Friday, January 1, 1999

Vande Mataram and Hyderabad

Vande Mataram and Hyderabad
By Narendra Luther

Vande Mataram is in news these days. It has figured in Hyderabad’s history – in the thirties. It literally means ‘Salute to the Mother (land)’. It is a song written by the Bengali novelist, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838-1894) in his novel: ‘Ananda Math’ in 1882. It consists of twenty-six lines in four stanzas. Aurobindo translated it into English verse in fifty lines, and Suresh Pant into Hindi in 27 lines. The first political occasion when Vande Mataram was sung was at the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. Rabindranath Tagore scored the music for it.

The partition of Bengal in 1905 marked the beginning of the national awakening. Since then this song became very popular and has been sung at most political gatherings. The British authorities banned its singing in public. That however, did not prove very effective. The Congress Working Committee resolved that its first two stanzas could be sung in any public function. In 1937 a sub-committee consisting of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose and Acharya Narendra Dev was constituted to examine in consultation with Rabindranath Tagore its suitability for the national anthem.

Mahatma Gandhi, writing in the Harijan of July 1, 1931, said that the song ‘enthralled’ him. He considered it as “Bengal’s gift amongst many others to the whole nation”. Nehru, speaking in the Constituent Assembly on August 25, 1948 said that the song “was intimately connected with our struggle for freedom. That position it is bound to retain and no other song can displace it. It represents the passions and poignancy of that struggle” and that “no other song can displace it.” The title of the song along with slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ became the war cry of freedom fighters of India.

When the Congress launched its agitation in Hyderabad in 1938, ‘Vande Mataram’ became a popular slogan. Gradually the unrest spread to students. The lead came from Aurangabad where instead of the official anthem ‘God Preserve Osman’, sung compulsorily in schools, students began to sing Vande Mataram.

The Osmania University had three hostels. Each had two prayer halls – one for the Hindu students and the other for Muslims. In September 1938, the Hindu students started reciting the Vande Mataram song in their prayer halls. The authorities forbade it saying it was not a religious song and it offended the susceptibilities of the Muslim students. On their refusal to comply with the orders, the boarders were expelled from the hostels. They were evicted forcibly after 9'o clock in the evening. Police was posted in the university campus. The next morning, on learning about the expulsion of the boarders, the Hindu day-scholars went on strike. This crystallized their grievances. The protest now covered also the orders regarding compulsory official dress for the students, namely, the sherwani and pajama. Further, in the Ethics class for the Hindus, the books prescribed were written by non-Hindus, while for the Muslim students, the books were written by the Muslims. Another point for agitation was that while there were post-graduate classes in Arabic, Persian and Urdu, there were none for Sanskrit, Telugu, Marathi and Kannada. Objection was also taken to the derogatory reference to Hindus by the professor of religion, Mazhar-ul-Hassan Gilani on the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet in 1937. When Jinnah addressed the Students' Union of the University, he started by saying ‘My Muslim Students’.

When a delegation of the expelled students waited upon the then Prime Minister of the State, Sir Akbar Hydari, he admitted that there was nothing in the song that could hurt the Muslims, but advised that the song might be sung at social functions and not in the prayer hall. The students did not relent.

The University then rusticated the recalcitrant students. Some colleges both in the city and the districts followed suit. In all 850 students were rusticated, out of which 420 belonged to the city.

Sarojini Naidu’s son, Dr. Jaisoorya took the case to the Congress High Command and secured messages of support from Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose. The latter said, “Don’t yield under any circumstances; the Government will come to terms. At least for six months the struggle should continue”. Mahatma Gandhi told the students: “You have every right to sing this national song in the Prayer Hall”

The Inter-University Board passed a resolution against the admission of the rusticated students to any university. Whereas the Andhra, Annamalai and the Benaras universities complied, the Vice Chancellor of the Nagpur University, Justice Kedar, offered to take all the rusticated students into his University by relaxing the rules of admission. He was accused of communal bias in that step. He replied, “ If Muslim students had been harassed on such imaginary grounds in a Hindu State, I would have admitted them unto the University. My support to genuine students’ cause is always there”.

Quite a number of the rusticated students later made a name in politics. The most prominent of them turned out to be P.V.Narasimha Rao from Warangal where he was born to a well-to-do agriculturist in 1921. He too went and joined the Nagpur University where he completed his graduation. Later, he took a degree in law from Poona. During his stay in Maharashtra, he also acquired a high degree of proficiency in Marathi. He became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and later the Prime Minister of India.

The song is now given equal importance with the national anthem- ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and is sung at most functions.