In a shocking case of misdirected public anger, a group of people argued, threatened and finally were intimidating enough for a Muslim family to leave a theatre in Mumbai. Their crime? Not standing for the national anthem.

The video that went viral showed a very angry bunch of people argue with the family until they chose to rise from their seats and leave. Some members of the audience burst into applause when they did it.

According to one report , the man initially said he wouldn’t stand but then later said he wasn’t standing due to a bad knee.

The video that went viral. Source: Screengrab

As per the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines , whenever the anthem is played or sung, the audience shall “stand to attention”. Let’s be clear that the family wasn’t in the right, and as per the guidelines they were liable to face action.

But as this Indian Express piece points out, the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act only lists the punishment for someone who prevents another person from singing the anthem or disturbing those who are. Not for those who sit through it.

The family in this case was not guilty of doing anything to actively disrespect the national anthem or preventing others from doing so. The argument over standing for the national anthem has played out multiple times in the past with the result being Twitter spats and brawls in public.

Standing for the national anthem is indeed a mark of respect, but failure to do so shouldn’t make you the target of a threatening crowd. It isn’t respectful to sit through any national anthem, but then citizens shouldn’t ideally have to prove their patriotism every time they go to see a film either. Ideally one should stand every time the anthem is played, even if you’re at home and it plays on the television during a function. But how many times do we do that?

Pointing out peacefully to the family that sitting through the anthem wasn’t right, isn’t a problem. But threatening them with violence and forcing them to leave a theatre, while applauding their departure, is . They should just have been told about what they had done wasn’t ideal, and the theatre should have sat down to enjoy the film they had all paid to see.

And here are a few questions all those sitting in the theatre should answer (without getting outraged): do they always get up when they hear the national anthem? Do they get up when they are at home? Do they change the channel? Do they get up when they are too tired or in the middle of the night?

Too often is patriotism defined purely by simplistic gestures like the playing of a national anthem before a film. National pride has its place, but it is worrying when angry crowds take it upon themselves to enforce and hand out punishments for those who don’t adhere to the norm.