Hate Buster: No protocol regarding National Song; standing up not mandatory Remaining seated, technically not an “insult” to Vande Mataram

21, Jun 2022 | CJP Team

Claim: A few Muslim women insulted the National Anthem by remaining seated while it was sung at a Muzaffarnagar Municipality Board meeting

Busted! The National Song i.e Vande Mataram was being sung at the event, and not the National Anthem. As there is no protocol surrounding the National Song, it is not mandatory to stand up when it is sung.

Over the last few days, a tweet has gone viral claiming that four Muslim women present at a meeting of the Muzaffarnagar Municipality Board, insulted the National Anthem by not standing up when other members rose to sing it.

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Subsequent similar tweets revealed that what was being sung was not the National Anthem i.e Jana Gana Mana, but the National Song i.e Vande Mataram, as can be clearly heard in the video shared with this tweet:

However, given how the people who refused to stand up were Muslim women, that too those who were sporting burqas, the controversy spun out of control, and soon gained a communal hue, harking back to the controversy surrounding Muslims and Vande Mataram, that first emerged in September 2006.

At that time, Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind chief Mahmood Madani had claimed that Muslims “cannot and should not” sing Vande Mataram and threatened to move court if forced to recite it. He told media persons, “Muslims are firm in their resolve that they cannot and should not sing Vande Mataram and they should not be forced to do so,” adding, “The Centre hasn’t made the recitation of the song mandatory and the states should also follow that. If forced to sing, we will protest it by peaceful means. We will take this issue to court.”

Elaborating on how singing the song was in contravention with Islamic beliefs Madani pointed to stanzas in the song that mention Indian deity Durga, and that Muslims were forbidden from worshipping anyone other than Allah. Rediff.com quoted him as saying, “Ibadat sirf ek Khuda ki hoti hai (only God is worshipped), Vande Mataram is a tribute to Goddess Durga, therefore, we cannot recite it.”

Protocol surrounding Vande Mataram

But leaving religious beliefs aside, it is important to note here that while there is a protocol to be followed when it comes to the National Anthem, there is no such protocol pertaining to the National Song. This is in fact as per a formal submission made by the government before the Rajya Sabha in November 2016. In response to a question raised by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament Vikas Mahatme, about rules regarding singing or playing of the National Song, Kiren Rijiju, who was then a Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs responded with a written submission that said, “Government has not framed any rules or issued instructions laying down circumstances in which the National Song may be sung or played.”

The answer may be viewed here:

A few months later, in February 2017, a Supreme Court Bench headed by then Justice Deepak Mishra and also comprising Justices R Banumathi and Mohan M Shantanagoudar, found that though Article 51A (fundamental duties) of the Constitution requires to promote the National Anthem and the National Flag, “The Article does not refer to National Song. It only refers to National Flag and National Anthem. Therefore, we do not intend to enter into any debate as far as the National Song is concerned.” The court therefore refused to entertain a petition by BJP spokesperson Ashwini Upadhyay demanding directions from the top court to the government to frame a national policy to promote Vande Mataram. His plea to make reciting the National Anthem compulsory in offices, courts and legislative houses and Parliament was also declined.

Latest PIL related to Vande Mataram

Now, the same Ashwini Upadhyay has once again moved court demanding that the National Song – Vande Mataram be given the same status as the National Anthem – Jana Gana Mana. He has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Delhi High Court to this effect and also sought direction to the Centre and State Governments to ensure that ‘Jana-Gana-Mana’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ are played and sung in all schools and educational institutions on every working day. The division bench of acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta, on May 26, sought the Centre’s response in the matter within six weeks, and the next date of hearing is November 9.

Vande Mataram and the Indian Freedom Struggle

The song was originally a poem that was part of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s 1882 novel Anadamath, and offered praise to the motherland. It played a role in uniting freedom fighters, and the British even banned it from being sung in public. Thus, singing Vande Mataram became an act of defiance against the British colonial rulers and the song became an integral part of India’s Independence movement and therefore its history and culture. Over the years, it has been sung to many different tunes – from the pacier version associated with the freedom movement to the slower version played on Doordarshan early every morning.

Image Courtesy: Twitter

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