Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition seeking directions to the Centre to elevate the patriotic song Vande Mataram to a status equivalent to that of Jana Gana Mana, the National Anthem.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said it saw no reason to entertain the petition, filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. “We see no reason to give direction to the respondent (Centre) to declare Vande Mataram as national anthem or national song,” the Bench said.
Earlier in 2017, a Division Bench of the Madras High Court had overturned a single-judge order of the same court that had made the singing of Vande Mataram mandatory some months previously.
The single judge, Justice M V Muralidharan, had ordered that Vande Mataram be sung compulsorily at least twice a week in private and government schools across Tamil Nadu.
The judge had suggested that if students found it difficult to sing the song in Bengali or Sanskrit, steps could be taken to translate it to Tamil.
The petitioner in Delhi High Court had argued that Vande Mataram had played a crucial role in the National Movement, and should be accorded the same status and respect as the National Anthem. The petition said that while the sentiments expressed in Jana Gana Mana had the state in mind, those expressed in Vande Mataram denoted the nation’s character.
Vande Mataram has long been mired in controversy. For decades, Indian Muslims have expressed discomfort in embracing a song which equates the nation with the Mother Goddess.
In recent years, the leadership of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has declared that no true Muslim could ever sing Vande Mataram (2006), and a fatwa against the singing of the song was issued in Deoband (2009).
The song was written in 1870 by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in Bengali. It became known publicly after Bankim published his novel Anandamath in 1882. It evoked powerful patriotic feelings among the nationalists in Bengal, and soon gained an identity synonymous with the struggle for freedom from the British.
Vande Mataram became a deeply emotional slogan for generations of Indians before and after Independence, even as its contentious history and connotations kept surfacing in public debates from time to time.
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