The decision by the Supreme Court (SC) on whether citizens should be asked to stand up when the national anthem is played in cinema halls has sparked off a big debate in the society and social media.
The SC reacting to various petitions earlier had expressed contrary views so one can perhaps say that Monday’s verdict may also not be a ‘full and final’ view of the judiciary. The court has left the last word to the government and final notification will come out next year on the subject.
However the verdict gives an opportunity to take a look at how tokenism is somehow taking over in many sectors in India today!
While reading out the judgment. the SC judges have expressed concern perhaps in a lighter vein about whether the government will at some later stage make it mandatory to follow a certain dress code for movie-goers since they are being asked to pay respect to the national anthem by standing up on a mandatory basis!
The SC has mentioned that the spirit of patriotism cannot be ‘imposed’ forcefully on citizens. That’s a very valid and thought-provoking line of thinking.
This thought expressed by the honourable judges is also an eye-opener for many. This thinking by the SC gives rise to some crucial questions about whether the idea of playing the national anthem in a place like a cinema hall itself is just tokenism. When a citizen goes to watch a movie to a cinema hall, what is his/ her frame of mind?
Most of the members of the audience come to the cinema hall with some snacks like sandwiches or popcorn and soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi in their hands. They come in casual clothes and are in a casual mood, sometimes speaking on the mobile phone etc.
Suddenly when the National Anthem plays on the screen, they are forced to stand with these snacks and cold drinks in their hands. Is it not an insult to the National Anthem? Why play the National Anthem in a place like a cinema house in the first place?
National Anthem must be respected and for that to happen it should be played in only official places such as schools or government organisations, not at cinema halls or places where people go to have fun in a casual mood.
The wider question, of course, is whether we are moving towards too much of tokenism and symbolism on every front. Whether it is an idea like Swachh Bharat or the issue of getting rid of VIP culture that this country has cultivated for decades.
The general observation is that we have a situation where only superficial token measures are taken and the real problem remains untouched. PM Modi’s idea of removing red beacons from cars used by ministers is one such idea of tokenism.
Today every minister of the State or Central government goes around in a convoy of at least 4 to 6 large cars. Most of the times normal traffic is blocked when VIP movement happens, queues are broken at airports etc. What is exactly achieved by just removing the red beacon on the car is a matter of research!
Standing up for the National Anthem is just similar tokenism. If a citizen is evading taxes, indulging in economic offences quietly, breaking traffic rules all the time and then just stands up during the national anthem in a cinema hall, would you call that citizen a patriot?
Like the court has pointed out, patriotism cannot be forced like this, it is an emotion that should come from within. No compulsion can force people to become patriots. India must rise above tokenism and symbolism.