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
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!