What a Contrast – India’s First National Song Was Written By Sir Mohammed Iqbal
A news story that appeared in a daily recently, said Jinnah summoned Jagannath Azad, son of Lahore-based poet Tilok Chand Mahroom, just three days before the creation of Pakistan, to write the country’s first national anthem, stirred up a debate in that country. The intentions were clear that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be a secular country like India. He had, as a matter of fact, sown the seed of secularism by inviting Jagannath Azad to write the national anthem.
Incidentally, it was Sir Mohammed Iqbal, popularly known as a “Poet of the East” who penned India’s national song, “Sare Jahan Se Acha, Hindustan Hamara” which had become the darling song of every Indian.
While India still cherishes this poem, Pakistan chose to discard the anthem written by Azad in 1950 after the death of their Qaid-e-Azam in 1948. What a disrespect shown to the father of the nation by the Pakistanis. What was wrong with the anthem? It was well written in chaste Urdu and had all the ingredients to become that country’s national anthem. The only problem with it was, it was written by a Hindu from that country.
This debate over the anthem came at a time when Pakistan was having a second look into the role of Jinnah during partition after a political biography written by India’s ex-Foreign Minister and BJP’s founder member, Jaswant Singh. This Book on Jinnah had already taken enough toll on the BJP leadership and its overall attitude towards players responsible for the great tragedy of the sub-continent. Maybe the write up on Azad’s first national anthem would create a fissure in Pakistan’s political establishment.
Jinnah was secular, as he was popularly believed to be, even by Indian leaders and he was undoubtedly Gokhale’s Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. His first speech to Pakistan’s national assembly soon after independence, is anything to go by, when he said the citizens of Pakistan would cease to be Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, though they would be free to go to their respective places of worship, only confirmed his credentials as a secular leader.
Since people here were so obsessed with his role in creating Pakistan after partitioning the country, they never dispassionately analysed his personality vis-a-vis his role in the partition until Jaswant Singh cleared the air in his famous book on Jinnah that it was not Jinnah, but Nehru who was responsible for forcing partition. Like Jinnah who wanted a united India, Muslims of India also feel the same as Muslims constituting 33% of India’s population, they would have been better off, had there been no partition. A debate is on whether all the three nations, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh would come together one day to become Akhan Bharat. Indians hope so.
Nevertheless, it was a clear message Jinnah intended to send to his countrymen that Pakistan would remain a secular state. Jinnah knew that he had left a majority of Muslims in India and that it would be in the interest of Pakistan to follow India’s policy on secularism to keep the minorities in good stead. But later generations in Pakistan doubted his secular credentials and chose to discard secularism as a state policy. The result is anarchy. Pakistan has become a hotbed of religious intolerance and extremism, producing Jihadis to cause unrest in the world. It has now become an epicentre of terrorism and a sanctuary for the world’s terror networks including Al-Qaida.
If Pakistanis have any regard to their Qaid-e-Azam and his vision, they must declare Pakistan a secular country and give full protection to the minorities living there. By doing this they can free themselves from the religious bigots. Jai Hind.