20 August, 2011

"Sind" to "Sindhu" is this change required in the National Anthem?

In the midst of Anna Hazare's fast against corruption and mobilizing the nation into a rock star's fervor and the Indian Test Cricket team getting a sound thrashing in England it was possible to miss out on this snippet that slipped through into the newspapers without making much noise.That makes it no less relevant.

Reference: A PIL  (Public Interest Litigation) filed in the High Court of Bombay, by Shrikant Malushte, Retd Professor of Photography, to amend the word “Sind’ in the National Anthem to the word “Sindhu” ,  Published in the leading dailies on 18th Aug 2011

The Gist of the PIL

The petitioner Mr. Shrikant Malushte objects to the usage of the word “Sind” in the national Anthem and his insistence that it be changed to “Sindhu” are 1) The province of Sind is no longer in India and hence the Indian National Anthem should not carry the word. 2) By having & using the word Sind in the Indian National Anthem there is a “deliberate implication and attempt on part of the Indian Government ( according to the petitioner) to retain Sind as a province within India”.That's the message which is getting sent across is what he says.

Should a matter require screening before being defined/qualified as a PIL?

There are legal cases and there are legal cases, some of which come before the High Court. One needs to examine whether the matter placed on record really merits the time that gets spent on it. The courts are busy as such with a huge backlog of cases of both Civil &Criminal nature. It is a question that when the courts of the land are used to tend to matters frivolous should there be a penalty imposed on the people who wastes its time. The National Anthem case is one such.

Does this case deserve merit at all, is my basic issue? To refute the points of objection, one needs to understand what the significance of the creation is before it became a National Anthem.
  1.            Jana Gana Mana was composed by Rabindranatah Tagore as an ode to the nation that was a unified province then. It was amongst two of the shortlisted songs for the National Anthem amongst the many patriotic songs written. The other one was Vande Mataram by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. There is a popular anecdote which refers to the choice of Jana Gana Mana being done because the band playing it could not compose “Vande Mataram” during the flag hoisting of Independent India. These stories apart both are great creations and compositions by poets of repute. One is selected and is the National Anthem and the second one is also popularly sung, it did not get forgotten or lost in the anals of history.

  2.     Tagore did not write the word "Sindhu" the river but "Sind" the province and we can easily see the reasoning when the sequence is sung. Punjab, Sind, Gujarat, Maharatta, Dravid, Utkal, Vanga. It is logical and yet poetic, plus it’s the poet’s independent creation. Does anyone have the right to impinge on this individual freedom of a creator just because he finds this one particular word offensive? And is it really that Offensive. Its intent is not offensive. Changing the word “Sind to Sindhu” which is a river one robs the rhyme of its logical beauty. Does anyone have this right? Creative freedom in a democratic society is a fundamental right, the right of expression.

  3.      The 1950 ruling that gets referred to where the plaintiff mentions that the court had instructed the change to be made but it was never implemented can also be an erroneous judgment. Judges are human too and can make mistakes. If Mr. Malushte feels this is objectionable, he could petition the Courts and governments to change the whole National Anthem from Jana Gana Mana to some other song instead. That is certainly within his fundamental rights as a citizen of the country. But to change a song itself, is neither his right to ask for nor demand and certainly not within his right to petition the courts for. It is like having some Frenchman getting up to question why is the Mona Lisa smiling, and if she does have to smile why so enigmatically? That is not acceptable to me. She should not be smiling enigmatically, either paint her lips upward or erase the smileoff and let the rest of the painting remain. The person would be quietly escorted off the premises of the Louvre and told, gentleman please go home and don’t come back if you don’t wish to see it.

  4.      On a teaser note to this article and demand by Mr. Malushte for his Sindhu, all our Veda’s and Upanishads, The Ramayana and Mahabharata have been composed and have supposedly also happened on the banks of the Sindhu and Saraswati rivers. Today all of these provinces are in the dominion of Pakistan, should there be changes made in Valmiki & Vyas Muni’s creations too today because they geographically do not suit us? 
History is a record of the walk of people who roamed the earth before us and left behind their footprints. These footprints in all the fields may it be Art, Science, Culture, Law, Religion and even Faith have served us as guideposts to learn from. One truly cannot and should not change or even attempt to change history itself because then you erase the data that is our cornerstone for development and progress. Learning to accept it, tolerate it and moving on is the best way forward. 

Today long after the poet is dead and gone and not around to defend himself and his creation; Mr. Malushte wakes up and takes this matter before the court of our land. This is when even our neighboring country Pakistan (if ever anyone had a case to do so it would be that Nation) has never officially expressed an objection to this word being a part of the Indian National Anthem. So does this PIL have any merit at all?