I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Song sung blue...

... Everybody knows one.

The fatwa on Vande Mataram has caught on people's interest, hasn't it? From Desipundit, I learnt that bloggers are fighting a battle on the issue of Fatwa on forcible singing of Vande Mataram in schools.

At loggerheads are people known to readers of this blog, Confused and Dilip. Dilip mostly raises questions on his blog, some quite lucid, some ludicrous, including asking that if A doesn't mean B (if HKL Bhagat singing Vande Mataram doesn't prove he is patriotic), then how can we say absence of B means absence of A (then how come absence of 'Vande Mataram singing' makes a person unpatriotic?) thus confusing necessary conditions with sufficient conditions. Bear in mind, I am not saying that singing Vande Mataram is either necessary or sufficient to be patriotic, i.e. I am not saying that ability or will (or the lack of) to sing Vande Mataram makes anyone patriotic or unpatriotic. I am just asking Dilip not to use a particular fallacy (here I go again!).

However, since I have had my share of debates with Dilip on issues which mattered to me and since this one doesn't, I will move on to discussing Confused's post instead.

At this moment, I can't really care that an ancient song is sung at school assemblies, having long since passed out of those long, boring affairs myself. For me, it's just another song that is forced upon school children, without context and without any discussion. It isn't any more important than a 'thought for the day', or "Humko man ki shaanti shakti de ma", to name two things that I had to go through. Neither is the protest against it an issue of national importance.

Let me place on record, though, that I do believe that the clerics have the right to protest and issue silly fatwas.
After all, while the Danish Muslims and their Arabic neighbours had a whole page of cartoons and cartons of milk and cheese to protest against, Indians had to make do with Sania's skirt-length, books written by NRIs and Bangladeshis and various other trivial matters. However, if the clerics resort to violence or the threat of violence to stop this attack on their faith, then it's not kosher or sharia or whatever*.

Moving on to Confused's post itself, he says that "I am not sure how one can force anyone to sing anything but I digress." Clearly, the Indian schooling system has gone out of his memory. Or maybe it has changed significantly since my schooling days. I remember that my teachers and school principals could force us to do anything, including singing the school songs. Not only could they force the crowd to sing songs for an hour in Delhi heat, but also they could force individuals to join the school choir and sing. Those of you unfortunate enough to hear me sing would not believe that I was once forced to join the school choir! I protested a lot but the clinching argument that my music teacher gave was that I was class monitor and hence, should have the zeal to sing, if not the ability. I can very well imagine teachers asking young students to sing anything if they set their minds to it.

Hence, if some cleric tries to ensure that a Muslim child should not be forced to sing (without any threat of violence) then it's okay. While Vande Mataram truly might be our cultural heritage, I can't be forced to sing it if I don't want to. I should have personal freedom to refuse. That is what Nitin also points out in his blog.

This is where Confused steps in and says, "Though I broadly agree with his (Nitin's) interpretation, I feel he has missed a couple of important points. First, this freedom is not available to any one else, for example we have not given the right to any citizen to burn the national flag. Till this right is non-sectarian and broad based it cannot be claimed." I can't disagree more. Having argued well against use of such binary choices in logic in earlier posts, Confused resorts to it himself. Just because a right is not non-sectarian and broad based does not mean that it can not be claimed. In fact, the way to claim the right is by asking for this freedom in various forums. It is my right to not subscribe to organised patriotism and that must be upheld.

Obviously, if there is a law against such protests (for example, against loudly mocking the nation, while the National Anthem is being played or against burning the National Flag), then we should be ready to face the consequences of the law, while protesting against it. Laws protecting the sanctity of national symbols are liable to change**. The clerics unwittingly might be changing the strange law guaranteeing unnecessary sanctity to national symbols.

Thus, just because there's a (definite) shrill tone and a (probable) communal undertone to the fatwa doesn't mean that it is wrong to issue it. I may choose to ridicule the intentions behind the fatwa, but I can't go ahead and prove that the fatwa is unacceptable. Nor can I make statements bordering on fascism like, "The nation's polity must be shaped by a shared version and not the whims and fancies of the few. Those who find themselves incompatible with such a situation have every right to secede and go their own way". Shades of George Bush, anyone?

