STANDING UP DURING NATIONAL ANTHEM NO MORE A MANDATE

– TANISHA SHARMA

BACKGROUND

A Supreme Court bench headed by the then CJI Justice Dipak Misra on 9th January 2018 modified its  30th November 2016 order encompassing that playing national anthem in cinema halls before the screening of movies is mandatory. In its amended order, it was said that it’s at the option of the movie hall owners to play the national anthem or not. During the hearing of the case, an official also mentioned the fact that it is practically impossible for everyone to stand up during the playing of the national anthem, especially those who are differently-abled or suffering from a mental disability.

There is a comprehensive, yet often overlooked difference between ‘love for our country’ and pseudo nationalism that forces us to prove our loyalty and respect. The practice to play national anthem in Indian cinema halls was introduced after the 1962 India-China war. Since the 2016 order by the apex court, moviegoers who refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem were forced to face criticism and violence from others in the hall.

As stated in Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 whoever intentionally prevents the singing of Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both while Article 51(A) of The Constitution  says, “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.”  These laws do not breach sitting or standing while the national anthem is being played in the theatres.

CURRENT ISSUE

A trending video shows that few students belonging to the same family in Bangalore are being bullied by some people for not standing up while the national anthem was being played in a movie hall.

The incident took place on 23rd of October 2019 at PVR Orion Mall during the screening of the Tamil movie ‘Asuran’. Actor Arun Gowda with his friends cast aspersions on the four people who allegedly opt to sit while the national anthem was being played. “When the national anthem came on, these guys didn’t stand. Look at these guys. Just look at their faces once again. They are telling us to file a complaint,” Arun Gowda is seen saying to the camera. “Our soldiers are fighting for us in Kashmir and you guys are sitting here and don’t even stand for the national anthem. Get out of here,” one of Arun’s friends can be heard shouting. Furthermore, a man questioned them of being a Pakistani terrorist since they were not able to spare 52 seconds and had the audacity to keep sitting.

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The mentioned video was shared by Kannada actress BV Aishwarya on her Facebook account but eventually deleted the post. She castigated and abused the family. After the video went viral, people reacted to the whole situation with varied opinions. Some of them though supported the family, while the others bashed them for not showing respect to the national anthem. 

During the hearing of 2018, it was stated that the people need not stand up to prove patriotism as desirability is one thing but making it compulsory is another. Citizens cannot be forced to carry nationalism and patriotism on their sleeves and the courts cannot inculcate patriotic sentiment among people through its order. It stated that pertinent norms and protocols must be fixed apropos of its playing and singing at official programs and functions where those holding constitutional office are present. The court also observed that it cannot be surmised if a person does not stand up for the national anthem he lacks the feeling of patriotism.

CONCLUSION

Time and again people do ask why the onus is being placed only on the entertainment industry? It is easy to impose morality in this industry which is generally meant to entertain the public, and ironically, if they voice their opinions, they are put in a vulnerable situation. Being a citizen of a democratic country, a person cannot even put forth his or her perspective because there is a constant fear of forced nationalism.

In the incident above there was no need to call them Pakistani or bringing the subject of our soldiers. It more follows the belief that a person should be fearful of the nation, more than they should be in love. True patriotism and nationalism towards the country are not about impulsively supporting everything that happens within our borders, or standing up during the playing of the national anthem in movie halls while beating and abusing those who opt not to.

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