Sing Vande Mataram or leave India, BJP MLA tells Muslim leaders

Mumbai: Sparks flew in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Friday as ruling BJP MLAs attacked Samajwadi Party member Abu Asim Azmi who has opposed a demand for making singing of Vande Mataram mandatory in schools and colleges in the state.

Azmi, head of the SP’s Maharashtra unit, and Waris Pathan, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MLA from Mumbai, yesterday opposed senior BJP MLA Raj Purohit’s demand for making singing of Vande Mataram compulsory.

Citing the recent order of the Madras High Court, which made singing of the national song mandatory in schools across Tamil Nadu atleast twice a week, Purohit had said that the singing of Vande Mataram should be made mandatory in schools and colleges and the state government come up with a policy in this regard.

Purohit, chief whip of the BJP in the Assembly, had also demanded that singing of the national song be made compulsory for everybody at the beginning of any public event and the National Anthem at its conclusion.

Azmi told reporters last night that he would not sing Vande Mataram even if he is “thrown out of the country”, while Pathan had said he would not sing it “even if a revolver is put to my head”.

Raising the issue in the House today, BJP member Anil Gote said, “There should not be any opposition to Vande Mataram. It is a patriotic song and it should not be opposed by people like Abu Azmi.”

Another BJP member Eknath Khadse said people of all faiths used to recite Vande Mataram during the Independence struggle.

“If a person lives and feeds on the soil of this country, what is wrong in being grateful to it? You are born here and after your death you will be buried in the same land.

Why can’t you respect the soil by saying Vande Mataram?” “During the pre-Independence period, all faiths used Vande Mataram in their struggle against the British. If the same song has to be recited today, why are you opposing it?” Khadse said. "Muslims are part of this country. They are dependent on this motherland from birth to burial and hence they should sing Vande Mataram or else leave the country," he added.

Azmi maintained that he was against the demand for making singing of Vande Mataram compulsory.

“I am opposing any move to make singing of Vande Mataram mandatory. If my faith tells me that singing Vande Mataram is against my faith, then I should not be forced to do so,” he said.

Echoing Azmi, Congress MLA Aslam Shaikh said, “There are two versions of Vande Mataram and after the Independence, the government is forcing only one version on us. It is wrong and should be opposed”.

After a brief uproar on the issue, the proceedings of the House continued normally following an appeal made by Speaker Haribhau Bagde.