A judge of the Madras high court has ruled that the patriotic song Vande Mataram should be sung in all schools and colleges in Tamil Nadu at least once a week and in offices and factories at least once a month. While it’s possible to see a nationalistic streak in the mental makeup of the judge, it is open to question whether doses of patriotism should be made mandatory and their rendition circumstantially specified even in the form of the immensely loveable lyrics of a song akin to a bugle call signifying the cry for national freedom.
In its eyebrow-raising ruling last year, the top court had spoken of “constitutional patriotism” while declaring that the national anthem should be played in cinema theatres before the screening of films. There too the intention seemed to ace the logic of compelling millions to comply. The point is we seem to be confusing patriotism with symbols of nationalism. While the former should be firmly embedded in the mind of every Indian rather than worn on the sleeve, the display of the latter should be a matter of individual choice.
In the order on Vande Mataram, the judge has contradicted the stand of the top court that there is no such concept as a national song. It is interesting that the issue should crop up now, triggered as it was by a teacher aspirant’s petition on the origins of the song. He claimed a mark in a test paper for saying that the song was written in Bengali, a line of argument that was upheld by the people the judge turned to for historical guidance. There is no Indian who would not love to hear the inspirational verses. Making its singing or playing mandatory is an altogether different matter.