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Is It Fair To Force People To Stand Up During The National Anthem?

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By Trisha Gupta:

“Stand up for what you believe in”, we have all been hearing this since our childhood. But what about the things you don’t believe in? Is it okay to sit through them? Apparently not. If that was the case, then Salman M wouldn’t have been arrested for not standing up while the national anthem was being played in a movie theatre.

Indian national flag

As citizens of a democratic country, we should be able to choose our political beliefs and convictions. We should have the freedom to choose to believe, or not to for that matter, in any ideology we see fit.

The national anthem, no doubt, is more than a general ‘ideology’. It is a song that every citizen grows up hearing. It is so intricately sewn into our identity that it is difficult to part ourselves from it. It is only right we show some respect to it. However, what about those people who, for reasons of their own, do not identify with this song? Is it possible to enforce an identity? Is it fair to enforce an identity?

Technically speaking, there is no legal obligation to stand up when the national anthem is playing. According to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, “Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.” However, according to the Home Ministry rules, “Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention. However, when in the course of a newsreel or documentary the Anthem is played as a part of the film, it is not expected of the audience to stand as standing is bound to interrupt the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the Anthem.”

So as one can see, no penalty is laid down for not standing up during the anthem is being played. Someone who is disillusioned regarding the very idea and concept of the nation-state cannot on principle identify themselves with a symbol of national pride. Similar is the case of someone who does not support what India has come to represent. Also, it is quite safe to say that victims of state driven oppression will find it very difficult to “show their respect” to the nation.

“How can you respect your nation if you cannot respect your national anthem?” an award winning Indian advert poses this question. However, not standing up for the national anthem does not in any way portray anti-nationalistic sentiments. It merely means that the way the nation is perceived by different people is different. While for some a patriotic act comprises of standing up for 52 seconds while the song is played, or changing their whatsapp ‘DPs’ to the Indian National Flag for a day, others may find it fruitful to show their devotion by doing something constructive for the country.

As citizens of a democracy, we should have what democracy claims to provide us – the choice, freedom and liberty to a difference of opinion.

You must be to comment.
  1. No Disrespect !

    I don’t believe in Faux Patriotism as well and do not necessarily think that Standing for the National anthem proves anything.But reportedly the person accused not only failed to stand up for the National Anthem in the Movie theatre but was also Hooting rather loudly.

    While the severe prosecution he is facing for this is preposterous, What was the need for him to Make any sort of loud noise.He perfectly must have known that You are not supposed to Make Noise during the National Anthem,In not just India,But any country for that matter.Its blatant Disrespect! If you don’t wanna stand up,Don’t ! But don’t make any sort of Degrading noise ! Apparently this person also made derogatory posts during Independence day !

    So I don’t think there is anybody right here ! While the law is definitely over reacting ,This person should also be held accountable and not be made a victim to be Sympathized.

    1. Sam

      Just to clarify: Noise was made after the anthem was over and someone questioned his behaviour. I heard this from a person who was there at the theatre at that time, when he narrated the incident in one Malayalam news channel.

    2. Re-

      My Source comes From a friend working in Deccan Chronicle – Kochi..And according to him the charge is specifically ‘Sitting’ & ‘Hooting’ ‘During’ the national anthem video.

      That’s why a brawl broke out between between Salman along with his group of friends and the audience.

    3. Prashant Kaushik

      Perfect reply from “No Disrespect”

  2. Vikas

    I hate Preity, Mrs Puneet Issar and all others who make people do this. Jingoism, nationalism is not going to take us anywhere. All lip service to nation, no real work. People dying around doesn’t get anyone’s attention; people not standing catches everyone’s attention. Huh.

  3. Babar

    Feminists continue to spew venom at everything and everyone around them. A great personality like Mahatma Gandhi is slandered vehemently, men are treated like dogs, the moral fabric of society is torn to shreds, and now this. Does anyone apart from a feminist question showing respect to their country’s flag, anthem, etc, anywhere in the world? Sorry I forgot, freedom of speech must prevail.

    Proud to be Indian.

    1. Trisha

      Babar, please read my article. Where was feminism in this? This was an article about nationalism and feigned patriotism. Does a simple act like standing up prove you are a true patriot? And yes, we do have freedom of speech, which means everybody is entitled to their opinions.

