Next week, when you go to see the rampant unbridled simulated and unsimulated snogging in Befikre, be prepared to stand up - to show your respect for the nation. This is thanks to the Supreme Court of India, which has now declared it mandatory to play the national anthem before films at the theatre, accompanied by a visual of the national flag on screen. Indians are also supposed to show “respect” to the anthem.

We’ve also been informed that while the anthem will be played in a commercial establishment, there can be no commercial exploitation of the anthem. We also can’t print the national anthem on any undesirable object – for example, Ranveer Singh’s red underwear.

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While stating that we must stand up when the anthem plays, the Supreme Court has not mentioned any exemption for those who are physically unable to do so. So be prepared for more incidents like the one which took place in Mumbai last year when a family was heckled for not standing up and the one in Goa this year when a paraplegic was abused by other audience members when he didn’t stand up for the anthem.

According to Krishnadas Rajagopal, The Hindu’s legal correspondent who was kindly tweeting out the judgment, Justice Misra explained the judgment succinctly. “Arrey, who are you first? You are an Indian. In other countries you enjoy their restrictions. In India you want no restrictions.”

It’s good to know that this is being described as a “restriction” on our personal freedom.

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This ruling is following a PIL which was made by Shyam Narayan Chouksey, who “sought court’s direction to the government to frame regulations to ensure respect and dignity to the National Anthem."

The lawyer of the petitioner asked the bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra to issue directions that no abridged version of the National Anthem shall be sung at any point of time.

This has the blessing of the Ministry of Home Affairs which asked state governments and other law enforcement agencies to “initiate action against those, found disrespecting the National Anthem and the state emblem”.

So what sense does a diktat like this make? And why should a movie-watching public be forced to listen to the national anthem when they’ve gone to watch a film which has nothing to do with patriotism or nationalism? How is this different from being made to stand and sing songs during school assembly? We’ve been told what to eat, whom to have sex with – now we are being told how to display our patriotism. The only silver lining being that it’s less violent than being encouraged to kill people who eat beef.

But why single out movie watching audiences? If we must force citizens to overtly display their patriotism, then maybe we should make the playing of the national anthem mandatory before Parliament sits every day. But has that happened? No. Because our politicians who like giving instructions on what we must eat, who we must sleep with, and how much patriotism we must show – don’t think they need to lead by example. Also, all that standing to attention would disturb their nap time in Parliament.

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But since this is inevitable, I have a few suggestions for complete and total nationalism. Make the playing of the anthem mandatory everywhere. All citizens with mobile phones should have to mandatorily download the national anthem.

When you open the door of an Uber to enter, the anthem should be played and you need to sing along before being allowed to get in.

When we meet any government official – bureaucrat or minister – we will need to play the national anthem on our phones, which we must sing along to while saluting the public servant concerned.

Every time the Indian cricket team hits a six, the national anthem will play, and we all need to stand up and sing along. Most importantly, only people who can sing the anthem in tune and while standing on one leg, will be allowed access to withdraw their money from their bank account.

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If you must force people to prove their patriotism, there are more boring ways of doing so. You could mandate that those who can, need to feed the hungry, adopt a stray, help clean a street. Anything that would help improve the nation directly. But we all know that too much constructive patriotism can be such a bore.

Going by the fact that the writer of the national anthem, Rabindranath Tagore had such ambivalent feelings about nationalism – which he explained clearly in Nationalism in India (1917), maybe the next step should be to change the anthem itself.

But irony is a friend of the new India, so we might as well suck it up and follow the words of that other great (West) Indian, Bob Marley who might have meant to sing, “Get up, stand up, stand up for the Right”. 

Feature Image Source: PTI