Let national anthem be a uniting force

Let national anthem be a uniting force

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recently issued a directive to all the schools under its jurisdiction that the students, teachers and other staff should start their day with community singing of the National Anthem with decorum and respect, complying with an order of Calcutta High Court dated September 22, 2014.

It should be recalled that earlier in 2008, Sanjay Kelkar, Member of Legislative Council (MLC) from Maharashtra, objected to CBSE and ICSE schools not reciting the National Anthem during school assembly.

After the new government  assumed power at the Centre, the Human Resource Development Ministry has rarely been seen in news for its positive actions.

Controversies like appointment of RSS men in key posts, observance of December 25 as “Good Governance Day,” vegetarian menu at IIT-Delhi, dropping German as an optional third language, withdrawing Delhi University’s  four-year under-graduate programme, celebrating Teacher’s Day as “Guru Utsav”, have attracted massive criticism. Will the new decision regarding national anthem, too, be entangled in such denigration?

No uniform assembly
Presently, schools in the country do not follow any uniform pattern in the morning assembly. While some schools run by religious institutions prefer prayers and hymns or their own institutional anthem, others go for the national anthem.

Students, at times, have mistaken religious hymns to be the national anthem as many schools neither teach nor facilitate their students to respect the national anthem on a daily basis.

The constant singing of our national anthem can act as one of the effective aspects in developing and enriching our patriotism. Religions bring unity among believers through devotional songs and hymns.

In the same way, nourishing and stimulating our patriotism by the solemn singing together of this hymn of our nation is vital when divisive forces are playing their ploy. The anthem has the message of pluralistic society and harmonious co-existence.

Composed by Rabindra-nath Tagore, Jana Gana Mana was first sung on December 27, 1911, at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress. It gained national prominence for the first time when the historic session of the Constituent Assembly on August 15, 1947, concluded with the song. Finally on January 24, 1950, the first President of independent India, Rajendra Prasad officially declared Jana Gana Mana as the national anthem.

Song for a ruler?
There is an allegation that Jana Gana Mana was written and composed by Tagore to praise George the IV, who visited India in 1911.

In a letter dated March 19, 1939, Tagore writes: “I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity as to sing in praise of George the Fourth or George the Fifth as the Eternal Charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey through countless ages of the timeless history of mankind. That pretty much explains it.”

Jana Gana Mana acquired wide acceptability among nationalists in every corner of the country and beyond after it was translated into English as “The morning song of India”.

India’s national anthem or national flag may not be the basis of patriotism, but it is an opportunity to express it and perhaps, for some, to plant a seed. We can rekindle and build a national fervour of patriotism and motivate our youth to build their lives positively to contribute to the country by respecting the symbols of national unity.

The national anthem is a call to the 1.27 billion Indian citizens and the Indian diaspora spread across the globe to stand for one cause – the unity of India.

The patriotic spirit that we have today is largely because of the goosebumps we felt when we heard the Jana Gana Mana for the first time in school. It spoke to us as a prayer to God for our country and strengthened us to believe in the potential that we have to influence our nation.

Though the practice of prayers may vary from school to school, it would be good to have the national anthem as the culminating song. Within the vast diversity of our country, cohesion comes by national identity. And, the national anthem binds us together.

(The writer teaches at Christ University, Bengaluru)
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