A massive debate has broken out over national symbols once again, as on the eve of Independence Day, the Shia Waqf Board has issued a diktat to Madrassas and schools affiliated to it over how they will observe the anniversary of India's freedom.
Speaking exclusively to Republic World, Shia Waqf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi elaborated on the contents of the decree, saying that on August 15, the National Flag would be unfurled, following which the National Anthem and National Song would be sung and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' would be chanted.
He added that this would be enforced at all madrassas of the board -- numbering about 1500-2000 -- failing which action will be taken on the school management.
The reason for the diktat, Rizvi said, was to ensure that the hardliners who are opposed to this, and incorrigibly so, don't end up biasing young and impressionable students against chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai or singing the National Song or respecting the Flag under false ideals.
"Bharat Mata Ki Jai is not about religion. Jai is for winning", Rizvi said, going on to counter those who would rather use other versions of the slogan, or translations in other languages, by saying that the National Song and Anthem would be sung with the same words no matter where one happened to be. "Vande Mataram would be Vande Mataram in China also, one wouldn't translate it to Chinese."
"Hardliners want to target national symbols. They won't change. But we can't let them influence the children", Rizvi said.
An effect of doing this, he said, would be that a feeling of patriotism would be awakened in the students and they wouldn't easily fall prey to hardliners and their rhetoric.
Rizvi and the Shia Waqf Board have been opposed in this move by a number of clerics to whom his response is that had they hadn't opposed the chanting of patriotic slogans then there would not have been a need to issue such an order.
AIMPLB's Zafaryab Jilani cited that the authority of Rizvi stemmed from the Waqf Act and that questioned what authority the Shia Waqf Board to compel anyone to sing Vande Mataram, over which he said there was a controversy.
Mufti Mukarram, a cleric, attacked Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over the matter, accusing him of polarising. He said that he was more than willing to unfurl the national flag and remember India's freedom fighters but to cast aspersions on people from any religion over it was wrong.
Meanwhile, MoS Home Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi slammed the Waqf Board's decision, saying that Madrassas needn't be compelled to celebrate Independence Day as they already do it in a patriotic way.
In March 2016, All India All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MLA Waris Pathan who hailed from the Byculla constituency in Mumbai was suspended from the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly after he refused to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai in the house. AIMIM party President Asaduddin Owaisi who had commented on the suspension said "I don't chant that slogan. What are you going to do, Bhagwat sahab (reference to RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat)...I won't utter that (slogan) even if you put a knife to my throat."