10/12/2015 8:09 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Stand Up For Things That Really Matter India, Not Just The National Anthem

Rob Stothard via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Members of the Greater Manchester Malayalee Hindu Community hold up a flag as they arrive by coach to Wembley Stadium to hear Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak during the second day of an official three day visit on November 13, 2015 in London, England. In his first trip to Britain as Prime Minister Modi's visit will aim to develop economic ties between the two countries. In a busy schedule he will speak at Wembley Stadium, lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, address Parliament and stay overnight at Chequers. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

India is back in the international news, again, for what is being described as "another controversy" that adds to the "debate on growing intolerance" in the country.

Last month, a video emerged, showing an irate group of people throwing out a family (some reports say, a Muslim one) from a cinema hall in Mumbai for not standing up for the national anthem.

Many citizens lauded the actions of the group, condemning the acts of those who did not stand up as "shameless" and equal to "blasphemy." Others averred that there is no need to provide proof of patriotism by standing up for the national anthem - I agree with that.

I grew up in West Bengal, where the national anthem takes on a richer significance because it is written by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who is worshipped in that state.

And it hurts me badly when it is trivialised by being played in an entertainment venue, when it has become clearly evident that some people resent it. I dislike the manner in which it is disrespected. I understand on one level the anger of the people. But I do not condone the way they expressed it.

Let's stop the hypocrisy. Let's stop these fake gestures, these token symbols and this genuflecting in front of an anthem.

It also angers me when people are cruel to minorities and accuse them of not being "patriotic enough". That is unnecessary and violates human rights, which is a cause I am particularly devoted to.

In a democracy, to play the national anthem at any entertainment event is just plain silly. In fact, I can even argue that it's disrespectful and undignified to play the national anthem before some of the trash that Bollywood churns out, complete with ma-behan gaalis and suggestive item numbers.

Does it really preserve the dignity and uphold the integrity of the national anthem to be played in such circumstances?

Patriotism is personal, just like religion is. You display your faith or allegiance at solemn ceremonial occasions. It is not necessary perform these token gestures. India, if you want to be a progressive liberal country, move with the times.

Look at most other countries. Most of them don't play the national anthem in a cinema hall! Fake displays of patriotism and respect for supreme leaders are generally limited to countries like North Korea, China and Thailand. I am sorry if I missed a few. I don't live in the regressive past.

Let's stop the hypocrisy. Let's stop these fake gestures, these token symbols and this genuflecting in front of an anthem.

If the national anthem really means something to you, instead of being angry at these people, you should direct that rage towards yourselves.

The national anthem stands for a national spirit. This should be a collective pact to be kind, compassionate and open to others who have their own interpretation of what patriotism means.

Do you even know what standing up for something means? When do you stand for unity? For one nation? For equality for all? For freedom for all?

Do you stand up against child abuse, domestic violence and rape? Do you stand up against the injustices to minorities? Do you stand up against the harassment that women face daily in public transportation and one the streets? Do you stand up for acid attack victims? Do you stand up for fresh drinking water? For the eradication of poverty?

Do you stand up for free speech? Do you stand up and ask your leaders to stop attacking writers and actors? Do you stand up for the poor, the suffering and the underprivileged?

Why are we so slow to lend a helping hand? Why are we so reluctant to show compassion and understanding?

For shame India. You choose to turn your back on the big issues you should be fighting for and focus on the really small ones?

It takes courage, perseverance and hard work to fight for the big issues. This petty little stuff is easy to do.

Stand up India now before it's too late. Or just sit down and watch the whole world pass you by.

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