SC Forcing Us To Stand Up For The National Anthem Makes Me Feel For The Non-Religious Patriotic Indians Like Myself

Vinod Narayan Vinod Narayan in Bakkar. Chai. Sutta on 13 December, 2016

After the Demonetization decision by the Government that got people to come out and stand in long lines in front of Banks and ATMs; now they also get to stand for 52 seconds before every cinema in the Cinema Hall as per the new rule from the Supreme Court.

On 30th November 2016, Supreme Court of India ordered that all cinema halls across the country should play the national anthem and that those present “must stand up in respect” to “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism”.

There has also been some arrests in Kerala where 12 people, all Indian citizens, were arrested in two separate incidents at the IFFK film festival being held now. The ruling by itself is responsible for people disrespecting the National Anthem IMHO.

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Before we delve into whether the ruling is correct, practical or even needed etc.. let us look at two separate incidents.

In 1985 students Bijoe, Binu Mol and Bindu Emmanuel who belong to a group called Jehovah’s Witnesses were expelled from the school for not singing along the National Anthem during the morning assembly. They did stand respectfully but they did not sing because for them singing is against their religious beliefs; not the words or the thoughts of the Anthem but the singing of it.

Mr. Emmanuel went to the Courts and the Supreme Court held that expelling the children based on their “conscientiously held religious faith” violated the Constitution of India. Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy stated: “No provision of law . . . obliges anyone to sing.”

The Court noted that the right of free speech and expression also includes the right to remain silent and that standing for the national anthem showed proper respect. The Court ordered the school authorities to readmit the children.
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13 years ago Shyam Narayan Chouksey whose petition led the Supreme Court to rule that the national anthem should be played before screening films in theaters had gone to watch the film Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and when the national anthem was being played in the movie, he stood up. But he was the only person standing and those behind him said that he was obstructing their view. He was hurt that instead of standing up the people asked him to sit down and he filed the petition.

Coming to the ruling by Supreme Court; the question or debate is not whether it is needed to respect or stand up while the Anthem is played; but the ruling that the Anthem should be played mandatorily before cinemas in Movie Halls and people should stand up. Added to this is the impracticality of implementing a rule like this.

A clear case of FORCING people to do the right thing at the wrong place. When it is not mandatory in Political Gatherings, Panchayat meetings or Government offices, how come it is only for a cinema hall, where people gather NOT for national service but for entertainment and spending their own hard earned money.

This is the Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham Video where the National Anthem is sung. There is a shorter video, but I want you to watch the longer one just so you know the sequence of events that lead to the Anthem. 

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Imagine this scene in a Cinema Hall and just as the Anthem begins, the guy in front of you stands up. You are missing your favorite Sharukh Khan, Kajol and Hrithik’s acting when this happens. The emotions on their faces and the firangis (foreigners) who once ruled over India all stand up to the Anthem.

It is such a patriotic Visual Treat for many and this other nice gentleman stands up. You, me, or anyone would ask him to sit down. If it was at home, maybe seeing your kid or dad you will stand up, that is because it is a family and we know each other and are connected.

In the Cinema Hall, however, people are there for various reasons. There are fans of Sharukh and also people who came there to just escape their monotonous life. Some have a daily job that needs standing from 9 to 5 and they are there to sit and relax and watch something for a few hours. Very different people with different reasons to be there, but with one intention “Watch and Enjoy the movie”.

It is not the movie 'Border' where one knows you will see some elements of patriotism. This is KKKG, a melodrama.

I am not saying the guy standing up did something wrong. The fact is he did not know that the anthem was about to play because like everyone, he was also expecting the Do Re Mi. If only he had known he would have stepped to the side and stood. Now who is to blame? Cinema is a visual treat and so obstruction of someone’s opportunity to that treat should not be entertained. Standing up is a matter of respect but how many retakes would have happened while making that movie and I am sure the actors and crew would not be standing every time this was played in the Background.

The ruling could have been in many other ways. Like showing a writing like they show for ciggarettes and Alcohol, “There will be a National Anthem played in Approx 5 minutes” which will give people like Mr. Shyam time to move to the side or back of the theatre. But that would defeat the whole purpose of having that Anthem in the first place. So what to do?. The other way would be to say 'No cinema should play the National Anthem'. And that would be in one way a disrespect to the National Anthem, asking people not to play it.

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Then I read the ruling here, where I found three interesting points:

  1. "There shall be no commercial exploitation to give financial advantage or any kind of benefit." Does that mean K3G should not be played again and all copies should remove the Anthem scene?
  2. "There shall not be dramatization of the National Anthem and it should not be included as a part of any variety show." Does this mean that no movie should again play the anthem and allow people to act?
  3. The rule says, "All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem."

No idea why the third point is necessary. How did the Supreme Court arrive at this conclusion? That by playing the Anthem before the start of every movie and enforcing people in the cinema hall to stand will make their patriotism and nationalism reach peak performance. 

Without implementing the two points as I mentioned earlier, the petition is still not addressed. Again in the future, if a movie like K3G plays and has a similar scene with different actors, people like Mr. Shyam and the guy sitting behind him will still have a problem.

I don’t think the ruling really solve the real petition. That is why this ruling is so lame. This ruling is not to instigate any love for the country because Cinema Halls are a place where people come to unwind.

IMHO, it is just to back and support the already running Nationalism agenda by some groups. I fear that the Supreme Court is also being influenced by the Nationalist Marketing Engine; which is very scary in all respects. The ruling is not lame but scary. It has nothing to do with one’s love for the country. This is only a way for authorities to now hold responsible people who oppose the ruling to be termed unpatriotic and disrespectful towards the nation.

The question is will this ruling stop another Mr. Shyam from abruptly standing in the middle of a movie in a theatre. Even if you use National Anthem with the flag, you should give sufficient time for people to prepare and people include young, old, expectant mothers, mothers with small kids and so on. They all need varied durations to stand and be prepared. See how lame it will turn out to be. 

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Now going based on religious freedom, if tomorrow when they play a movie with a Hindu God or Goddess in it or the scene of a mosque calling for prayers or a church where every one shouts "Praise the lord" and "Amen!" and if the Hindus, Muslims, and Christians start Pooja, Namaz, and loud praises, it will be such a chaos, especially for people like me who don’t belong to any of these groups.

So you mean non-religious people who love this country have no options here?