islam being monotheistic does not 
regard any other object as god or goddess. It is 
likely that same may be the opinion of followers 
of other monotheistic religions. For that matter 
all Muslims have not opposed it. Also it should 
be clear that the later parts of the song where 
the mother land is compared to Hindu goddesses 
was not accepted as the part of national song, by 
the committee, which said that only first two 
stanzas should be accepted as national song.

This is what constitutional position is, and that 
too it was made clear that the singing of the 
first two stanzas of the song is voluntary, not a 
compulsory one. Hinduism being polytheistic, 
there is a plethora of gods and goddesses, though 
the traditional 33 crore of them may be difficult 
to name, motherland has been projected to be 
Durga in this song. One of the reasons for the 
section of Muslims' opposing the singing of the 
song may be the fact that so far Hindu right has 
been presenting the full song and not just the 
first two stanzas which has the recognition as 
the national song.

It is noteworthy that all the Muslims may not 
hold similar opinion. Surely A. R. Rahman, the 
music maestro has got this song into a beautiful 
catchy and popular tune. Shahi Imam, who has 
opposed the move, has been very close to BJP and 
has been repeatedly wooed by this party for 
electoral purposes to the extent that in the last 
Lok Sabha elections, he went to issue the Fatwa 
for the Muslims to vote for BJP. There is a 
reasonable deal of argument not to accept to sing 
the full song by a section of Muslim population 
due to its Hindu imagery. But if the matters are 
clarified that the circular is only for the first 
two stanzas, the situation may be different.
The double standards of Hindutva lobby are very 
clear in this controversy. In 1998, when UP Govt 
wanted to make it compulsory the then Prime 
minister, Mr. Vajpayee opined against this move 
of UP Government.

RSS and the Hindutva family are strongly hung up 
on this song, more so than the Jana Gana Mana, 
the national anthem. After writing the first to 
stanzas of Vande matram, Bankim Chndra Chatterjee 
expanded it in his novel Anand Math. Large part 
of it is in Sanskrit, Devbhasha, and few stanzas 
are in Bengalee. This has strong anti British and 
also pro Hindu over tones, due to which it became 
popular in a section of population. The large 
secular movement looked at it as for its anti 
British sentiments, while Hindutva sections 
upheld it for the Hindu undertones and they used 
it as a battle cry against the Muslims in the 
communal violence, who in turn resorted to 
Allah-o-Akbar. It matched with the requirements 
of Hindutva movement as here the nation is 
projected as a monolithic being, in the image of 
Durga. The diversity and plurality, the core 
identity of the Indian nation is no where visible 
in the song.

Jana Gana Mana, Vande matram and Saare Jahan Se 
Achchha were the three national songs in the 
running for the national anthem. Jana Gana Mana 
conveyed the rich diversity and was acceptable to 
most states, due to which it was selected as 
national anthem while Vande Matram, first two 
stanzas, was given the status of national song. 
RSS family is using it to browbeat the 
minorities. By now apart from its anti colonial 
stance it has been made as a weapon to convey the 
anti minority sentiments. It is because of this 
reason that RSS affiliates are pushing it with 
vehemence. It seems, after the fatigue, which 
temple issue has acquired, that Vande matram may 
be the major plank of RSS affiliates in their 
social and electoral battles. Here it does not 
matter that even the national anthem cannot be 
imposed on those who do not wish to sing that, as 
per the judgment of the court. But surely for 
BJP, which is built around the identity issues, 
Ram Temple, Civil code etc. it is a golden 
opportunity to latch on to Vande Matram to see 
that maximum electoral mileage is achieved by 
pushing it forward.

Jana Gana Mana, which is more acceptable to all, 
is purposely pushed back by these elements. They 
are projecting it as having been written by 
Rabindranath Tagore in praise of George V. This 
myth was created by the English media. In 1911 
when GeorgeV visited India, Congress wanted to 
thank him for retracting the British decision to 
partition Bengal. This was the first success of 
swadeshi movement, the first modern anti colonial 
movement, which had begun in 1905. On the same 
day two songs were sung, one written by Tagore, 
Jana Gana Mana and the other that of one
Ramanuj Choudhary, who had composed the song 
especially for George V. The English media was 
neither accurate nor serious about properly 
reporting such events. So what got reported by 
the British media was that Tagore song was sung 
in praise of George V.! As such, the intent and 
meaning of what Rabindranth Tagore is referring 
to was correctly described by a commentator in 
vernacular press that his song was in "Praise of 
the Dispenser of human Destiny, who appears
in every age."

