Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said singing Vande Mataram was a choice and that refusing to sing it does not make a person anti-national, PTI reported. Naqvi’s statements follow a debate that erupted after the Madras High Court ruled that the song be played in all schools, colleges and universities in Tamil Nadu at least once a week.

“Singing Vande Mataram is an individual’s choice,” Naqvi said. “Those who want to sing can sing it, those who do not, may not. Not singing it does not make one anti-national.” The Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Parliamentary Affairs and Minority Affairs, however, said opposing the singing of the song would be considered “in bad taste” and “not in the interest of the country”.

On July 29, Maharashtra Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Raj Purohit had proposed that state schools and colleges take cue from their counterparts in Tamil Nadu by singing the song. His proposal, in the state Legislative Assembly, was opposed by Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MLA Waris Pathan. The spat turned ugly with Purohit asking Pathan to “go to Pakistan” if he has a problem with saying “Vande Mataram”.

‘No national song’

In April 2017, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the central government asking for its response to a petition that sought to make singing Vande Mataram mandatory at all educational institutions.

The Indian Constitution does not have the concept of a national song, the Supreme Court had earlier said in February 2017. “Article 51A [fundamental duties] of the Constitution does not refer to National Song,” the apex court said. “It only refers to the National Flag and National Anthem. Therefore, we do not intend to enter into any debate as far as the National Song is concerned.”

The Madras High Court had said the song must also be played in all government offices and institutions, private offices as well as factories and industries once a month. If there is a valid reason, those who are unable to sing it must not be forced or compelled, it added.