After facing strong criticism from political parties and the Raza Academy, newly appointed cultural affairs minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Monday clarified that use of Vande Mataram instead of hello by government employees was not a diktat saying that he has suggested Vande Mataram as an alternative to hello.
‘’The campaign will be launched from August 15 to January 26 across Maharashtra for use of Vande Mataram as an alternative to hello. If someone is already greeting people by Jai Hind or Jai Maharashtra they will continue to do so,’’ he said. He further added that the government has not enacted any law making it binding on people to only use Vande Mataram while greeting people on phone.
He reiterated that it was not mandatory to use Vande Mataram and said that he had only suggested an alternative to hello.
Mungantiwar was forced to take a u-turn after NCP leaders Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal slammed him. ‘’During the Maha Vikas Aghadi government after making a phone call at Varsha (the official residence of the Chief Minister) the conversation was to begin by Jai Maharashtra. Every government takes its own decisions,’’ said Pawar who is the leader of opposition in the state assembly.
On the other hand, Bhujbal declared that he will not say Vande Mataram. ‘’I will not say Vande Mataram but will say Jai Maharashtra. Even Chief Minister Eknath Shinde greets with Jai Maharashtra over the phone. It is not proper to make it mandatory. People speak as per their likes,’’ said Bhujbal.
The Raza Academy chief Sayeed Nouri took strong objection against Mungantiwar’s call saying that they will write a letter to the state government after discussing it with Ulema (a body of Muslim scholars) and other organisations. ‘’In the Muslim religion we only worship Allah. Therefore, the state government should give an alternative to Vande Mataram which will be acceptable to all,’’ he noted.
However, Mungantiwar said, ‘’The Raza Academy has every right to protest. It is a campaign launched by our department on the occasion of the 75th years of independence. It is up to Raza Academy whether to use Vande Mataram or Bharat Mata ki Jai. They should also decide which alternative word to Vande Mataram they have to use.’’