Saturday, September 02, 2006

Rabindranath Tagore on Vande Mataram

Hindutva gives India its identity. It is what differentiates us from the rest. But the hallmark of a great nation is its soul, its character and its identity is just a part of the soul. India's soul lies in its diversity. The manner in which India has thrived with so many different people having different cultures, languages, religions is a testimony to its great character.

Which is why the recent Vande Mataram controversy is a pain.

Seperatist politics and votebank politics go hand in hand. Earlier the debate was about partition. Today its about alienation to consolidate votebanks.

The problem existed long ago. So long ago that in a letter to Subhash Chandra Bose in 1937, Rabindranath Tagore discusses the problem. Most of what he said then applies today.

The core of 'Vande Mataram' is a hymn to goddess Durga: this is so plain that there can be no debate about it. Of course Bankim does show Durga to be inseparably united with Bengal in the end, but no Mussulman [Muslim] can be expected patriotically to worship the ten-handed deity as 'Swadesh' [the nation]. This year many of the special [Durga] Puja numbers of our magazines have quoted verses from 'Vanda Mataram' - proof that the editors take the song to be a hymn to Durga. The novel Anandamath is a work of literature, and so the song is appropriate in it. But Parliament is a place of union for all religious groups, and there the song can not be appropriate. When Bengali Mussulmans show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self-defeating."

"Bengali Hindus have become agitated over this matter, but it does not concern only Hindus. Since there are strong feelings on both sides, a balanced judgement is essential. In pursuit of our political aims we want peace, unity and good will - we do not want the endless tug of war that comes from supporting the demands of one faction over the other."


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