Removal of famous Hymn from Indian military ceremony has caused a news and social media debate

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London: Indian politicians and Civilians are clashing over the decision to drop the world-renowned Hymn ‘Abide with me’, from the Indian Beating Retreat Ceremony.

We found this video on Youtube and the comments below it were extremely supportive of reintroducing the melody.  Please watch video and read comments

The ceremony involves military bands from all of India’s military forces and ends a three day celebration of Republic Day (the day India ratified it’s constitution and became a sovereign nation) on 26th January 1950.

Participants from the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy and Central Armed Police Forces have been involved in the Ceremony since 1955, when a grand military parade was first held in the capital city of Delhi.

This year at the event on 29th January, which coincides with the 75th year of India’s independence, an Indian patriotic song ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’, which translates from Hindi to English as ‘O’ people of my country’, replaced the British Christian hymn.

The original Scottish composition of Abide with me was written in Scotland in 1847 by Anglican Minister, Henry Francis Lyte.   However, the melody that is most associated with the famous Hymn was composed 14 years later by English music editor, William Henry Monk.

Monk’s melody originally titled ‘Eventide’ has been played at the Indian Beating Retreat ceremony since it began in 1955.

The hymn is recognized as a favourite of social reformer, Mahatma Gandhi.  In the Hindustan Times his grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi, said:

“The words are universal, the tune human.

“….“I do not believe the authorities can be so impervious to the song’s aesthetic, spiritual and human appeal, so insensitive too to the feelings of those who love the hymn.

“Gandhi loved it.”

‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’ was composed by Kavi Pradeep and C. Ramchandra in 1963 to commemorate Indian soldiers who died during the Sino-Indian War the year before.

Government officials have told various media outlets that the change for 2022 to ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’ was part of an “ongoing process of de-colonising India”.

Moreover, last year the hymn was missing from the the programme for the Beating Retreat ceremony, which caused a national uproar.  This resulted in the melody being reinserted into the line-up last minute.

in 2021, Abide with me was the only non-Indian tune played at the ceremony.

Pavan Nair, a retired army colonel who served for 30 years, spoke with the BBC, he said:

“Cutting it out seems like cutting out a piece of tradition and throwing it into the dustbin,”

Col Nair remembers watching the ceremony as a child and in later years attending in person.

“The highlight of it was listening to Abide with Me and hearing the chimes from the ramparts. It was a beautiful, soulful thing.”

Manmohan Bahadur, a retired vice-marshal believes the connection to Mahatma Gandhi, makes this melody important to preserve.  He said:

“Things have happened – we need to learn from them, keep the good things, jettison the not-so-good things and move forward.

I see no significance in dropping something which is connected to the father of the freedom struggle.”

Pratyasha Rath who writes for right-wing magazine Swarajya wrote on Twitter:

“I honestly did not know anything about ‘Abide by me’ till a day back,”

MP P Chidambaram of the opposition party, wrote on twitter (click here):

“It pains me and millions of citizens that in the 72nd year of the Republic the hymn will be dropped.

“The intolerance of the BJP government has reached such proportions that there are no words to condemn their attitude and outrageous actions.”

A debate has been playing out in news and social media with a clear division in opinion visible.

We are asked our new Operations Manager in India, for his opinion on the loss of a historic melody from such a pivotal Indian celebration.  Dr Vuchula Satyanandam, said:

“The Hymn was removed without any discussions in Indian Parliament.

“The reaction seems one based on religious bigotry especially when you see so much anti-Christian sentiment across so much of the nation.

“This hymn has such historic and cultural significance to our nation.

“The beautiful words  of the song and pleasant melody resonate with people of all faiths.

“The strength of  support from military leaders, politicians and other significant voices for retention of the melody has been heart-warming.

“It is a reminder that good people of all faiths and none are still able to enjoy older traditions and respect the faiths and beliefs of one another.

“I hope President Modi reverses the decision simply because it has created so much heated debate and hurt people of diverse backgrounds.”

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for the British Asian Christian Association, said:

“That so many people across so many different spectrums of Indian society have spoken out against the removal of the Hymn ‘Abide with Me’ is relevant.

“It shows, that many Indians hold great nostalgia for the song.

“Keeping it in the line-up of future Beating Retreat ceremonies seems like the obvious action to undertake.

“By speaking up the people of India have illustrated a desire to embrace their past while foraging into their future.

“Their beautiful sentiments illustrate a sheer desire for peace and harmony.

“Modi and his government could learn a lot by listening to so many vocal supporters the nation was de-colonized long before they removed the melody.

“After all, is India not a constitutional republic?

“A line from the song say’s; ‘Help of the helpless, O abide with me.’ 

“A reminder that God is the protector of all – a universal concept that compliments any national closing ceremony.”

Dr Vuchula, will be responding to persecution events in India as we seek to create a stronger voice for the many Indians reporting extreme persecution to us regularly.  We will have an update on Monday relating to a persecution event involving a Church being knocked down by RSS agents, in Hydrabad.  Our work in India resumes for the first time since the pandemic.

Our work in Asia cannot succeed without the assistance and prayers of our many supporters.  If you would like to help us  with the advocacy and aid we provide in South Asia to millions of persecuted Christians.

 

 

 

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