Doyen of Hindi poetry Gopal Das ‘Neeraj’ says ‘Vande Matram’ or ‘Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Humara’ should replace ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as the national anthem because the one penned by Rabindranath Tagore is reminiscent of British rule in India.
The 92-year-old Padma Bhushan awardee said due to the colonial hangover some saw those working in English as “bade” (big) and others as “chhote” (small).
“I have written in English also during my initial years as a poet. But, it was Harivansh Rai ‘Bachchan’ ji who asked me to focus on writing in Hindi. He told me ‘Kavita maatribhaasha mein hi hoti hai’ (poetry is done in mother tongue),” Neeraj said in an interview.
He also recalled his acquaintance beginning in early 1940s with the legendary Hindi poet and father of Bollywood mega star Amitabh Bachchan, whom he says he has “lap-fed”.
Asked if he felt there was a bias in the acknowledgement bestowed on litterateurs based on the language in which they work, he said, “Now it is the trend that if someone writes in English, they are taken as big men while those writing in Hindi are small. We have been slaves (of British rule). Our national anthem is also from the era when we were a British colony. The Britishers have left, but some still continue to remain slaves (of English).”
He said the national anthem was written by Tagore in 1911 at the coronation of George V, the King of United Kingdom. Asked if he was suggesting a change in the the patriotic composition, he said, “Now that it is the national anthem what can be done. Why did we leave ‘Vande Matram’… so many people were martyred for Vande Matram… Hindus as well as Muslims.
In ‘Jan Gan Mana Adhinanayak’, ‘adhinayak’ stands for dictator. ‘Jayahe Bharat Bhagya Vidhaata’, he is the creator of the destiny of Bharat. Punjab Sindhu Gujarat Maratha, where is the Sindh now in India?”
“Even ‘Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Humara’ was a better song. This is the good song to honour the national flag. But if ‘Jan Gana Man’ is the national anthem, what can be done… .”
He favoured ‘Vande Matram’ as the national anthem. When asked if that was not in line with the RSS or the BJP, he said, “It is my own ideology. Nobody else has to tell me anything. I am a humanitarian poet. If you read my poetry you would know it. Sangh, BJP or any other… I have no relations with any political party. I have risen above things like these, politics is a third class thing.”
“I have never written anything cheap. I still write and people invite me to programmes because I say what is right,” he said, adding “poetry stands for humanism. There is no bigger truth in the world than human himself,” Neeraj said.