POLITICS

Just Why Should The National Anthem Be Played In Cinema Halls?

Force feeding nationalism kool aid to those in pursuit of entertainment is ludicrous.

30/11/2016 12:59 PM IST | Updated 30/11/2016 2:17 PM IST
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Danish Siddiqui / Reuters


The Supreme Court has just ordered the national anthem be played before every movie in every cinema hall in the Republic of India. "When the national anthem is played it is imperative for everyone to show honour and respect. It would instill a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism," the judges reportedly observed.

Can someone please measure just how much nationalism and patriotism there is in India? Like the currency notes absent from our pockets these days, can someone please give us data on how much N&P Kool Aid we need? How much do we already have?

The poor who can't afford to buy cinema tickets, how do we plan to sell them the N&P Kool Aid? Why just ask for the image of the flag on the screen, we might as well have the real flag there? Like the no smoking warnings when a character smokes, why don't we also insert some text on the screen throughout the movie: 'Repeat after me, India is Great'.

When is a country's national anthem played? It is played in international sporting events when teams represent countries. It is played in diplomatic events, when diplomats and officials represent the country. It is played on national days, when the country is celebrating the nation, such as independence or republic day.

The national anthem should be played when respect is to be paid to the nation. Just why are we required to pay respect to the nation before watching a movie? It's as logical as asking to play the national anthem before eating at a restaurant, or every morning before entering the office, or at every toll booth on the highways. Just why?

With due respect to the honourable apex court, sometimes you wonder why they spend time on things best left to the government. Or, on really inconsequential things.

It would be funny if it weren't sad, this imposition of having to stand to attention before Jana Gana Mana as one readies to watch Tum Bin 2 or Arrival. Once again, just why?

In Goa in October this year, writer Salil Chaturvedi didn't stand up for the national anthem. He was assaulted by a couple from behind. The guardians of nationalism who beat him didn't know he suffered from a spinal injury that prevented him from rising on his feet. Chaturvedi is an award-winning disability rights activist.

There have been many such cases of people taking to violence in cinema halls if someone doesn't stand up for the national anthem. In October 2014, a South African woman chose to not stand up for the national anthem in a Mumbai cinema. In her words, here's why: "I am not an Indian citizen and have made no geopolitical commitments to India. Secondly, I object to nationalism as a concept in which the population is a homogenised collective characterised by the country in which they are born and most importantly, I was uncomfortable with the idea that it was forced. I don't believe that any of my reasons above mean that I disrespect India or its national symbols." Her Indian boyfriend was assaulted by fellow moviegoers for this.

The national anthem used to be played in cinema halls across India, once upon a time, but the practice faded away. In 2002, Narendra Verma of the Nationalist Congress Party lobbied and got the Maharashtra government to order cinema halls to do it again. Mr Verma's logic was that it would help unite people. But instance of violence on people who don't stand up for the national anthem show it is achieving the opposite of unity.

What is this unity we need? Aren't we already united?

A Madurai-based lawyer, R Pandi Maharaja, felt that cinema halls in Tamil Nadu should not be allowed to play the national anthem before a movie because some people don't stand up for it, causing disrespect. The Madras High Court dismissed the petition last year. As it happens, the law doesn't require you to stand up for the national anthem.

The Supreme Court should have dismissed the petition filed by Bhopal resident Shyam Narayan Chouski, because playing the national anthem before movies is just ridiculous. One could even argue that doing so is an insult to the national anthem.

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