* Their current fatwa does border dangerously on violence, 'asking' parents to withdraw students from schools. However, so is the comment by some school teachers that "There is nothing wrong with Vande Mataram. Everyone should sing it. We will ensure that all students sing it".
** Has been done before. Remember the right to fly the flag case.

P.S. Confused has clarified a lot of points in his responses to comments. Please do read them as well. It's Sunday evening and I've the hafta article to write, so will read them later!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. Just one small requests...fewer double (or were they triple/quadruple?) negatives:
"just because a right is not non-sectarian and broad based does not mean that it can not be claimed." Made my head swim.

Saturday, June 17, 2006 11:33:00 PM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Anon, agree with you. Sorry. Am too lazy to go and edit.

Saturday, June 17, 2006 11:45:00 PM

Blogger neha vish said...

Humko mann ki "shakti" dena.. No?

Sunday, June 18, 2006 4:22:00 AM

Anonymous confused said...

Hi Dhoom,

Thanks for the link. Few clarifications.

1. No battles were being fought, a discussion was being held. :)

2. I completely disagree when you claim that clerics have the right to issue to a fatwa. Who has given them this right in this secular republic? Just because they might have passed a fatwa on Sania's skirt length, gives them the right? So one murder is commited, gives all future murderers the right commit them? They have issued a fatwa and declared that any Muslim who sends his kids to such a school is commiting a serious crime. Muslims are being presented with a fait accompli, do this or you are not a good Muslims anymore. This fatwa is not only applicable to those few parents who had originally approached the clerics but to any Muslim parent. By defending their right to issue a fatwa in something which is completely unrelated to their religious affairs, you are opening a pandora's box. Maybe just blowing the lid out, since the box is already half open. Remember the rape fatwa in UP? If we claim that the nation is secular, religion must be kept out of the domain of public polity and confined to the individual.

3. When I said, you cannot force anyone to sing anything, it was said in half jest. When I attended my school prayer meeting, I never sang anything. With a crowd of close to 5000, no one could really see or care what I was doing standing in the back. :) But yes, it might be a problem in a smaller school.

4. About the binary choices, I see you have a point there. But I would still argue that while such a right may be demanded, for example I fully support the right to burn the national flag, I still have a problem when such rights are demanded on the basis of religious/group identity rather than as an individual act. I also have a problem when just by assuming that such a right has been demanded, it is assumed that such a right has been granted. Finally, I believe that in a secular republic such a right should be demanded though proper channels, say the courts or the government even if it claimed on the basis of religious identity. I have a huge problem when this right is claimed through a religious edict. You have also overestimated violence as a tool for social coercion. It can be exercised without violence too for example in the case of untouchability.

5. Let me show a little mock anger at being called a fascist or my arguments for that matter.


Ok, in response to Nitin's piece someone called Divya argued that a nation is a congregation of individuals who should be allowed to break it up if they feel it is not beneficial to them anymore. I agree. I believe a nation should give its citizens the right to secede. What I am confused about is at the level such a right should be exercised, village, district, state?

My point was that a group of individuals cannot hold the nation ro ransom, cannot influence public polity by the ''shrillness of their tone'' espcially when the right they demand is faith based and not amenable to reason.(crucial point) It would be better if they would exercise their right to secede from a such a nation state which is available to all of us and preferably should be available to a group of individuals too.

Fascist? I don't think so.

Finally, you not caring about ''just'' another song does not mean it is a not an issue of national importance. I would rather refrain from making such assumptions.


p.s Early sunday morning blues so I might come back with more arguments. :)

p.p.s I was trying to find your famous Bong post. No luck so far. Help please. :)

Sunday, June 18, 2006 5:36:00 AM

Anonymous confused said...


If you have the patience, please do read through the comments section. I have clarified a lot of points in the comments section.

