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|August 18, 1998||
Kerala Muslims rise against Vande MataramD Jose in Thiruvananthapuram
On Saturday, India's 51st Independence anniversary, several schools in Kerala's northern districts defied the state government directive on reciting Bankim Chandra Chatterji's poem, Vande Mataram.
Many Muslim organisations in the region had issued a fatwa against reciting the poem, which they believed bore a communal colour.
Vande Mataram, they said, was in praise of idol worship and, hence, against their religious principles.
Tense situation prevailed in several parts of the Muslim-dominated Malappuram district. Though Muslims and activists of the Rasthriya Swayamsevak Sangh took up positions around schools, timely police intervention averted untoward incidents.
The government had stepped up security in several sensitive areas following the strong objection taken by Muslim organisations against reciting the poem during August 15 programmes.
Some Muslim organisations expressed concern over the directive issued by the education department, under the Communist state government. They alleged that the government made the order under pressure from the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at New Delhi.
The order, making the recitation of Vande Mataram compulsory in all educational institutions, was given by the education department on July 27.
The department had sent a circular on July 2 allowing the schools to recite any patriotic songs they chose. However, the July 27 circular specified Vande Mataram as the song to be sung on the Independence Day.
Students in several parts of the state skipped the day's programme due to the controversy, which was confounded by a clarification on Friday night that reciting the poem was not compulsory. However, heads of schools in many places forced the students to sing the song, fearing repercussions.
Muslim and Christian organisations resented the directive as they felt that the poem contained references hurting their religious sentiments. Muslim organisations under the Sunnis and Jamaat-e-Islami had called for rejecting the directive.
The Muslim Students Federation, affiliated to the Indian Union Muslim League, the National Development Front, the Sunni Students Federation, the Students Islamic Movement of India and the Students Islamic Organisation came out openly against the direction.
The MSF termed the directive as unconstitutional as the poem was in praise of idol worship, and hurt the Muslim psyche.
Jamaat-e-Islami Kerala Amir Professor K M Siddique Hassan said the BJP government's decision to make the recitation of Vande Mataram compulsory showed the fascist face of the party. He said the poem was against the religious beliefs of Muslims and Christians.
Those who are forcing the Muslims and Christians to recite such a poem are the people who are trying to divide the country, he said, appealing to all secular people in the country to resist the dangerous designs of the BJP.
Students Islamic Organisation secretary R Yusuf said by heeding the BJP government's direction, the state government was encouraging the fascist forces. He said the move indicated that the BJP has started on their hidden agenda. The recitation of Vande Mataram through telephones also needs to be resisted as it amounted to the misuse of the official machinery for propagating fascism, Yusuf said.
"This will only widen the communal chasm," he added, "It is part of a wider move to impose Hindutva on the country."
Yusuf urged the people to unite against this.
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