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Revising patriotism

Revising patriotism

The debate of patriotism has been intensifying, often giving birth to suspicion in the minds of people that have ultimately resulted in gruesome cruelty and sometimes even death. With the freedom struggle gradually confining itself to textbooks with subtle reminders pictured in the commercial films, there seems to be a dearth of paths through which citizens can actualise their sentiment of belonging to a nation-state. Yet, is the expression of patriotism as consequential as its inherent feeling? Does a citizen, in every step of their life, have to prove their Indianness to be understood as a true citizen? In a ruling last year, the Supreme Court had made it mandatory to play the national anthem at movie theatres prior to the screening of every film, at the behest of a PIL filed by one Shyam Narayan Chouksey.

This order was met with protest from civilians joined by even those belonging to the film fraternity. Cinema as an art essentially supersedes differences brought across by nationalities, traditions, and cultures. It is a space for sheer entertainment, enjoyment and also, sometimes, intellectual engagement. The Supreme Court in its new order asked the Centre to reconsider its previous order that has made the mandatory calling. The bench indicated that the Centre may revise its previous order passed on December 1, 2016, by replacing the word "shall" with "may," presenting the scope for the optional playing of the national anthem. The court said, "People do not need to stand up at a cinema hall to be perceived as patriotic," adding that, "it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he/she is any less patriotic." The Court further emphasised that if the Centre wishes to regulate the lawful and respectful use of the national anthem, then it must go on and make its own amendments without attempting to shoot a gun from the Court's barrel.

"What stops you from amending the laws if you are so eager? Why haven't you done it? Why do you have to throw the burden on the court? People go to movies to have undiluted entertainment. Why should we decide what they should do there?" asked Justice Chandrachud. The Centre, represented by Attorney General KK Venugopal, insisted that in a country as diverse as India, the playing of the national anthem could be a significant binder that would keep "fissiparous tendencies" based on cultural differences at bay. Yet, the Supreme Court dismissing this notion insisted that citizens cannot be compelled to always wear their patriotism on their sleeve. This order to regulate the playing of the national anthem has been ushered in with great positivity.

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