I wish you would put it up as a p.s on your post...

Sunday, June 18, 2006 5:43:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Confused, the sidebar has the link! It's under cabbages and kings. Does look like Sunday morning blues!

Sunday, June 18, 2006 5:54:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Pt 1 I agree with. Colourful language, that's all.
Pt 2 Do think that Indian law gives them a right. Would like to understand more, if you know more. As I said, as long as threat of violence is not used, I am okay. People of all kinds/ organisations issue edicts all the time. I can live with that.
Pt 3 I guess you didn't have to contend with my music teacher. :-)
Pt 4 I don't have an issue about what you are writing. I am on the same page as you are. I was only commenting on a set of sentences in your post.
Pt 5 Again, the reason I mention fascism is because of the binary choices. Since you have clarified your position, I take back my words.

Don't have anything to say on the national importance of Vande Mataram and fatwas. It's my assumption against yours at the moment. I can concede, if that helps.

The one point I disagree with you is drawing an artificial line betwen group of individuals basing their demand on reason vs. a group basing their demand on faith. Obviously, a court of law should look at reason and not faith, but that doesn't mean I can't make a silly demand.

Sunday, June 18, 2006 6:10:00 AM

Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Lovely. I am delighted when people talk of "necessary" and "sufficient" and "if A doesn't mean B" and so forth.

Let's see. What was I contesting? This: "If people sing Vande Mataram then they are patriotic."

Let me call this Rule VM.

My contention was that Rule VM is false. How does one prove such a contention false? By offering a counter example. So I said, here's someone (Bhagat) who might sing Vande Mataram. Is he (Bhagat) patriotic?

To me, nothing makes Bhagat patriotic, not even singing VM.

Therefore, the example of Bhagat disproves rule VM.

In other words:

"If C then D" (where C is "people sing Vande Mataram" and D is "they are patriotic") is disproved by an example (of a member of C who is certainly not D).

Simple. I avoided the use of A and B to keep things clear.

Now allow me to examine your use of A and B.

You wrote:
if A doesn't mean B (if HKL Bhagat singing Vande Mataram doesn't prove he is patriotic), then how can we say absence of B means absence of A (then how come absence of 'Vande Mataram singing' makes a person unpatriotic?)

From your "if A doesn't mean B", I gather A to mean "HKL Bhagat singing Vande Mataram" and B to mean "he is patriotic."

From your "absence of B means absence of A", I gather A to mean "a persion patriotic" and B to mean "Vande Mataram singing."

So in one sentence that you have written, as far as I can tell, A changes to B and B changes to A.

I'm not sure what to make of this.

Thanks for the appreciation, I appreciate it.

May I also take this opportunity to remind you that we were going to attempt something together. The last I heard of that was that you were travelling (Delhi) and would get back to me when you were not so busy. It's been close to two months, so whenever you have some time it would be a pleasure to hear from you.

Sunday, June 18, 2006 7:38:00 AM

Blogger Falstaff said...

Dhoomk2: I'm surprised. You should know better, by now, than to expect logic from Dilip. Beyond a point, optimism is masochism.

I personally think this whole thing is a non-issue. I tend to agree that Vande Mataram singing is hardly critical to national / social unity and therefore individuals should have the right to opt out of it if they choose. Obviously society has to impose certain sanctions, curtail individual actions in some way or the other, but a) there's a difference between prohibiting 'negative' actions (such as burning flags - which I'm personally in favour of allowing) and demanding 'positive' ones (such as singing VM) and b) the burden of proving that the prohibition is in fact critical should be on society. I see no evidence that children not singing VM will undermine the social system. On the contrary, arbitrarily insisting that people should sing it may well have that effect.

Having said that, there is a sense in which I agree with Confused - on principle I'm against providing exceptions for individuals on the basis of faith - rules should be non-sectarian and broad-based. There is no case, in my mind, for exempting Muslim children from singing VM - such exemption is either available to all students irrespective of religion (my preferred option) or to none. My discomfort with the fatwa (other than the questionable motives behind it) stems largely from the fact that it converts what should, by rights, be a non-sectarian issue, into an unnecessarily faith-based one. There is no reason why all Muslims should not want to sing VM, any more than there is a reason why all Indians should want to sing it, so arguing for the 'individual's right to choose' for an entire community is, by definition, bogus.

