New Delhi: India celebrated 70 years of independence yesterday, an event marked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the Red Fort and celebrations across the country. But how was Independence Day celebrated in the states? In Uttar Pradesh, madrassas had to record their celebration, while in Tripura, DD and AIR refused to air the chief minister’s speech.
In madrassas across the state, the hoisting of the flag and the singing of the national anthem was recorded as proof in accordance to an order by chief minister Adityanath – which many saw as an effort towards the forced assimilation of the Muslim community.
Last week the state government had directed all state-aided madrassas to unfurl the tricolour and sing the national anthem, and submit a video recording of the celebration to minority welfare officers in all districts of the state. According to a Times of India report, Baldev Aulakh, minister of state for minority affairs, had even warned that action would be taken against the madrassas that defied the order.
While the circular claimed that the recording was to ensure the “best functions can be repeated in future,” many slammed the move saying that the madrassas were being targeted.
According to Huff Post, Independence Day was celebrated as usual in madrassas across Uttar Pradesh. However, some refrained from singing the national anthem, with the largest madrassas in Kanpur, Meerut and Bareilly choosing to sing ‘Saare Jahaan Se Achha,’ an Urdu patriotic song formally known as Tarānah-i-Hind, Hindustan Times reported.
Bareilly’s Manzar-e-Islam did not sing the national anthem or record the celebration.
While many followed the orders of the Adityanath-led BJP government to record the events, the “patriotism test” that the community were being put through did not go down well with several Muslim officials.
According to the Times of India, Hafiz Irfaan Ahmad, the principal of Madrassa Jamia Arabia Husainia, said, “Since August 15, 1947, madrassas have always celebrated the Independence Day every year. This year’s celebration is not due to the government’s order. Please don’t question our patriotism. Do we always have to prove our love for motherland?”
Prakash Tiwari, the Allahabad district minority officer, however, told Indian Express that the 300 madrassas that come under his purview have been celebrating Independence Day and Republic Day, and the recording this time was meant simply as an archive, “so that children can revisit them and enjoy them through the year”.
“But we have been getting photos and videos on WhatsApp from madarsas across the district, though we have not formally asked for them.”
While government orders were largely met in Uttar Pradesh, the same could not be said for Kerala. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat went against the CPI(M)-led state government to hoist the tricolour at a school in Palakkad district.
According to Indian Express, a written order issued on the night of August 14 had made it clear that “only office heads or elected people’s representatives should hoist the flag”. The order from Palakkad district collector P. Marykutty to the headmaster of the Karnaki Amman Higher Secondary School said that they had received information that “representatives of a certain organisation” would hoist the national flag on Independence Day.
V. Sreekumar, the headmaster, was under “strict” instructions that the order be adhered to, which Marykutty claimed was necessary since according to the flag code the national flag must be hoisted by government officials or elected people’s representatives.
Bhagwat, however, paid no heed to the order, unfurling the flag and making a speech after, which even led to a case being registered against the school headmaster.
E Krishnadas, BJP Palakkad district president, countered Marykutty’s claim saying that every Indian citizen had the right to hoist the national flag. “To cover up the awkwardness after issuing the order, the district collector has now instructed the police to register a case against the headmaster,’’ he said.
Independence Day celebrations in Tripura were marred by controversy when chief minister Manik Sarkar claimed state broadcasters Doordarshan and All India Radio refused to broadcast his address unless he made changes to it, according to Indian Express.
A statement from the chief minister’s office said that Sarkar – who heads the Left Front government in the state – “would not change a single word and described it as unprecedented, undemocratic, autocratic and intolerant step”.
According to a Huff Post report, Sarkar had in his speech – a copy of which was made public by Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) – made a call for unity amid the present scenario of several forces “inciting passions to convert India into a particular religious country and in the name of protecting the cow.”
“Unity in diversity is India’s traditional heritage. Great values of secularism have helped in keeping Indians together as a nation. Today, the spirit is under attack. Conspiracies and attempts are underway to create an undesirable complexity and divisions in our society; to invade our national consciousness in the name of religion, caste and community, by inciting passions to convert India into a particular religious country and in the name of protecting the cow.”
Attaching A copy of the letter asking Tripura CM to 'reshape' his I day speech. Hope that settles it. pic.twitter.com/xPaHeyDjpC
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) August 16, 2017
According to the statement, the speech was recording on August 12. On the evening of August 14, the chief minister’s office was informed that the address would not be broadcast unless Sarkar “reshaped it”.
Yechury, who also took to Twitter to slam the censorship, described the move as part of the “BJP’s model to remote control Tripura from Delhi.”
BJP's model is to remote control Tripura from Delhi. CPI(M) will fight for Tripura's rights and honour against BJP's dictatorial centralism.
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) August 16, 2017
The letter stated that, “In view of the sanctity of the occasion, the broadcast code and responsibility of the public broadcaster it is not possible to telecast it in the present format. However, Doordarshan/Prasar Bharati will be happy if the chief minister agrees to reshape the content making it suitable to the solemnity of the occasion and sentiment of the people.”
The CPI-M politburo in New Delhi demanded action against those responsible for refusing to broadcast Sarkar’s speech and slammed the move as “a gross infringement on the right of a chief minister to address the people of his state on Independence Day.”
Doordarshan, however, has “vehemently refuted” allegations of blocking the chief minister’s speech, ANI reported. A press release issued by U.K. Sahoo of Doordarshan Kendra, Agartala, stated that the broadcaster gave “wide coverage to the chief minister’s Independence Day programme and telecast report running to 29 minutes and 45 minutes.” According to the statement, 12 minutes were given to the coverage of the speech in question, which was telecast at 7 pm.
Nitish Kumar, who recently made headlines for ditching the mahagathbandhan in Bihar to join the BJP, announced a number of projects and schemes for the state’s youth, women and minorities.
Addressing the crowd from the Gandhi Maidan in Patna, Nitish also said that he would not compromise on the issue of “rule of law”. He even gave assurance of through probe in the case of alleged embezzlement of government funds by a Bhagalpur-based NGO.
(With agency inputs)