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India's National Anthem is a Protest Song, Tells Us What Makes a Country: TM Krishna

The full song — including the 'unsung part' — is about the spirit of 'incredible possibility, idea of India, human struggle' and much more, TM Krishna said.

PTI

Updated:January 16, 2020, 10:33 PM IST
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India's National Anthem is a Protest Song, Tells Us What Makes a Country: TM Krishna
File photo of Carnatic musician and activist TM Krishna.

Kozhikode: The national anthem is a "protest song" and it is time all sing this song at least "100 times" a day to remind everyone what India is and what it is not, Carnatic singer and activist TM Krishna said on Thursday.

The song, Krishna argued, protests "against everything the present government stands for" — the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), NRC (National Register for Citizens) or National Population Register (NPR).

The full song — including the 'unsung part' — is about the spirit of "incredible possibility, idea of India, human struggle" and much more, he opined.

He was speaking here at the inaugural day of the fifth edition of the Kerala Literature Festival (KLF) during a session titled, "Jana Gana Mana: Poetic Masterpiece, National Treasure".

"At one level the song is about India, the geography of India, at another level it is about the human struggle. It is also about the mind, the fear, the need to awaken, to remain together, inspite and despite, and with all diversity and differences, and of possibilities," said Krishna.

"I see it as a protest song. It protests against everything that our present government is establishing as India. It tells us that is not India again and again. And these are the reasons why I've started singing this song — especially its unsung verses," he added.

Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote 'Jana Gana Mana' in 1911 in Bengali and it was adopted as the National Anthem in 1950. However, the national anthem is only a part of the poem penned and composed by Tagore.

Deconstructing the unsung portion, verse by verse, note by note, the 43-year-old said Tagore through the song, among other things, also answers debated at length query of 'what makes a country?'.

"The answer is: Jana Gana Mana," he told the audience.

"We think of the song as geographical first, but the three words 'Jana Gana Mana' are cardinal. Jana means the people, Gana is the collective of the people and Mana is the heart and the mind of the people.

"It is so beautiful and so relevant today when the whole country is protesting. That the individual transformation, the collective transformation, and the collective and individual minds and hearts of the people is what makes a country," he explained.

According to Krishna, the song, which he said has been -- and will be -- interpreted in different ways by different people, tells us that "India lies in every citizen, every individual who inhabits this land...It also lies in every individual who may or may not be its citizen but resides in this land."

The vocalist also talked about the usage of 'Sindh' as a metaphor for those who are "not mentioned" in the song, its controversy and why Sindh in the anthem is so important.

"Sindh are all those people who don't have provinces in their names. Sindh are all those people who are not called Tamilians, Bengalis, Punjabis. Our India has so many million people who are Sindhs.

"We need Sindh in our national anthem to remind us of all the people who are not mentioned. In the time when we're being forced with CAA and all these things, we need many Sindhs in this country," he asserted.

In 2005, a petition filed in the Supreme Court demanded the inclusion of the word Kashmir in the national anthem and the deletion of Sindh, which became part of Pakistan following the Partition. The Supreme Court had dismissed the petition.

Historians such as Ramachandra Guha, William Dalrymple, novelists like Benyamin, Namita Gokhale, Chetan Bhagat and journalists Karan Thapar and Rajdeep Sardesai are among the many other writers who will be attending the four-day festival.

The focus theme of KLF 2020 is environment and climate change.

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