When Tagore was asked by a friend, who was loyal 
to British, to write a song in praise of George 
V, Tagore felt angered as he was opposed to the 
British rule. Instead of one for George he wrote 
a song devoted to the dispenser of Human destiny. 
When faced with/British media projection and RSS 
type criticism, Tagore wrote "That great 
Charioteer of man's destiny in age after age 
could not by any means be George V or George VI 
or any George. Even my 'loyal' friend realized 
this; because, however powerful his loyalty to 
the King, he was not wanting in intelligence." The
song gained wide popularity all over and its 
English translation, 'Morning song of India' also 
picked in different parts. Netaji's Azad Hind 
Fauz adopted it as national anthem and Gandhiji 
went on to say, "the song has found a place in 
our national life." It is precisely for this 
reason that RSS affiliates are uncomfortable with 
Jana Gana Mana and want to assert Vande Matram in 
an aggressive way.

o o o

Indian Express
August 24, 2006

by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya

The history of the national song has imbued it with diverse symbolism

The appropriation of cultural creations for 
political purposes may be inevitable, but it 
should not happen in a state of arrogant 
ignorance. The low level of knowledge now on 
display in the statements and actions of many 
political parties in respect of the song, Vande 
Mataram, is surprising. It is surprising because 
the song has been part of the language of Indian 
politics for over a century. At this moment we 
see a rerun of an old series of actions and 
reactions intended to stage an enactment of 
identity assertions.

The traditional appeal of the captivating lyric, 
celebrating the beauty of the motherland, remains 
as strong as ever so far as the general public is 
concerned. One evidence of this is its popularity 
set to music composed by A.R. Rahman. And yet 
political squabbles over the song continue. 
Coverage in the electronic media provides 
entertainment in juxtaposing the so-called Hindu 
and Muslim points of view, a mode of presentation 
which allows no other reading of the song. 
Actually the meanings read into the poem have 
differed widely in the 130 years since it was 
written. In terms of the meanings thus attributed 
there are about five different phases.

In the beginning were just the words. Reportedly 
one of the leading defenders of the song and of 
Hindutva has said that the song was written by 
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee to honour those who 
sacrificed their lives for the country. To defend 
the truth about the song from such defenders it 
needs to be said that when Bankim first wrote it 
in the early 1870s it was just a beautiful hymn 
to the motherland, richly-watered, 
richly-fruited, dark with the crops of the 
harvests, sweet of laughter, sweet of speech, the 
giver of bliss. For several years these first two 
stanzas remained unpublished. In 1881 this poem 
was included by Bankim in the novel, Anandamath, 
and now it was expanded to endow the motherland 
with militant religious symbolism as the context 
of the narrative demanded.

However, the icon of the motherland, "terrible 
with the clamour of seventy million throats", 
likened to "Durga holding ten weapons of war" 
etc, entered the public imagination much later. 
This was from the beginning of Bengal's Swadeshi 
agitation in 1905. It was sung in the Congress 
session in Benaras in 1905 (music composed by 
Tagore), in anti-Partition processions in 
Calcutta led by Tagore, in meetings addressed by 
Aurobindo Ghose. The latter hailed Bankim as the 
rishi of nationalism and translated the poem into 
English. Many translations were made, including 
one by Subramaniya Bharathi in 1905. Likewise, 
far away from Bengal, Mahatma Gandhi took note of 
the song as early as 1905. What is more, Vande 
Mataram became a slogan for the common man, to 
the extent he participated in anti-British 
agitations. Many of the militant nationalists 
faced bullets or the gallows with that slogan on 
their lips. Thus Vande Mataram became sanctified 
as an intrinsic part of the memories of the fight 
for freedom.

