It will be a repetitive ritual
The order of the Supreme Court to play the national anthem before every feature film in cinema halls is a curious act. Where does the Supreme Court get the power to issue executive fiats, and on what basis is the court encroaching upon purely executive and legislative functions which is itself a dangerous move. That apart, the point that the court tried to make is the necessity of playing the national anthem before a feature film (where people go purely for entertainment), and that it would instil “constitutional patriotism” amongst people.
Does hearing and standing for the national anthem instil patriotism? Quite largely, it excites us and makes us feel emotionally attached and proud of our nation. In public situations it builds a common bondage, a camaraderie and reinforces a larger common national identity. But beyond this does the playing/singing and standing for the national anthem does anything more substantial? Not really. Patriotism has many meanings and nuances, apart from feeling good about your nation. Does the constant hearing of the national anthem push the many “desired” traits of a patriot? Does it make you more law-abiding, does it prompt greater consciousness of the spirit and elements of our Constitution, does it make you more humane, compassionate and respectful towards all fellow citizens? The answer is a clear no. A reasonable frequency and appropriate time, and place and event for the national anthem does reinforce this feeling of joy and pride in our nation. But as you increase the frequency of symbols and symbolic gestures (as the anthem is), and distort the logic of symbolic gestures an their association with appropriate events, you cheapen and weaken the force of the impact and relevance of such gestures. I believe the Supreme Court has done that.
Do judges really believe that if you keep hearing the national anthem you will feel more patriotic and join the armed forces, or start reporting anti-national activities, or be more prepared to die for your country, or rule of law would prevail more, or less women would be abused, or tax payments would be more honest, or officers will not take bribes anymore, or politicians (who on an average hear the national anthem more than others) would become better and greater leaders, or police persons would start catching thieves and stop harassing innocents, or people won’t kidnap fellow citizens anymore, or fundamentalists would stop spreading hatred, or communal riots would stop, or 1984 and 2002 Gujarat would not happen again? This list is endless, and that the answer to each is a firm no, just shows how facile and superficial this order is.
The other part of this judgment is playing the anthem before feature films in cinema halls. There are places and a time for anything and everything. But what is the basis of believing that playing the national anthem before a feature film would increase patriotic feelings? If somehow their lordships believe that the mood prior to being entertained is fertile to instil patriotism, then why leave other forms of entertainment, or do they believe that films reduce patriotism, therefore, it is necessary to reinforce just before they start?
The playing off and the standing for the national anthem is an exciting and exhilarating experience. It makes us proud and joyous, but if it becomes a routine, facile repetition, before events like movies, where we go for much more simpler needs of entertainment, then we are only reducing these fine moments to a repetitive ritual, which as all things repeated unnecessarily would lose value and impact.
I firmly believe that judges have actually done a disservice and this shall over time weaken the impact that the singing of the national anthem normally does to a citizen of my country. There is a law of diminishing marginal utility in everything.
Sandeep Dikshit is Congress spokesperson
An attempt to restore unity
Why should the Supreme Court’s order to play the national anthem in cinema halls or for people to stand up when the anthem is played, be seen as illegal, for, all it has done as the custodian of India’s Constitution, is to re-instil respect for the flag, the nation, and to restore a sense of nationalism and patriotism in each and every Indian citizen, and love for the motherland.
Playing the national anthem and remembering the multicultural diverse aspects of our country for 52 seconds is not going to harm the amount of our pleasure time during any film. Rather, it will help us in connecting with the socio-cultural identity of the country and sense of proud we carry with it.
This decision should not be debated, but rather seen as the crying need of the hour to restore the principle of unity in strength.
In my view, the underlying message of Jana Gana Mana Adhinayak Jaya Hai is pluralism, a guide for people through the ages, and also a tribute to those who fought, struggled and sacrificed their lives for our freedom from the British colonial rule.
The timing of the order is right because the citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty-bound to show respect to the national anthem, which is a symbol of constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality.
One just has to be present at a sporting event, national or international, to feel the sense of pride and honour swelling in our hearts and minds the moment India’s national anthem is played. Who also does not stand up in homes when the national anthem is played before an event appearing on television?
Respect for the anthem “causes no harm”, as it is sung at various places like schools, public functions, events, etc. Those terming the Supreme Court’s decision as illegal and a coercive measure should take a step back and ask themselves, will it harm anyone if it is played at another venue? Or will it harm anyone if one stands up in as natural a manner when the anthem is played?
There may be arguments and opposition by some to this enforcement of a brand of hyper-nationalism by the Supreme Court, but the law is clear about the national anthem as has been already mentioned in the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, and all that the Supreme Court has done is just read out the law.
Respecting the anthem is secular and it must be understood and believed that every law has its foundation in the Constitution of the country. A country exists on the basis of its enshrined laws and fundamental rights, and therefore, what must be understood is that the law of the land and the Constitution are unbreachable. When we can claim the freedom of religion, speech and expression and other fundamental freedoms under the Constitution, why can’t we obey the fundamental duties under the same?
Our founding fathers wanted limitless and boundless growth of the nation, and the tricolour of saffron, white and green of equal width, with a 24-spoked blue wheel or the “Dharma Chakra” at its centre aimed to and continues to espouse that message.
What does the national flag signify? The saffron stripe signifies courage, sacrifice and a spirit of renunciation. The white stripe signifies purity and truth and the green stripe stands for faith and fertility. The “Dharma Chakra” denotes continual progress of the country. Its blue colour connotes the boundless sky and fathomless sea.
The court order does not entail any penalty or punishment for not standing when the national anthem is played and it is for the people to show respect when the national anthem is sung or played.
The country is enthused about rising for the national anthem and the love for the country comes from within. People will do this willingly. The spirit behind hailing it or singing it is to celebrate and fulfil the desire of ensuring the welfare of all people and a win-win for India’s destiny.
Aditya Jha is a Delhi BJP leader...