One of the oft heard statements from the liberals in India is that the real issues faced by the people are not at the forefront and more than necessary coverage is given by our politicians and some sections of the media on things like enforcing Vande Mataram and national anthem on Madrasa students, separate flag for the state of Karnataka, separate religion status for Lingayats and Vokkaligas, enforcement of Hindi in the south Indian states etc.
After the Gorakhpur episode and the Utkal Express rail accident, these voices have only grown shriller. One cannot deny that there is truth in the fact that a lot of prime time debates are spent in discussing and fighting over these things, while some of the real issues like employment, improving the overall healthcare in our country, poverty alleviation, etc deserve much more attention that what they are currently getting.
Having said that, it is also important for a nation to instill a sense of patriotism among the children and educate them on their duties as citizens of this country. One of the reasons that India as a country has progressed less than it potentially could have progressed is because of the indifference, carelessness and selfishness of the people. It is easy to blame politicians, bureaucrats, our police force and every government official, but one must also reflect if we the people have played our part well. Giving bribes to government officials, dirtying our surroundings, tax evasion have all become norms and we are all guilty of underperforming our duties as responsible citizens. Thanks to social media, things are slowly changing for the better and there is a higher level of awareness.
How can a sense of patriotism be instilled in our children? To start with, students must be made aware of all the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters to obtain independence from the British. MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were not the only two people who contributed towards the freedom struggle. One can argue that bigger sacrifices were made by the likes of Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Chandrashekhar Azad, Veer Savarkar and a host of others. The number of days that Bhagat Singh stayed on hunger strike, the nature of torture that VD Savarkar had undergone in Kalapani, the efforts undertaken by Subhash Chandra Bose to form the Indian National Army (INA), the efforts taken by Sardar Patel to unite India post independence ought to be made aware to the children. The other aspect is to make them completely aware (along with meaning) of patriotic songs like our national song Vande Mataram and our national anthem.
When our liberals and leftists say that Vande Mataram and national anthem must not be forced upon the people, they are wrong and they are doing a great disservice to the nation by opposing these songs. While one will not become patriotic by just singing these songs, they do play a part in conveying the greatness of our motherland and the virtues of patriotism. After all, what is the issue with it? Why do they see it as forcing an opinion on someone and why should anyone have an issue with these songs? Vande Mataram, written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, played an important role in the independence movement and only praises the motherland and urges the people to bow to the motherland.
Some of the fundamentalist Muslims have always shown their opposition to singing Vande Mataram, claiming that it is against Islam and Muslims must bow to almighty Allah only. At best, this is a hollow argument. Why do they want to bring in religion into this? Why can’t they appreciate and encourage a song that praises the motherland and leave aside the religious aspect?
A lot of people claim that the Muslim community in India is always under suspicion and the members have to repeatedly prove their loyalty to India. When they oppose patriotic songs such as Vande Mataram, when thousands of Muslims participate in the Janaza of a terrorist, when thousands of them shout Allah hu Akbar during Akbaruddin Owaisi’s hate speech, this is bound to happen.
While fundamentalist Muslims comprise a small percentage, unfortunately, the voice of the liberal Muslim in India is most often crushed by that of the fundamentalists, while the liberals and the leftists speak for these fundamentalists by arguing that Vande Mataram is forced upon the Muslims, thereby giving a message that feelings like patriotism and nationalism are not important to have. The liberals must understand that Vande Mataram is not about forcing anyone to do something against their religion, but to help in instilling a sense of patriotism in the future generation of this country.
When there is an impression being created that Muslims have an issue with the national song and the national anthem, they are only contributing to getting alienated from the mainstream.
Also, why are the liberals linking Vande Mataram with serious issues plaguing the country and saying that the government has got its priorities out of place? In a democracy, criticism and dissent do play an important role and if the government is not working for the betterment of the people, they must be criticized. Yes, the UP government must be criticized for the deaths of innocent children. Yes, the Modi government must be questioned on employment generation as promised and on bringing back black money from abroad. Yes, the Modi government must be questioned for some of the essential goods like dal being expensive for the common man.
Why can’t we question our government on issues without linking it to Vande Mataram? They are completely separate issues.
One can always question a government and at the same time support any move that encourages patriotic songs to be made mandatory in schools and on having the national flag in all the universities across the country.