A third phase in the life of the song began in 
the 1930s when objections began to be raised 
against the song on two grounds: first, its 
association with Anandamath, which depicted the 
Muslims of the Nawabi era of the 1770s in Bengal 
in a poor light; second, the religious imagery 
and idolatry implicit in the stanzas of the poem 
following the first two. (Today those innocent of 
any knowledge of the song and the novel probably 
mistake the part for the whole). M.A. Jinnah, as 
well as a number of Muslim legislators in the 
provincial assemblies elected in 1937, became 
vociferous against the recitation or singing of 
Vande Mataram, a practice introduced by 
provincial Congress governments. In response to 
this, as well as pressure of Congress members, 
Jawaharlal Nehru in October 1937 wrote to Tagore 
asking for his opinion regarding the suitability 
of the song as a national anthem. The judgement 
Nehru received was that the first two stanzas of 
Vande Mataram should be accepted; as for the 
later part of the verse, Tagore thought it might 
offend monotheists, but the song was inextricably 
associated with the freedom movement and "the 
sacrifices of the best of our youths" since 1905.

Acting upon this advice the Congress Working 
Committee recommended that "wherever the Vande 
Mataram is sung at national gatherings, only the 
first two stanzas should be sung". Jinnah wrote 
to Nehru in March 1938 that the decision was not 
to his satisfaction but the Congress stuck to it; 
in any event, there was a proviso that any one 
who wished not to participate was free to do so. 
>From then on the song was a dividing line between 
those who doubted the wisdom of this compromise 
(C. Rajgopalachari) and those, led by Nehru, who 
were opposed to making the song obligatory. In 
1939 some provincial governments - like Bihar and 
Central Provinces - issued specific instructions 
to education departments clarifying that the song 
was not obligatory. A fallout was that the slogan 
'Vande Mataram' acquired special connotation to 
those who valued the Hindu symbolism in the song 
and by 1946-47 in some parts of India it became 
in inter-communal conflicts the battle cry of the 
Hindu community. The earliest instance of Hindu 
Mahasabha support to the sanctification of the 
song is perhaps the 'Vande Mataram Day' organised 
by the party in 1937.

The fifth and most recent phase in the life of 
the song commenced in the Constituent Assembly on 
January 24, 1950, when it was sung at the end of 
its deliberations. It was resolved that while 
Jana Gana Mana was identified as the national 
anthem, equally with it Vande Mataram was to be 
recognised. It was a motion from the chair, moved 
by Rajendra Prasad himself, and unlike other 
parts of the Constitution it was never debated 
upon in the Constituent Assembly. But the matter 
continues to be debated until today. This is not 
unexpected, given the eventful history of this 
song. Judging by various erroneous statements 
which are now being made, it is vitally important 
to bear in mind what happened in the past. That 
is because the memories of the past, rightly or 
wrongly, constitute our present.

The writer, a former VC of Visva Bharati 
University, Santiniketan, is the author of 'Vande 
Mataram: The Biography of a Song' (Penguin)



Outlook - web only
13 September 2006

The bomb-scare on Wednesday may have been 
defused, but Malegaon is a town waiting to 
explode as victims demand concrete clues about 
the identity of perpetrators. Updates
by Smruti Koppikar

Many in the law and order establishment both in 
Mumbai and New Delhi heaved a collective sigh of 
relief that Malegaon had not erupted into 
communal violence after four bombs went off near 
the Hamidiya Mosque-Bada Kabristan and at 
Mushavirat Chowk last Friday. The immediate 48 
hours were crucial; if peace could be maintained 
in the immediate aftermath while families buried 
their dead and tended to the injured, there was 

Six days on, Malegaon has kept its peace but only 
just. That a 'bomb' was found today at a busy 
shopping complex near the Mohammedia Madrasa 
Centre and mosque only underlined the fact that 
somebody for sure doesn't like this peace to 
prevail. News of the bomb sparked fresh panic, as 
the area was cordoned off and National Security 
Guard (NSG) bomb squad was immediately summoned 
to defuse the device that was inside an unclaimed 
red box found in a staircase.

