A new cinema hall, but running the same show. Once again, a man has been abused for not standing up while the national anthem was being played in a movie theatre, this time in Guwahati.
The custodians of nationalism, who verbally attacked him, called him a Pakistani without taking into consideration the fact that the man is wheelchair-bound.
Arman Ali, the "Pakistani" runs an NGO, Shishu Sarothi, which works for persons with disabilities.
In a country where the differently abled suffer in absence of institutional support and lack of facilities, Ali's work can be seen as national service. In fact, Ali is a receipt of the National Award in public recognition for outstanding performance as most efficient disabled employee (1998) from the then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is also a recipient of the Super Idol Award from CNN IBN 7 for his work in the disability sector.
Sadly, when the same activist fails to get up from his wheelchair (because he can't get up without support, as should be obvious), he becomes a Pakistani. Need we even ask more questions?
I was singing along while sitting. I heard someone commenting & calling me a Pakistani. 2 men sat behind me, smirking: Arman Ali pic.twitter.com/l1XlEaWUnS— ANI (@ANI) October 2, 2017
The new brand of nationalism is like two-minute noodles: there are new, clear standards to measure patriotism, an instant trial of whether you meet them, and a swift verdict - patriot, true son of Bharat Mata (daughters don't quite have the same currency), or anti-national and a Pakistani.
In fact, there are dedicated "patriot patrol groups" in the guise of movie-goers who frequent theatres not to watch films but to see if everybody is standing or not when the national anthem is being played. And this has been corroborated by many genuine movie-goers who also happen to be Indian citizens who love their country.
This is also a time of easy nationalism. You can indulge in under-the-table deals, but the table should have a tiny tricolur fluttering on it. You can spit paan anywhere, but be ready to say Bharat Mata ki Jai after spitting. Download a movie illegally, but let not the phone be Chinese or the movie's artistes be Pakistani.
Did you say this patriotism is shallow and insincere? We all know what you are, all the beef you ate has affected your brain. Our swachhta abhiyaan should deal with the likes of you first.
The Supreme Court has made it compulsory for movie-goers to stand up for the national anthem. AP File
This is a nationalism that does not believe in subtlety. Not for New India the goosebumps that the national anthem invoked, the warm glow you felt looking at the national flag. It is not enough to be proud, you need to be loud.
Play the national anthem in cinema halls, where everyone perforce hears it. Stand up for it, so everyone can see it. Hoist the national flag even if your school is drowning, so everyone can salute it.
What is the point of digital India if you don't use your social media account to abuse, troll and insult anti-nationals, whom we have been taught so well to identify?
The Guwahati incident will again bring out these anti-nationals. They will again seek to question the rationale of demanding a performance of patriotism before a leisure activity. They will argue that patriotism should be a spontaneous emotion, not something to be forced down one's throats. They will make the specious argument that one can feel proud of one's country without being asked for instant demonstrations of it.
But a true son of Bharat Mata, and the new Bharat Bhagya Vidhata, will not be misled by them. As long as our nationalism is securely on display, we need not bother about the nation.