More generally, have you ever figured out what the point of these school assembly things was at all? I can't say I ever saw any purpose to them. And getting rid of them entirely would have meant an extra half-hour of sleep every morning.

Sunday, June 18, 2006 9:30:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if the school requires it, teachers ought to ensure it - it isn't harmful or detrimental to any student's mental physical emotional well being is it?

But if a parents want to protest because it might go against a religious conviction i.e. putting nation before god, then they can choose a school that won't enforce the same yes?

Much ado!

Sunday, June 18, 2006 10:28:00 AM

Blogger Nilu said...

I suggest you get a good dictionary and look up both "necessary" and "sufficient".

I also auggest you brush your "proof by contradiction" abilities. Here is a hint - try proving 1 is prime by the same logic.

Sunday, June 18, 2006 9:38:00 PM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Dilip, will write to you when I am sure of going through a month of relatively free time. Apologies for keeping you waiting.

Falstaff, I am with Confused and you when you say that the rules should be non-sectarian and broad-based. However, preventing the forcing a group of people to sing against their faith is also a non-sectarian and broad-based rule, according to me.

Anon, yes much ado!

Monday, June 19, 2006 6:28:00 AM

Blogger sudeep said...

I think the people who launch themselves into stratopheric heights of logic, constitutional law, human rights and such, loose sight of some very earthy details.

1) The reason put forward by the clerics for not singing Vande Matram is - Islam is at a higher temporal plane than any other authority.

2) Many of these clerics hold the most regressive attitudes towards a whole host of social issues. Their edicts are to enforce a puritanical, mythical, version of Islam on its believers. This is done via fatwas, threats of excommunication etc that are coercive and violent, almost by definition.

(1) makes these clerics and their hardcore followers traitors on a time delay fuse - someone has to convince them that Islam is at war with India and they shall not hesitate in turning their wrath upon the Indian citizenry. This is happening all around as, and has been happening for a while now. Anyone who refuses to see this has his/her head stuck firmly in terra-firma.

By way of reason (2), the clerics intrude upon the right of their fellow muslim citizens by threatening them with ex-communication (Gunah-e-Kabira) if they choose to sing a particular song. And make to mistake, this is a choice that parents and children make all the time. Say, by not singing in the assembly, or simply by withdrawing their kids from school, depending on how they feel about the issue at hand.

Instead of leaping to the defense of the beleagured minority in the muslim community that wants to sing this song, poseures like Dilip launch into a vicious attack on schools 'forcing' people to sing a particular song !

Consider for a moment, that the bajrang dal had come out with an edict that any girl wearing a jeans would be excommunicated. People would be outraged and rightly so. Noone treates Bajrang Dal as the sole arbiter of what Hinduism is and the sole decision maker as to what Hindus shall and shall not do. Yet in this case, such decision making powers have been ceded to the clerics without so much as a whimper of protest about individual rights.

The questions to ask are:-

(1) Why should the Indian state bow down to muslim clerics on matters temporal ?

(2) Who gave the clerics a right to excommunicate people and to coerce them into behaviour that they deem fit ?

Monday, June 19, 2006 12:20:00 PM

Anonymous Lokesh said...

dk2, is that really dilip dsouza who has written that comment? or is someone pretending to be him just to make him look dumb?

if it really is dilip, then i have something to say to him -

dilip, no one is saying that singing vande mataram makes you patriotic. i.e singing vande mataram is sufficient to make you patriotic. By your HKL Bhagat example you are trying to disprove that sufficiency of VM which no one has said.

Could you please show us where a blogger or even politician has said that singing VM is the "sufficient" condition for being a patriot?

If someone has said so, then your HKLB example is valid.

