The government has dropped Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn, ‘Abide With Me,’ from the Republic Day closing ceremony. The tune has been replaced for this year’s ceremony by the popular patriotic song ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon.’ The decision came days after the eternal flame at Amar Jawan Jyoti was shifted to the National War Memorial.
The iconic Christian song has been a permanent fixture in the Beating Retreat ceremony since 1950. It was penned by Henry Francis Lyte in 1861 and has been traditionally played at the end of the annual 45-minute military music performance that concludes the Republic Day celebrations.
Whereas, ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’ evokes a strong sense of patriotism. According to Major General Dhruv C Katoch, editor of Salute Magazine, “Military music has always changed. Less than 1% of the country has heard the hymn ‘Abide with Me’ and replacing it with ‘Mere Vatan Ke Logon‘ is more appropriate and apt, as 1.38 billion Indians can relate to that tune. It is a memorial to soldiers who have given their lives in the service of their country.”
However, given the recent anti-Christian campaigns across the country, this could be interpreted as yet another act against their presence in India. Tushar Gandhi, an author, is protesting the decision to remove ‘Abide With Me’ because it is representative of the culture and tradition of the country, and it sends out a wrong message in the midst of rising violence against Christians throughout the nation. “If we have such a strong aversion to our colonial heritage, then replace all colonial traditions with what is acceptable,” he said.