Police claim that the law and order situation in 
the town is under control - but the "anxiety 
level" among people has perceptibly gone up. The 
deployment of Rapid Action Force (RAF) wasn't 
enough to assuage these fears. Police kept people 
away from the shopping complex while the media 
too were advised to stay out. Residents were 
asked to switch off cell-phones to rule out the 
possibility of remote detonation of any explosive 
device. The box with the 'bomb' was taken to a 
nearby school ground where the experts worked to 
defuse the device.

"The confusion increased as sniffer dogs which 
were rushed to the spot gave a positive 
indication after smelling the miniscule level of 
explosive in the box, Inspector General of Police 
(Nasik range) PK Jain was to state much later, 
when he clarified that the device found contained 
only "a miniscule amount of the explosive 
substance used in firecrackers mixed with soil 
and stones and a pair of batteries". It was 
clear, as he said, that "it was an attempt to 
create communal tension". Actually, it only 
exacerbated the already tense town as a large 
contingent of the RAF was deployed in the 
vicinity while police and religious leaders made 
announcements on the public address system, 
calling for calm as people ran in fear out of the 
shopping complex.

But even before today's bomb-scare, you just had 
to scratch the surface to know that Malegaon is a 
town waiting to explode. A special company of the 
RAF comprising 150-odd jawans, backed by the Riot 
Control Police sent from Mumbai assist the local 
police in keeping order; lasting peace is a 
different ballgame. Locals in the powerloom town 
with 7.5 lakh population, 70 per cent of it 
Muslim, are filled with outrage and rage - 
outrage at the fact that someone could actually 
detonate RDX-laden bombs at the holiest of their 
places on a day of significance Shab-e-Barat when 
they gather to remember their dead, compounded by 
today's incident, and rage at the fact that the 
police seem not to have moved an inch in 
investigating the blasts that claimed 31 lives 
and left more than 200 injured.

The average Malegaonkar has kept his counsel. In 
fact, when news of bombs going off had spread in 
the town, Hindus queued up at hospitals to donate 
blood, some of them were Shiv Sainiks led by 
local leader Dada Bhuse who had been previously 
charged with rioting against Muslims.

The police failure now stares everyone in the 
face and may well be responsible for breaking the 
fragile peace. Since that fateful Friday 
afternoon, all that the police have got are some 
suspects (at the last count on Tuesday evening, 
there were ten) rounded up for questioning, 
sketches of three men based on eye-witness 
accounts, one of the two damaged cycles that were 
strapped with the deadly bombs, some statements 
from cycle dealers who sold the two bicycles 
earlier that day and a host of suspicions.

"We have no made no concrete progress and do not 
any substantial clues yet," an officer told 
Outlook on Monday. Whatever little they chanced 
upon, they do not wish to share with citizens for 
fear of sparking a backlash. The dilemma for the 
police is doubled by the communal arithmetic in 

All investigations in the first few days did not 
help zero in on possible suspects, which is in 
stark contrast to the alacrity with which the 
needle of suspicion was pointed towards the 
Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) barely hours after the 
Mumbai train blasts on July 11. "They may be 
doing their job but it's a fact that we are still 
not told who the perpetrators could possibly be. 
And this gives rise to our belief that the cops 
are hiding something," remarked a cloth merchant 
Mohammed Khan Ibrahim Khan, coming out of one of 
the many mass prayers for the departed held at 
various locations across the town on Monday and 
Tuesday. The unwillingness of the investigators - 
local police helped by the Anti Terrorist Squad 
of the Maharashtra police - to even offer routine 
guesses about the bombers' identity has not gone 
down well with citizens here.

Some investigators offered a view that parallels 
could be drawn with the July 11 blasts in Mumbai 
and that Malegaon blasts "resembled the 
handiwork" of Islamic terrorist organizations 
like the LeT working with SIMI. It doesn't answer 
the question: why would Muslim terrorists want to 
harm Muslims and place bombs in and around a 
masjid? Point the finger of suspicion at 
right-wing Hindutva groups so as to trigger off a 
communal conflagration? But then security experts 
were too quick to rule out any involvement of 
Hindutva outfits like the Bajrang Dal whose 
members were found dead while handling explosives 
in an activists' home at Nanded earlier this 
year. If investigators suggest Muslim involvement 
in the blasts, they fear a backlash against the 
force itself. Already, two police jeeps were set 
on fire within hours of the blasts, the SP 
(Nashik) Mr Rajvardhan was almost beaten up when 
he reached the affected area the next day to calm 
a mob, and men in khakhi are treated with 
derision and taunts across the town. If 
investigators suggest Hindutva involvement, cops 
fear an eruption of communal violence against 
Hindus. So, suggestive references like the ones 
made in Mumbai or Varanasi or Delhi last Diwali 
cannot be hazarded, but there are no concrete 
clues to offer either.

