Mumbai: Maharashtra cultural affairs minister Sudhir Mungantiwar's directives to his department officials to start telephonic conversations with ‘Vande Mataram’ instead of greeting a phone call with a ‘hello’ is likely to stoke a controversy in the state with an Islamic group opposing his move.
Saying that Muslims worship Allah only, the Raza Academy, a Muslim fundamentalist group based in Maharashtra, has asked the state government to find an alternative phrase for ‘Vande Mataram.’
Saeed Noori, president of Raza Academy, said, “We worship only Allah. Hence the government should suggest an alternative word which is acceptable to all. We will write a letter to the state government after discussing the issue with ulemas and other concerned people.”
After taking over the reins of the cultural affairs ministry, Mungantiwar issued a directive asking government employees to answer their phone calls with ‘Vande Mataram’ and not with the foreign word ‘hello.’
“This is the 75th year of Indian independence and to mark the achievement, all officers and employees in government offices will start the telephonic conversations by saying Vande Mataram and not hello,” said Mungantiwar.
“Vande Mataram is our national song. It is not just a word but a symbol of the sentiments of Indians towards Mother India. Written by Bankimchandra Chatterjee in 1875, this song served to energise freedom fighters. Expressing the feeling, ‘O Mother, I bow to you,’ Bankimchandra evoked a spark of patriotism in the hearts of many,” he said.
Mungantiwar said that in this 75th year of independence, we will not be using the foreign word ‘hello’ and instead use Vande Mataram.
Leader of opposition Ajit Pawar questioned the government’s motive behind the move. “The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government had also suggested an alternative word to Hello. All the ministers of MVA, while speaking to the CM, used to start the conversation with Jay Maharashtra, as it has been Shiv Sena’s tradition. Hence, we will first ask the rulers about their intention behind this directive before taking a stand on it,” he said.
The decision to say Vande Mataram is also likely to be troublesome for rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, as it has been party’s long tradition to start the conversation with the phrase ‘Jay Maharashtra’.