Please meet Mr Navin Kumar Singh. He is now the living embodiment of the English phrase "hoist with his own petard".
Singh, a BJP spokesperson, wants to make Vande Mataram a litmus test for patriotism, especially for Muslims.
But when he was challenged on TV to sing it himself he massacred the song, despite peeping at the lyrics on his mobile phone.
As the Twitter handle History of India (@RealHistoryPic) tweeted, the new Navin version of the old song goes something like this
Singh proved in one fell swoop that he does not know the lyrics of the song he wants everyone else to sing and he cannot read the lyrics off his phone either, a double whammy of incompetence.
You think by now the BJP would have given Vande Mataram lessons to its spokespersons who appear on television. Baldev Singh Aulakh, the minister of state for minority welfare in Uttar Pradesh, went into verbal diarrhea mode for almost six minutes to avoid singing just four lines of Vande Mataram on television. When Maharashtra made the song compulsory in civic schools, BJP MLA Raj Purohit wanted to extend the rule to all schools. But when asked to sing, he managed two lines and mangled them as well.
The problem is not that one does not know the Vande Mataram. The problem is the hypocrisy of insisting that everyone else take the Vande Mataram test to prove their patriotism, while you yourself flunk it spectacularly. This is not just a facepalm moment, it's a double standard to consider yourself exempt from what you want to impose on others. No one needs to prove their patriotism or get a patriotism certificate from others. But when the BJP decides to make Vande Mataram the Aadhaar card of patriotism, it needs to make sure its spokespersons are up to speed on it. They need to practise what they preach.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Jaipur has decided that civic employees also need a booster dose of patriotism. At 9:50 AM every morning they must sing the national anthem before biometric attendance closes. Around 5:55 PM before closing time they have to sing Vande Mataram.
"Nothing has more positive energy than the national song," said city mayor Ashok Lahoty. "One should go home with the positive energy of the national song and give quality time to his family." And anyone who does not like it can go to Pakistan. Of course.
Honestly this makes more sense than singing the national anthem before a movie and Navin Kumar Singh could come and take some singing lessons as well. But it also points to the ruling party's penchant for a kind of patriotism that does not well up from within but is imposed from without. This is patriotism by drill display, the louder the better even as the Supreme Court is noting that "we don't have to wear patriotism on our sleeves."
But that's exactly what we have to do. Or rather as Navin Singh proved that's what others have to do. Vande Mataram, a difficult song in Sanskritized Bengali is a particular favourite for some because they know some Muslims object to a song that worships the motherland as a Goddess. Jinnah had written in 1938 that Muslims refused to accept Vande Mataram or "any expurgated edition of the anti-Muslim song as a binding national anthem". Muslim clerics in Deoband issuing a fatwa against singing the song in 2009 have only helped to fan the flames.
Now it's become a roundabout way to trap them in an anti-national test, an old and tired controversy, settling old scores where Jana Gana Mana was chosen the national anthem over it. In Meerut. seven Muslim councilors walked out when Vande Mataram was being sung. When they returned they were not allowed in. Mayor Harikant Ahluwalia said "It was the decision of everyone in the session that those who boycott the national song should be boycotted." Unfortunately as Navin Singh has proved sometimes the BJP's own leaders fall into their own carefully laid trap. It also proves that these leaders are not so moved by Vande Mataram the song, as they are excited by its potential to bait Muslims as not sufficiently loyal to the motherland.
Vande Mataram is a wonderful song, an important piece of India's freedom movement. As is Sare Jahaan Se Accha. The BJP is more than welcome to promote it but as the Supreme Court has clarified there is no concept of a national song in the Constitution. The bench observed that Article 51A of fundamental duties does not refer to a national song, only to the national flag and the national anthem when a BJP leader approached the court praying for a government policy to "promote" the song. Undeterred the Vande Mataram Confederation held a two-wheeler rally in Fatehpura to promote the song and make people aware of it ahead of its November 7 anniversary.
Yogi Adityanath has called opposition to "Vande Mataram" an example of "narrow-mindedness". But what his cohorts like Navin Singh display when it comes to the song is something far more reprehensible – rank hypocrisy.
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