Those with a more elevated sense of patriotism than the symbolism with which some politicians are now obsessed are anxiously awaiting an authentic response to the very valid query raised a few days ago in the apex court by Justice DY Chandrachud.
For His Lordship indicated a possibility of re-visiting the apex court’s order of 30 November 2016 making it mandatory for the National Anthem to be played in cinema halls ~ propriety demands that people stand when the anthem is played, and unfortunately those with physical difficulties were subjected to insult ~ or worse ~ when unable to rise.
Technically that order was not “new”, for the anthem was played in theatres in a display of nationalistic fervour after the Chinese aggression in 1962 but was discontinued when that genuine Emergency was lifted some five years later. The reintroduction last winter, admittedly on orders of the Court, was another indication of the desire to whip up passions after the Uri attack/”surgical strikes” over which political capital was sought to be gleaned.
Hence the widely expressed appreciation of Justice Chandrachud’s asking “why do people have to wear their patriotism on their sleeve” and proceeding to wonder if a dress-code had to be followed if the anthem was on the cards. “Where do we stop this moral policing?” While there was no immediate comment from the two other members of the Bench (the Chief Justice of India, who had passed the earlier order, among them), Justice Chandrachud observed that “there is no mandate that people should stand up when the National Anthem is sung in a cinema hall.
This is obviously because a cinema hall is a place for entertainment… people go to cinema halls for undiluted entertainment, society needs entertainment.” He referred to the flag code and opined, “You don’t have to stand up at a cinema hall to be perceived as patriotic”. That argument would find much favour with those who object to present-day definitions of “nationalism” and moral policing, presently being carried to extreme lengths, what with any criticism of the government resulting in the slapping of sedition charges and demands for using the “scissors” on films that have a couple of sequences critical of government action.
The so-called nationalists are clearly off-target when they miss the point that patriotism arises from a genuine love of one’s country, having a stake in its welfare ~ it cannot be indoctrinated through symbolic gestures.
If elevating was Justice Chandrachud’s line, so too the court’s indication that it was ready for a re-look at its earlier order. That was an education in higher management, decisions are not set in stone.
Even if the prevailing regulations are not substantially modified ~ some circles have not taken kindly to those observations ~ Justice Chandrachud must be lauded for providing a welcome breath of fresh air.