Fortunately or otherwise, India is a country that is not without a daily scandal, controversy, or joke that will keep everyone interested. Or bemused.
Such things come from politicians mostly, sometimes from influential bureaucrats or businessmen, and at times from the Supreme Court!
The latest to be added to the mix is the Supreme Court ruling that the national anthem must be played before the start of movies in all cinema halls in the country. That sounds absolutely weird, because cinema halls are meant to be venues to exhibit movies, not patriotism.
Rather, why only cinema halls? Why don't we insist that the anthem be played in all public and private offices in the country, in all shops, in all hospitals and operation theatres, all flights before takeoff, all railway stations and bus stations, and practically everywhere?
If you think this idea is senseless, what makes you think playing the anthem in cinema halls sensible?
I had written here earlier about the inappropriateness of Jana Gana Mana being regarded our national anthem, as the writer Rabindranath Tagore himself had written that he praised the Almighty in the song.
It thus becomes a devotional song at best, and not a patriotic one like "Sare Jahan se Accha" or "Vijayi Vishwa Tiranga Pyara". It is an atheist’s fundamental right to not believe in God.
Patriotism and nationalism are not medicines that can be administered in heavy doses such as this. It is something, which we have to build in people, not by means of force, but by educating them on what India stands for.
|Such rulings will only make the Supreme Court everybody’s favourite Aunt Sally. (Photo: PTI)|
I do not even remotely think that we need to start practising these qualities from cinema halls, of all places.
Although I generally do not buy the statements of Asaduddin Owaisi, his remark on this subject is very significant. As he rightly observed, are we sure we can instil patriotism and nationalism in people by forcing them to stand for national anthem?
I had asked the ministry of home affairs last year through an RTI petition about the occasions where the anthem can be played. It informed me that the anthem shall be played during occasions like investitures, parades, government functions, presentations of regimental colours, other formal functions of the president, governors, or forces., and in schools. I can't imagine cinema halls being added on to that list!
The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1971 only wants people not to prevent or cause disturbances to the singing of national anthem. Sitting or not joining the singing of the anthem is not considered a penal offence.
Barely two months ago, American football player Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel for the US national anthem as a mark of protest against the racial discrimination in his country. Contrary to what people thought, President Barack Obama defended him saying it was Kaepernick’s constitutional right to raise real, legitimate issues that must be talked about.
Our Constitution clearly says that we can criticise the anthem, flag or national symbols with a view to changing them. Are our president and prime minister listening?
The bottom line is, you cannot judge a person’s patriotism or nationalism by observing his posture in a cinema hall, as quite evidently that is no place to measure those qualities. It is high time we stopped judging people based on “peripheral performances”.
Patriotism and nationalism are things, which must be deep-rooted in us, and must be displayed in talks, thoughts, actions, and issues about national pride and safety.
In a nutshell, I will not become an even greater patriot if I go to cinemas every weekend. My standing for the anthem in a cinema hall is no reflection of my nationalism.
My going to cinemas only means that I am a movie buff. If I extend the Supreme Court’s logic and sing the anthem multiple times a day – before a shave, shower, meal, and bed – will I get a Bharat Ratna?
Such rulings will only make the Supreme Court everybody’s favourite Aunt Sally. I hope it will not happen.