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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Patriotic Muslim Family Faces Social Boycott for Singing Vande Mataram, Wearing Tricolor Clothes

Gulchaman Sherwani, a lover of the country’s national song and ode to the motherland ‘Vande Mataram’, has said he has been facing unprecedented problems from certain groups within his community in Agra, UP for his fondness for the national song and the tricolor.

Sherwani said that his family is being persecuted and his children are not being given admission in Muslim-run schools due to his passion for the national song and the national flag colors.

Sherwani, 34, who lives in Azampura here, which is dominated by the minority community, wears clothes stitched in the three colours of the national flag. He told TOI that his children were removed from school after other people from his community objected to his singing ‘Vande Mataram’. Sherwani transports parts of shoes which his wife stitches to various shoe manufacturers.

The school confirmed it had taken “action” against one of Sherwani’s children. Aslam Khan, who runs the school, said, “Sherwani’s daughter was enrolled here. But after the other parents objected, I was forced to remove her name from the rolls. Many people from the community have objected to the girl and her family wearing tricolor clothes. There have also been objections to her father singing the national song, despite there being a fatwa against it.”

Mohammad Idrish Ali, president of AIMIM’s Agra unit, also confirmed that Sherwani had been disowned by the community as prescribed under the Shariah for reciting ‘Vande Mataram’.

Sherwani said, “The shahi imam of Delhi Jama Masjid, Maulana Ahmed Bukhari, issued a fatwa against me and even called me a ‘kafir’ (unbeliever). But the fatwa has not deterred me from singing the song. Even my family disowned me when I was nine years old because of my love for the song. I have never met them since then.”

However, Sherwani’s stepmother, Ajeejan, said, “We never disowned him. He left home on his own.”

Sherwani’s younger brother, Shakir Ali, said, “He never listens to anyone and does whatever he likes. Everyone in the family is annoyed with him. But our anger has nothing to do with his love for ‘Vande Mataram’.”

Sherwani had reportedly protested against a fatwa issued in 2006 by Sunni Ulema Board president Maulana Syed Shah Badruddin Qadri in Hyderabad against the singing of the national song in schools. He had then gone on fast under the Bharat Mata statue in front of the Agra civil court, calling the fatwa an anti-national act.

“I had demanded action against the maulana for the fatwa, but nothing happened. So I took a pledge of not eating any cereals. The fact that my son and daughter were born on August 15 and January 26 proves beyond a doubt my love for the country. Even during my wedding, the band had played Vande Mataram and people had danced to it,” Sherwani said.

His neighbour, Farman Saifi, said, “The community is against Sherwani because of his habits, such as colouring everything in the tricolour, reciting ‘Vande Mataram’ and opposing the fatwas. Most of the people here do not speak to him.”

Agra sheher mufti Abdul Khuvaid Rumi said, “I am not aware of Sherwani’s case, but for a Muslim reciting anything except the name of Allah is un-Islamic.”

Is Patriotism Haram (Taboo)?

Talk to any garden-variety liberal in Delhi and they will loudly say that Muslims are as much Indian as anyone else – that questioning the Muslim community’s objections to the national song, or their proclivity to put shariah (Islamic ‘divine’ law) over the Constitution (man-made law), is communal hate-mongering.

Undoubtedly, there are very many patriotic Muslims – well known ones include APJ Abdul Kalam, Lt. Gen. (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain, Maroof Raza etc.

But we cannot brush under the carpet the role of the Muslim clergy in making taboo certain practises and behaviours that normally would help in the process of national integration and in developing a common notion of nationhood.

The Muslim objection to singing Vande Mataram on the grounds that Muslims do not bow to anyone but Allah and hence they are not allowed to pay obesiance to the mother land, is puzzling for other citizens of Bharat. Even more so, because in October 1937 the Congress Working Committee under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru decided to assuage Muslim objections towards the fourth stanza of the song which contains references to Maa Durga and Maa Lakshmi, by deciding that only the first two stanzas would be sung at national gatherings.

In 1950, the first two verses of Vande Mataram were declared the national song of the Republic of Bharat, distinct from the national anthem of Bharat, Jana Gana Mana. The first two verses of the song are an abstract reference to mother and motherland, they do not mention any Hindu deity by name.

And there is no end to the Muslim clergy’s demands to refashion our nationhood in the light of Islam. Sundry maulvis and qazis have raised objections even to the national anthem, terming it ‘un-Islamic’ and Muslim school managements have disallowed it as it “puts country above ‘mazhab’ (religion) and ‘khuda’ (god)”! 

But what really takes the cake in this case is Gulchaman Sherwani’s neighbours’ objection even to his family wearing tricolor clothes. What explains this deep revulsion to any marker of national identity? Why are we fooling ourselves by pretending that such mindsets if left unchecked will not have dangerous consequences?

Sushil Pandit has said it best in his Facebook Post

“Will this nation of 1.3 billion stand by this brave and uncompromising patriot? Gulchaman Sherwani is made to suffer social isolation and his family is being punished, for defying a bigoted clergy and it’s brainwashed followers who are held hostage in the name of faith.”

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