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Who composed the score for Jana Gana Mana? Gurudev or the Gorkha?

A controversy swirls around the claim by a freedom fighter that he, and not Rabindranath Tagore, wrote the score for the national anthem.

Captain Ram Singh, an associate of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, claims he composed the score of Jana Gana Mana, the lyrics of which were written by Gurudev Tagore.

Captain Singh claims he composed the score for Jana Gana Mana, at Netaji's behest. It is widely believed that Tagore -- a renaissance man if there was one -- set his lyrics to music.

Head of the Indian National Army's music division, Captain Singh is best known for his rousing classic, Qadam qadam barhai ja khushi ke geet gai ja. He says it was Netaji who decided to make Jana Gana Mana India's national anthem and asked him to compose an appropriate score in 1943.

Several Bengali figures have taken strong exception to Singh's claim. A member of Vishwabharti, the university established by Tagore, even demanded that the government initiate action against Captain Singh.

Now in his eighties, the composer lived in comparative obscurity in Lucknow until an advertisement released in Calcutta newspapers by the Gorkha Hill Council to mark the Netaji centenary on January 23 plunged him into controversy. The advertisement hailed him as the Gorkha who set the national anthem to music. In subsequent newspaper interviews, Captain Singh has proudly reiterated the claim.

Suvinay Rai, an exponent of Rabindra Sangeet for nearly half a century, says he has never heard of such a claim before Rai claims that composing the score of the national anthem is beyond the abilities of a Gorkha soldier since it required a great knowledge of music.

Netaji's nephew, Dr Sisir Bose, says Captain Singh had composed the score of a Hindi song, Sukh chain ki varsha barse bharat bhagya hai jaga, similar to the national anthem. Dr Bose says the song was composed because Netaji wanted to make Jana Gana Mana a martial tune, that INA soldiers could march to, like Qadam barhai ja.

Had the INA been successful in battle, Dr Bose said Captain Singh's composition would have been adopted as the national anthem.

An anguished Captain Singh has now written a letter to President Shankar Dayal Sharma, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces. Captain Singh says that his contribution in composing the score of the national anthem is being refuted just because he is a Gorkha. 'Perhaps,' he said, 'these people believe that a Gorkha can only defend the borders of the country, he should not be fool enough to rush into composing music.'

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