That the investigators should so blatantly rule 
out involvement of any Hindutva outfit is cause 
for concern. It's one thing for people like Bhuse 
and other Hindutva leaders to assert that "no one 
from this side of the river will go across and 
dare do something like this" but the fact remains 
that the cops are not chasing some clues. Take 
the case of "fake beard" as it has come to be 
known here. A tailor Aqeel Ahmed Ansari who works 
near the Bada Kabristan told cops and bystanders 
that he had picked up a body from near one of the 
bicycles and handed it over to volunteers in the 
ambulance, that this body did not have the lower 
part of the torso and it's beard had come off in 
the ambulance. The suggestion being that it was a 
fake beard and therefore the body of a 
perpetrator. Coincidentally, the two hospitals 
that conducted post-mortems said that they had 
together handled 30 bodies and none was without 
the lower half. Besides, this body could not be 
found in the morgue hours later that very day. 
The "fake beard" part perhaps reveals something, 
especially when against the backdrop of several 
fake beards, typical Muslim and Sikh clothes, and 
relevant headgear were recovered from the house 
of a Bajrang Dal activist in the Nanded blast 

Also significant is the Prime Minister's 
statement on Tuesday that the role of right-wing 
Hindutva organizations must also be probed.

In Malegaon, it now takes two men to start off a 
debate on the blasts for a mob of 50-70 to gather 
in less than five minutes, then arguments get out 
of hand, tempers run high and there's the 
possibility of violence right there. "Some of my 
friends and I have been playing peace-keepers at 
so many nukkads all the time in the last four 
days," said a loom worker Ayaz Ahmed who calmed 
down a mob near Kapda Bazaar simply by shouting 
at them to disperse. There are people who believe 
that their children died so that Islam could be 
cleansed of the stain that it harbours terrorism 
and terrorists, in a sense making their dead into 
martyrs to a cause. Then, there are people like 
Shakeel Ahmed Mohammed Saleem and his brother 
Shafeeque Ahmed, each of who lost a teenage son 
in the Mushvirat Chowk blast, but who dared to 
return the compensation cheque back to Sonia 
Gandhi. Says Shakeel Ahmed: "Within 18 hours, 
they were handing out cheques calling the names 
of the deceased without a word of sympathy or 
condolence. What kind of behaviour was it? We are 
not beggars. Humne haath failaya nahin tha, humne 
haath badaya tha." The brothers offered to donate 
Rs 5 lakh each if it could help nab the 

Their sense of insult and rage is finding support 
across Malegaon, a bustling town that was brought 
to near-collapse by machinations of politicians 
including JD's Nihal Ahmed, five-time MLA now 
touching 80 years. No one has a good word for 
Ahmed, many see him and the current MLA Sheikh 
Rashid (Congress) as self-serving politicians, 
taking advantage of communal polarization in the 
town. The town's demand for a fully-equipped 
civil hospital, okayed by the state government in 
2001 after a round of riots, did not get the push 
until the brothers pointed it out that day to 
Gandhi. Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao 
Deshmukh has only excuses to offer. "This is a 
town that governments have hated, still hate, and 
brand as a communal pariah. Why should we then 
honour anyone who comes here, however big he or 
she may be? People of Malegaon have been branded 
and insulted, now is the time to rise and show 
the stuff we are made of. No one had refused to 
take a cheque from Gandhi," says Abdul Qayyum, 
former corporator. Even so, he counsels his 
people to keep peace.

It is, indeed, a very fragile peace.

Smruti Koppikar in Malegaon, with agency reports for today's unexploded bomb.


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