National Anthem in india

This article on “Should National Anthem Be Made Necessary in Movie Halls?” is written by Ishita Mehta.

With an aim to create and instill patriotism and nationalism in citizens, the Supreme Court has come out with a ruling  that the National Anthem should be played in all cinema halls across India before screening of a film, accompanied by national flag on screen. This step has been taken because of the belief by the Honorable judges that the citizens of India don’t really know how to sing the national anthem and people must be taught.

  • There have been different reactions by Indians with respect to mandatory singing of National Anthem. “It can rile, it can rally, it can inspire or enrage”.
  • Many have taken stand in favor of  this Law being enforced. Many have argued for standing up during the National Anthem. “What’s the harm in standing?”

There are a lot of people who actually believe that there is nothing wrong in standing and it is a matter of just a minute which leads to nothing bad. They believe that this will again awaken the feeling of nationalism in Indian Citizens and everyone should stand up for the pride of India.

According to ANI, the order comes with additional caveats such as everyone present in the hall must rise and “pay respect” to the National Anthem. The court said- “Time has come when people should feel they live in a nation” and “even in  Shastras, nationalism was accepted.

The plea had said that Maharashtra, Goa and several southern states have had the practice of playing the national anthem in cinema halls and also observed that a few decades ago, it was mandatory to play the national anthem at the end of the screening of a movie. It has also been said by the judge that all the doors of cinema halls must be closed when the national anthem is being played to prevent people from entering or exiting.

Also, a protocol has been issued for the playing or singing of the anthem at functions where constitutional dignitaries are in attendance.

An average Indian may not watch more than a movie in theater in a month. The national anthem is merely for 52 seconds. We can surely give 52 seconds of our time in a month for singing national anthem and remember the sacrifices made by our freedom fighter for liberating our country.

Is The “Imposition” Really Working?

Unfortunately, the sense of patriotism does not kick in where it should for most of these people. There have been a lots of incidents relating to public heckling of citizens who aren’t standing up during the singing of the national anthem.

But by jeering or heckling someone inside a theater for a reason purely personal, and by making them leave out of sheer exasperation, it gives them a sense of dominance. It gives them this false sense of achievement where they think they stood up for their nation and its pride.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in orders relating to the singing of the Anthem, says- “Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention”, but, the order does not say anything about any penalty or any monetary compensation for failure to comply with the order. So, basically here it serves as an advisory role.

Here, I am also gonna talk about Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 which says that nobody should intentionally cause any disturbance to the assemble engaged in singing and prevent singing of the Anthem.

If they do cause any disturbance they will be punished with the imprisonment of the term, which may extend to three years or they can ask you to pay a certain amount of fine. By this accord, those who force others to stand or leave if they don’t ‘respect’ the National Anthem in turn are creating a ruckus and are in fact those who do not respect the National Anthem.

But cinemas refuse to take an official stand on-`whether a person should stand or not’. They say it’s up to each individual. But the MHA ( Ministry of Home affairs) has stated an exception in this segment i.e. in any course of a newsreel or documentary, if the anthem is played, there is no need of audience to stand up as it will lead to dilemma and confusion amongst everyone.

There is a little  history behind this sudden playing of national anthems before screening in the movie theater. In 2003, the then Congress-NCP government had accepted a demand from the Nationalist Youth Congress to restart and enforce the practice of playing the national anthem before each film, which had faded in the 1980s.

Till the 1980, news reels screening important national or international events had the national anthem as a part of it. Exhibition of films is a state subject and Exhibitors have produced their own versions of the national anthem which they are currently playing before a film screening and such films will then fall into the category of short films and it is approved  as per the Cinematography Act, 1952.

Playing National Anthem Is Not A Good Idea!

There also have been a lot of views against playing of the National Anthem in the theatres. People have been wondering that how can playing of National Anthem can put a Patriotic feeling inside every citizen. It has come to this point that citizens of India don’t want to show  patriotism, respect and love for this great country by singing the national anthem in a cinema hall.

Basically, they have been saying that people go to the cinemas for just some entertainment and not to get any certificate on patriotism. Playing the National Anthem can be mandated only in school and colleges.

It has been said that the love and respect should come from within and not just by singing the national anthem before start of a film. Also, according to The Orders Relating To The National Anthem Of India, cinema halls are not listed as one of the places to showcase the National Anthem.

The simpler argument, however, is that you have a captive audience which is there to watch a film and if you play the National Anthem just before the film starts, the audience have literally nowhere to go but be a part of it. It is a way in which the government is force-feeding you national pride and this can totally dilute the importance of National Anthem when played before the film.

There have been a lot of cases where people have been harassed and forced to get out of the cinemas.

This only makes it cheaper by forcing people to listen to it and then add to this the hooligans who take it upon themselves to serve ‘justice’ when someone does not want to get up. People believe that this is promoting a spirit that has nothing to do with patriotism of any sort.

The National Anthem was last ordered to be played in cinemas in India after the country’s 1962 war with China but the practice was discontinued in 1975 after most moviegoers ignored it.

In the sixties, after the India-China war, it was mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem after every movie, but the disrespect led to the practice being discontinued.

I wonder where next we might be required to display our patriotic credentials. It is no one’s case that the national anthem or flag not be shown due respect but a movie theater, where people are not really focused on nationalistic sentiments – unlike say a major sporting event – seems hardly the place to reiterate one’s patriotism.

Using potent symbols of nationalism and patriotism in mundane circumstances or places, could undermine their effectiveness in inspiring people. Of course, now that the apex court has ruled, theaters will have no choice but to carry on with this. But, it promises to increase the chaos and confusion that we already see in any public space and takes away a bit of the enjoyment people might hope to experience, while talking in a movie, while letting down their hair.

Opinions of people should be taken into account. My opinion here is to let the anthem play in the movie halls on special days, like the Republic Day or Independence day.

Playing it on every single day before every show in every theater in the country is over doing it, in my opinion. Of course, I will stand up whenever and wherever the anthem is played if this decision is enforced. But, when it is forced down on millions of people, like this, it detracts from the specialty of the anthem. A movie hall experience is not a formal Government inauguration ceremony, or convocation or similar formal functions.

Lastly, I would like to quote a few words by Rabindra Nath Tagore.

“Clever lies become matters of self-congratulation. Solemn pledges become a farce—laughable for their very solemnity. The Nation, with all its paraphernalia of power and prosperity, its flags and pious hymns, its blasphemous prayers in the churches and the literary mock thunders of its patriotic bragging, cannot hide the fact that the Nation is the greatest evil for the Nation. that all its precautions are against it and any new birth of its fellow in the world is always followed in its mind by the dread of a new peril.”

― Rabindranath Tagore, Nationalism.

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