By Ram Jethmalani
28 Aug. 11
While the whole country is resounding with unprecedented crowds proclaiming loyalty and support for Anna Hazare and pledging participation and sacrifice in the movement to free the country from what the Prime Minister describes as the cancer of corruption, it is somewhat depressing that writer Zia Haq in the Hindustan Times of 22 August tells us, "Slowly Muslims are shedding Anna apathy". While humble restaurateur Hafiz Ghulam is volunteering to deliver hundreds of food packets to Anna's followers at Ramlila Maidan, yet the participation of Muslim youths is somewhat sparse because they have not got over their repugnance to the chanting of Vande Mataram.
I do not blame the youngsters because Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, has called upon Muslims to stay away from the Anna movement, saying his war cry — Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai — is against Islam. Islam, he argues, does not condone the worship of the nation or land. It does not even condone the worship of the mother who nurtures a child in her womb. How can Muslims then join his stir with a war cry that is against the basic tenets of Islam? I have advised them to stay away, he told the Times of India.
I think Hafiz Ghulam understands Islam and its Prophet's message better than Syed Ahmed Bukhari. I think the Shahi Imam does not deserve his title or office because he seems to be ignorant of what Islam teaches and the spiritual meaning and message of Vande Mataram. What follows is an attempt to educate a foolish fanatic that he seems to be. There is little hope he will change. In that event he will have to be dealt with harshly. Whatever my diffidence, I propose to try and introduce the Imam to the nobility of Islam, which he does not understand.
14 August 1947 and the following day were great days in the history of India. The nation had come of age. It had emerged from the era of slavery and was taking over governance in its own hands. On the morning of that day the fifth session of the Constituent Assembly of India commenced its sitting in the Constitution Hall, with Dr Rajendra Prasad in the chair and almost all members present. The first item on the agenda was the singing of the first verse of Vande Mataram. Sucheta Kripalani sang it in her melodious voice and all members without exception stood in reverence and listened to it. The President followed thereafter. He ended his speech with a message to the minorities. To them he gave the solemn assurance that they would receive fair and just treatment and that there would be no discrimination in any form against them. Their religion, their culture and their language would remain safe and they would enjoy all the rights and privileges of citizenship. He did not shirk from reminding them, however, that India expected them in their turn to render loyalty to the country in which they live and to its Constitution.
Jawaharlal Nehru made his famous "Tryst with Destiny" speech and moved a Resolution that when it would strike 12 midnight every member shall take the following oath : "At this solemn moment when the people of India, through suffering and sacrifice, have secured freedom, I... a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, do dedicate myself in all humility to the service of India and her people to the end that this ancient land attain her rightful place in the world and make her full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind."
The Shahi Imam and his misguided followers will notice in this short passage reference to the dedication to the service of India and her people. Mataram is a short name for India and her people. Nehru's dedication was commitment to serve her with reverence and gratitude.
No Muslim member objected to Vande Mataram being sung. Chaudhari Khaliquzzaman seconded Nehru's resolution, which was then duly adopted and as the clock struck 12 every member made the prescribed pledge.
There was competition between Rabindranath Tagore's Jana Gana Mana and Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay's Vande Mataram for recognition as the National Anthem. The competition was decided on the basis of superior musical qualities in favour of the former, but on 24 January 1950, two days before our Republic was born, the President of India made the following announcement: "The composition consisting of the words and music known as Jana Gana Mana is the National Anthem of India, subject to such alterations in the words as the Government may authorize as occasion arises; and the song Vande Mataram, which has played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honoured equally with Jana Gana Mana and shall have equal status with it."
There was resounding applause in the House when this announcement was made. No Muslim member thought his religion was being assailed. For a long time nobody made such a silly suggestion. The President's statement has the sanctity of any other part or Article of the Constitution. India is entitled to expect from every citizen of India, irrespective of his religion, respect for the National Anthem and an equal respect for the song that provided the inspiration for the freedom movement of which every citizen is a beneficiary. The proceedings of 14 August 1947 and 24 January 1950 constitute a contract between the nation and its minorities. The Constitution will be respected and Vande Mataram will be sung with reverence and joy. This is a requirement for national solidarity and integration. The Shahi Imam's repudiation of Vande Mataram is an act of betrayal of a solemn pledge and amounts to sedition and treason.
Let me now remind the Shahi Imam of what the Holy Quran tells us: "And the earth we have spread (like a carpet); set thereon mountains firm and immovable; And produced therein all kinds of things in due balance." "And We have provided therein means of subsistence, for you and for those for whose sustenance Ye are not responsible."
I ask the Shahi Imam: Must not one respect the earth which takes your excreta and converts it into the food you eat for nourishment and without which you will be dead? Remember that Anna is fighting to retrieve the stolen wealth of poor Muslims and Hindus alike. The crowds that gather at Ramlila and other places are soldiers battling corrupt rulers.
If the Shahi Imam continues to wallow in his misunderstanding of the teachings of the Holy Quran then logically he should treat India as Daru-ul-Harab. His plain duty is to migrate. India would be perfectly justified in depriving him of his citizenship. There are certain obligations which follow from living in the tolerant pluralistic society of Bharat. Comply or quit. What the Imam should be teaching his followers is the oft quoted poem of Kabir:
If Khuda lives only in Masjid/ who looks after the rest of the world?
If Ram is lodged in the temple idol/who takes care of the universe?
Is East the abode of Hari,/and West that of Allah? Search in your heart for both of them,/there live both Karim and Ram.
They are one and the same,/ Creator of the universe men and women are His image and Kabir is son of both Ram and Karim his preceptors are Guru and Pir alike.
Source: The Sunday Guardian, New Delhi