The supreme court of India, correcting its earlier order, said that patriotism is not something one needs to wear “up his sleeve” and that “You don’t have to stand up at a cinema hall to be perceived as patriotic”.
As a student and an Indian, I have enormous respect for the Indian courts and the judiciary system. That being said, I certainly differ with the conclusions made by the esteemed body on this occasion. Through this blog, I aim to understand both the sides on this issue and work out the more reasonable one.
And so, let me begin by addressing the concept of a person not being “less patriotic if he chooses not to stand up for the national anthem”. While the rhetoric of “who are you to judge my patriotism?” and “I will not stand up during the national anthem and still love my nation” are all quite appealing at first sight, how true are they? How practical are they? Let’s analyse the logic that substantiates these arguments.
Firstly, I still fail to understand the rationale, behind not standing up when one is fully fit and able to do so, and still loving the country. All that is being asked for is a person to stand up, to adhere to a form of respect and acknowledgement towards the glories of the nation that he adores. If you love and respect the nation, what issue would you have with acknowledging the praises sung towards it for a mere fifty two seconds? If my mother were being praised, I would certainly not disparage it, by downplaying her repute. Why? Because I love my mother and therefore, anything positive said about her, delights me.
Same is the case with your country. No person teaches you to love it. But it manages to connect with you through the very identity and homelike spirit it gives you, which is something unique only to your own nation. Therefore, if a song that exemplifies the gloriousness of your nation socially, naturally and historically were played, is a mere acknowledgement of it too much to ask for?
Of course, it is a different matter altogether if you do not have emotions or love towards the nation in the first place. However, all those who reject the idea of standing up, boldly claim to have tremendous amount of love for India. Then, I ask them- What reason do you have to love your nation and still choose not to uphold the conventional sign of respect? What substantial reason do you have to protest besides political theatrics and rhetoric?
The supreme court in its verdict had also said, “Love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the national anthem, as well as to the national flag”. Emphasis on the word “shows”. The court went on to say, “You don’t have to stand up at a cinema hall to be perceived as patriotic”.
If I need to “show my respect” and at the same time, not “have to stand”, what other suggestion did the court provide to “show my respect” towards the national anthem? Respectfully sitting? Respectfully eating Nachos? Respectfully slurping coke?
There is one issue with all these ideas: they sound empowering and beautiful in theory, but in practice, they make no sense. If people say that the national anthem should be respected but you “don’t need to stand up”, let us ask the same people how we can respect the national anthem without standing up. If they say that “it lies in your heart”: again, great in theory, not so much in practice. If I was talking loudly or laughing when the national anthem played, could I justify that by saying that it “lies in my heart”? And so, if those who demote standing up cannot provide an alternative mannerism of respect, let them stand up and not downplay the glories of the country.
I myself have lived in Dubai, a multicultural society for 10 years. And let me say on behalf of all Indians that live abroad: everyone irrespective of their religion knows, if there is one country they can call their home, one country they can go back to, one country that will open its arms to them during the worst of times, it is India.
We are fortunate to be part of a country that lets us democratically downplay its own honours. Let us not misuse that opportunity and display a small gesture for so much that it has given us. Standing up for a national anthem is not demanding. But it is indicative. Indicative of your adherence towards the brilliancies of the nation. Indicative of your acknowledgement of the glorious past of the nation. Indicative of your respect towards your fellow brothers and sisters across this glorious country.
Let us keep politics away and celebrate this wonderful nation together.
Note: Whether or not the national anthem should be played in the cinema theatre, is a judicial matter. All I say is that as citizens, irrespective of where it is played, we must do our duty and stand up.