In this comment, confused tells me he's disappointed because I've "lowered my argument" to the "lowest common denominator" in this wrangle over Vande Mataram. Why? Because I "have taken a position that singing Vande Mataram is being touted as a test of patriotism."
Fair criticism, and it's hardly the first time I've disappointed people. So let's see if I can make amends. Or something.
First, singing Vande Mataram is clearly being held up as a test of patriotism. Such a slogan as "Is desh mein rehna hoga to Vande Mataram gaana hoga" ("If you want to live in this country you will have to sing Vande Mataram") could hardly be more explicit in its intent.
Want more? Confused himself calls his post on the subject "Why we must sing Vande Mataram" (my emphasis). (Yes, after some discussion, he has an update that qualifies that "we", so I wonder why the title does not). Elsewhere on that page, you will find: "the people who followed the fatwa ... would not hesitate in siding with the forces of Islam, against the state of India", and "The reason it is not being sung is on an inherently unpatriotic premise."
Elsewhere on the Web, referring to the people who don't sing Vande Mataram, you'll find: "a nation and a culture which they disown", and "we cannot allow people especially minority groups who exhibit ‘anti-national’ tendencies", and "repeated attempts at separatism".
You get the idea. "Lowest common denominator"?
Second, tests of patriotism are repellent, and that's a kind word.
Third, I see nothing wrong with people choosing not to sing a song. Period.
Fourth, fatwas are repellent too, and that's still a kind word. To me, "It you want to live in this country you will have to sing Vande Mataram" is a far more offensive fatwa than "clerics" saying "Don't sing Vande Mataram". I choose my battles.
Fifth, so if those so-called "clerics" have issued a fatwa against singing the song, how can I claim that people are "choosing" not to sing it? Good question. Thing is, I know there are Muslims to whom those "clerics" mean nothing, who choose to sing the song anyway. I also know there are Muslims to whom those "clerics" also mean nothing, who choose not to sing the song anyway.
Which means, it's a profound mistake to assume that when some "clerics" speak, all Muslims listen and toe their line. After all, some Hindu leaders pronounced that if you were not offended by a mosque in Ayodhya, you were not a real Hindu. Did we assume that all Hindus followed this logic? Did we assume that Hindus who were offended felt so only because of what those leaders said? Did we believe that Hindus who were not offended are not real Hindus?
On every count, hardly.
Sixth, confused also indicates that the "rise of the Hindu right" must be "blamed" on "progressives and liberals", and that he would be disappointed, again, if I "chose to side with such folks". I've heard this often, and this is one of the -- how do I put this kindly -- laziest and saddest arguments out there. Because it tells me, some of those who support the Hindu right have no convictions of their own. That they secretly believe there's something shameful about the "rise of the Hindu right" and therefore it should be blamed on those other guys, those "progressives."
Here's something to chew on: I welcome the rise of the Hindu right. I think it was and is necessary as a counterbalance to the left. This doesn't mean I like the Hindu right, but that I understand that a democracy, by definition, needs such balance. Absent it, democracy will dissolve into tyranny, and we've seen that in this country.
So let's have a strong, principled right wing. And please, let's have supporters of the Hindu right who have the gumption to say: "I believe in this ideology and I want it to succeed politically." Enough of the lily-livered whine that "you guys, you know, you pushed me into this."
Seventh, a personal note about that "chose to side with such folks." I don't write to "side with" anybody, nor to avoid siding with anybody. I just have my opinions, and write about them, on my own. Nobody but I should be held responsible for what I say. Equally, I claim no responsibility for what others say. Judge me, damn me, fine: not for the "folks" you might think I "side" with, but for my own efforts and writing.
And I hope that's the last I will post on a subject I'm somewhat sick of.