    2. Manuj Tangri

      Agree with Trisha. This article is not about feminism!!

    3. Babar

      Does a simple act like standing up prove you are a true patriot?

      Sitting down and needlessly debating whether we should stand up or not does not prove patriotism either, and neither does hooting and posting derogatory messages regarding independence day.

      And yes, we do have freedom of speech, which means everybody is entitled to their opinions.

      There is a difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. Every country has some limit to freedom of speech. Indians reiterate the nonsense fed to them by their U.S. masters, while in reality the U.S. is full of hypocrisy and double standards.

      From Press TV:

      Deny The Holocaust And Go To Prison

      Those who think that Europe is a “beacon of freedom” and “heaven of liberty” should give themselves an opportunity to reconsider what they had simplistically believed for so long. Continue reading

    4. Joe

      Why on earth did you drag feminists in between this…:\

  4. Babar

    Either you have not read the news or deliberately twisted it to suit your agenda. The arrest was made because the man in question was hooting, disrespecting the anthem verbally, and posted derogatory messages regarding Independence day.

  5. Manuj Tangri

    Well said Trisha. You nearly spoke what I had in mind. I completely agree with you. I think the human race in general has stopped applying there brain. It is true in every aspect of life, we all follow what are parents, school have taught us or what we see others doing, be it correct or incorrect. No one stops and thinks. Before every movie that is screened in Pune theaters you like it or not people have to stand up to the national anthem, people chant slogans of bharat mata ji Jai. After the movie I see these same people doing the extreme opposite. They litter, break traffic laws etc etc, then what is the point of singing the national anthem.

    I guess people should THINK and be better human beings. Anyway great article.

    1. Trisha

      Thank You Manoj!

  6. Veda Nadendla

    Well done. This is a sensible article about a subject that plagues many. There are millions of people who stand during the national anthem with no emotion to it whatsoever. They stand as if ordered to stand, like conditioned dogs in an experiment. How on earth is that patriotism? How will the government gauge who is actually disrespecting the national anthem when the only measure of disrespect is not standing or not singing?

    Good job with this article!

    1. Trisha

      Thank you!!

  7. Joe

    Whatever you have written is completely right however I urge you to read the complete news regarding what has actually happen in your above mentioned the situation. The student was arrested not for ‘not standing for the national anthem’ but because he was hooting and also for published abusive posts on social media.
    Now, this is not acceptable. I see many people not standing up for the national when I go to a theater and no one has a problem. The problem here is that he was making fun of those were doing it.

    Here is the link:
    http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/kerala-student-life-in-jail-for-not-standing-during-national-anthem/1/394686.html

    1. Rohan

      Joe, if he’s tried for sedition, his life is going to be destroyed. Hooting might be indecorous, but surely you’d agree it’s not worth destroying a human being’s life for? The same goes for abusive posts posted online: as long as they don’t directly incite violence, you shouldn’t ruin people’s lives over them. It’s that simple.

  8. Prashant Kaushik

    No Freedom for those who disrespect the ones who had actually given and preserved this ‘Freedom’ by sacrificing their lives.
    Nothing comes free of cost, not even the right to freedom.

    1. Trisha

      “No freedom for those”? That very phrase is against the democratic ideology. Now we should respect that too, shouldn’t we?

  9. Rishiraj Sengupta

    Personally when i read it on the news i also felt the same. We live in a country with problems. And instead of helping solve these problems, our beloved (?) Celebrities find time to create news by the stupidest ways possible. It might even be against human rights. I am a human being, it’s my wish when i want to stand or sit. Why should i listen to some random woman. After reading your post, i have realised that at least im not the only one thinking so, for till now i was scared that i might be unpatriotic. Only yesterday i read about how much bill gates has spent his money on helping society, and instead of taking a leaf out of his book, preity is trying to create national sympathy for herself !! These are the same people who harass couples by the beach ! Sheesh.

    Wish for an India with more common sense

    1. Trisha

      Thank you for commenting.

