Abide With Me Not Mentioned In The Official List Of 26 Tunes

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Bapu’s Favourite “Christian” Hymn Dropped From Beating Retreat Ceremony

| Updated: January 23, 2022 14:05

Abide With Me has been played every year since 1950 at the annual Beating Retreat ceremony at Vijay Chowk on the evening of January 29, marking the end of the nearly weeklong Republic Day celebrations.

This year, however, the official list of 26 tunes to be played at the ceremony, released Saturday, does not mention Abide With Me.

The snub comes a day after the government chose to “merge” emotive heritage, Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate, with the flame at the National War Memorial built by the Modi government around 400 metres away.

As if the injury were not enough, adding salt to the wounded pride for military veterans comes a video tweeted from MyGovIndia showing Indian naval personnel dancing to a song during the Republic Day parade rehearsals. 

The popular Monica, O My Darling and a remix of Duniya Mein Logon Ko and Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja, were heard as the personnel wearing naval uniforms and holding rifles danced with the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the background. Sharing the video, Colonel (retd) Ajai Shukla tweeted: “This @narendramodi Govt appears to be hell-bent on destroying the dignity and sobriety of the three services, and replacing it with some bastardised Bollywood culture. How embarrassing this navy nautanki is! Are the service chiefs going to shut their eyes and acquiesce?”

A defence ministry official said Mahatma Gandhi’s love for Abide With Me was the reason it had been included in the ceremony in 1950. For military veterans, the “shocker” that the hymn had been dropped was made more unpalatable by the “unacceptable” video. Several tweets throughout the day condemned the government’s decision, adding that the hymn has nothing to do with any “particular religion. It’s a part of our legacy: through it, we remember our fallen soldiers.”

Earlier in 2020, Abide With Me had initially been dropped from the list of tunes to be played at the Beating Retreat ceremony. It was later restored following social media protests that slammed what many users saw as a “non-inclusive approach.”

To rewind a bit, Mahatma’s grandson, Gopal Krishna Gandhi had expressed regret in January 2020 when the government initially planned to drop Abide With Me.

“Who does the verse affront? What does it offend? Has anyone been, can anything be, hurt by a song that is about the healing of hurt?” he had written.

“I don’t 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.”

Defence ministry officials shared that Beating Retreat was a centuries-old military tradition, going back to the days when troops disengaged from the battle at sunset. As the buglers sounded the retreat, soldiers stopped fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield.

Forty-four buglers, 16 trumpeters and 75 drummers from six bands will perform the Beating Retreat ceremony, with the exit marked by Sarey Jahan Se Achchha.

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