Are Muslim students forced to recite Hindu Hymns?

A video is shared by Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, with a claim that school students are forced to sing Hindu hymns and accused the Indian Government in Kashmir to have a Hindutva agenda.

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Several Twitter users have shared this video with similar accusations which can be found here, here and here.

Jammu & Kashmir government has directed its schools to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti on October 2. As part of this, the Government issued a circular which mentioned that an “All Faith Prayer” shall be organized by all schools with the words “Raghu pati Raghava Raja Ram Ishwa Allah Tero Naam” in brackets. This clearly mentions that this particular song should be sung as part of the prayer on Gandhi Jayanti. The video that is being virally shared shows the kids practising this particular hymn for the 2nd of October.

According to some news articles, this particular hymn is one of the favourites of ‘Mahatma’ M.K.Gandhi and he popularized it during the Dandi March of 1930 after modifying it slightly from the original. The original hymn is written by Lakshmanacharya and it is given below along with the modified version by Gandhi.

Original Version

Raghupati raghava rajaram,

patita paavana sitaram.

Sundara vigraha meghashyam,

Ganga tulasi salagram.

Bhadra girishwara sitaram,

Bhagat janapriya sitaram.

Janaki ramana sitaram,

Jaya jaya raghava sitaram

Gandhi’s version

Raghupati raghava rajaram,

Patita paavana sitaram,

bhaj pyaare tu sitaram

ishwar allah tero naam,

sabko sanmati de bhagwan.

‘Mahatma’ M.K.Gandhi had modified the lyrics of the hymn with an intent to make it more inclusive and wished to create a bridge between Hindus and Muslims during the freedom struggle. Some consider the song to be secular in nature too.

However, the essence of the Hindu hymn praising Ram is still retained in the modified version and it is largely considered a Hindu song by many. The modified version still starts with a praise of Ram, the descendent of Raghu, and continues to mention Ram in almost all the lines. Here is the full version of the modified Hymn according to Gandhi Ashram Sevagram’s website.

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram

Patita Pavan Sitaram

Sitaram, Sitaram,

Bhaj Pyare Mana Sitaram

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram

Patita Pavan Sitaram

Ishwar Allah Tero Nam,

Sabako Sanmati De Bhagawan

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram

Patita Pavan Sitaram

Mukhmen Tulsi Ghatamen Ram,

Jab Bolo Tab Sitaram

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram

Patita Pavan Sitaram

Hathose Karo Gharka Kam,

Mukhase Bolo Sitaram

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram

Patita Pavan Sitaram

Kaushalyaka Vhala Ram,

Dashrathjika Pyara Ram

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram

Patita Pavan Sitaram

Bansivala Hay Ghanshyam,

Dhanushya Dhari Sitaram

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram

Patita Pavan Sitaram

Even the mention of Ishwar and Allah is done to attribute those names to Ram’s other names. Despite the attempt to make the song an inclusive one, many consider this to be a Hindu hymn as every other line continues to praise Ram. Thus, it is understandable that an attempt to make this song mandatory in a Muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir school receives pushback from its people and politicians.  

Some even consider this hymn to be secular. However, secularism does not mean mentioning all gods. Oxford Dictionary defines secular as “not connected with spiritual or religious matters.” Already, the meaning of secular is a contentious debate in the country and the word has been dubbed ‘sickular’ by the right wing.

Coming back to the issue at hand, the circular mentions “All faith prayer” shall be conducted with this particular hymn, albeit mentioned in brackets. There is no clear answer to when and how this particular hymn which was modified by Gandhi during the Dandi March has become a recognized “All Faith Prayer”.

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