  10. Trisha

    A lot of questions are being raised on the fact that I didn’t mention the “hooting”. I’d like to clarify that I did read the entire news. My interpretation was that his primary fault was not standing up which triggered protests by the audience followed by an argument. He has been “allegedly” charged with sedition. However, I realise that I should have mentioned it as now it appears that I purposefully omitted that. I’ll keep it in mind next time.Thank you.

  11. sourav

    I think the way u tried to express and highlight the present situation was very subtle and right on the spot. It is a food for thought for all of us who crave for a change, who crave for a better tomorrow. Dont know about others, but definitely it leaves me with a thought about what my social responsibilities are and am I doing justice to it. Am I asking “why” or too cowed down with my own self to feel “Let the world go to hell”. Great work Trisha. Looking forward to read more from you. God Bless

    1. Trisha

      Thank you so much Sourav. It really means a lot.

  12. Apoorv

    I think that the national anthem stands for the very nation-state of India whose constitution provides you with the fundamental ”freedom of speech”. If not for the country, let us be deferential towards the privileges this country bestows upon us utilizing which we are, at the very first place, able to express dissension towards the anthem.

    Dissent should be allowed to take its course, albeit, not at the cost of disparaging others’ emotions.

    1. Trisha

      Vinay, articles of national pride like flags and anthems have a different meaning to different people. For you and me, these articles bring a sense of patriotism and nationalism, if you may. However, there are many ares in our country where these symbols of everyday violence. Take the example of the North-Eastern people. They are a part of our country, our flag and anthem is their flag and anthem. But there have been cases where they have been discriminated against. This is an excerpt from an article written by Nivedita Menon “A young Manipuri lecturer in Delhi University tells of sitting at a roadside dhaba in Imphal with a few friends, when a uniformed Indian Army officer passing by, stopped. Stand up, he barked. Sing the national anthem. They had barely begun, when he slapped one of them. Your accent is wrong, he said. Do it again. They sang it again. ” So you see, to those people who were humiliated, the national anthem becomes a reminder of that constant humiliation. Doesn’t it become inhuman to ask them to relive the humiliation by asking them to respect it?
      P.S. Thank you for not making it personal.

    2. Trisha

      Apoorv, I agree with you. We have the country, hence we have the National Anthem . But here it becomes important to understand what the country means to the people. I am not saying “Don’t stand up” I am saying there should be the choice and the ones who choose not to should not be condemned

  13. Aditya Malpani

    Almost everyone here has told about the hooting from the mentioned guy. So I will not talk more

    But as I think all national anthems should be respected. Its just the matter of standing for a minute or so. Also as citizen of the Republic of India it is fundamental duty of every citizen to abide by that http://www.constitution.org/cons/india/p4a51a.html

  14. Vinay

    Dear Author,
    Allow me to advise you that your work is half baked and represents immature argument.
    As per your argument democracy means that you should have right to not stand for national anthem. Which Ofcourse is your given right. But why only civilians should in that case show respect towards the anthem let it spiral down to armed forces, elected netas, government employees, police …the whole nation, let’s express our democratic right to not standup for national anthem next time it plays.
    When you do wake up and understand the importance of flags and national anthem. Do understand the pride and hope it gives to the people of a nation. A national anthem is not mere a song..its function is to bring a sense of pride and unity.
    I would welcome any counter arguments from your side.
    Ps: I have not commented on you at personal level, my argument is against your article.

    1. Trisha

      Vinay, articles of national pride like flags and anthems have a different meaning to different people. For you and me, these articles bring a sense of patriotism and nationalism, if you may. However, there are many ares in our country where these symbols of everyday violence. Take the example of the North-Eastern people. They are a part of our country, our flag and anthem is their flag and anthem. But there have been cases where they have been discriminated against. This is an excerpt from an article written by Nivedita Menon “A young Manipuri lecturer in Delhi University tells of sitting at a roadside dhaba in Imphal with a few friends, when a uniformed Indian Army officer passing by, stopped. Stand up, he barked. Sing the national anthem. They had barely begun, when he slapped one of them. Your accent is wrong, he said. Do it again. They sang it again. ” So you see, to those people who were humiliated, the national anthem becomes a reminder of that constant humiliation. Doesn’t it become inhuman to ask them to relive the humiliation by asking them to respect it?
      P.S. Thank you for not making it personal.

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