However people are saying (not me) that singing vande mataram is a necessary condition for patriotism. Do you disagree with it? Fine if you do. Then how you prove this statement wrong is by showing a counter-example, not of HKL Bhagat, but of someone who is considered a patriot but does not sing vande mataram.

let me give an analogy.

suppose someone says, you can not be a senior leader in BJP unless you are a hindu.

how will someone contradict this? by saying - arjun singh is hindu, but he is not a senior bjp leader. pranab mukherjee is hindu, he is not a senior bjp leader.

Do you think this is enough to disprove the claim that it is necessary to be a hindu for being a senior bjp leader? Of course not. you can keep doing this until the cows come home.

The way you disprove it is by naming mukhtar abbas naqvi. he is not a hindu but he is a senior BJP leader. this proves that being a hindu is not a necessary condition for being a senior bjp leader.

Monday, June 19, 2006 1:20:00 PM

Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Nope, Lokesh, it's me. Any dumbness is entirely mine and should not be ascribed to anyone else.

But I'm glad to see, finally, someone who understands "necessary" and "sufficient". So since you asked, Lokesh, here you are.

My real contention is, there is no connection between singing VM and patriotism. Let me repeat: no connection.

As you point out, my Bhagat example disproves the "sufficient" part of this connection (i.e. if you sing VM you are patriotic). That's all I had wanted to do with that previous comment.

What about the "necessary" part of this connection? (i.e. if you are a patriot you sing VM). How do I disprove it? As you suggest, rightly, by finding people who are patriots who don't sing VM.

Well, I can think of several. Just one of them is my friend Disha (name changed) who fights cases on behalf of completely forgotten Indians. She doesn't need to proclaim she is patriotic, I don't even think she thinks of herself as such. But anyone who knows her and sees her at work knows.

Monday, June 19, 2006 8:54:00 PM

Anonymous Lokesh said...

My question to you Dilip is, who on earth - blogger, politician, leader, RSS-wallah - has ever said that singing Vande Mataram is a sufficient condition for patriotism? They all say it is a necessary condition. In the absence of even a single person saying that it is a sufficient condition, I find your HKL Bhagat example completely unnecessary. If it is your contention that someone somewhere has said it is a sufficient condition then please point me to it. Else I hope you agree that the Bhagat analogy was unecessary.

As for refuting the necessary part, I think your peacock-mangoes-r-day blog post does the job beautifully. You should have made an argument like that instead of the Bhagat argument which is refuting a point which no one has made.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 12:12:00 AM

Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Lokesh, perhaps we're flogging a dead horse, or maybe a dead peacock ...

I have no idea whether somebody made that case (the "sufficient" one). Nor am I interested in finding out.

What I am interested in doing is, as I said, trying to debunk any connection between singing VM and patriotism. One part of that, I tried to show (as you have noted) with the peacock/mango piece. Another part, I tried to show (as you have noted again) with HKLB.

That's all. Thanks for your notes and clarity, I welcome them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 1:00:00 AM

Anonymous Lokesh said...

But Dilip, disproving, or arguing against the necessary condition is enough. It automatically disproves the sufficient condition.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 5:49:00 AM

Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

Fair enough, Lokesh, you're right.

In this case, I wasn't persuaded that people understood how it went.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 10:53:00 PM

Blogger san said...

D'Souza needs to found his own country. Just so we can illegally immigrate to it and wipe our feet on his portrait. Dilip, if you can't at least give us a country of yours to defile, at least invite us to your home, so that we can refuse to take off our shoes. Failing that, we'll just have to show up on your blog to give you constructive feedback so that you can continue to revel in the attention you crave.

Thursday, June 22, 2006 7:29:00 PM

Blogger Falstaff said...

Dhoomk2: Ah, but it isn't. There's no earthly reason to put faith above nationality, or gender, or income or any other arbitrary classification scheme you care to come up with. So its sectarian to say that religion should get special status. Why should people of different religions get different laws but people of different gender or different education levels have to live with the same ones?

Friday, June 23, 2006 6:06:00 AM


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