Few had heard of Shyam Narayan Chouksey until Wednesday afternoon, before the Supreme Court ruled on the Bhopal-based social activist’s petition and held that the national anthem should be played before screening films in theatres. Chouksey, 76, who retired as an engineer with the Central Warehousing Corporation in 2000 and took up social work — he runs the NGO Rashtrahit Gandhiwadi Manch, but the name does not ring a bell for many even in Bhopal — now devotes time to litigating about the national anthem and flag, besides the odd environmental issue.
The “hurt” he felt over the issue of national anthem in cinema halls goes back 13 years. He had gone to watch the film Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. “When the national anthem was being played in the movie, I stood up. But I was the only person standing. Those behind me said that I was obstructing their view — instead of standing up they asked me to sit down. It hurt me,” Chouksey said.
Offended by the experience, as also the “commercial use of the national anthem” in the film, Chouksey filed a PIL in Madhya Pradesh High Court in Jabalpur. A division bench agreed with his contention and banned screening of the film across India. The order was later stayed.
Chouksey moved the apex court a couple of months ago armed with instances of “insult to the national anthem” and seeking appropriate order. Welcoming Wednesday’s court order, he said, “It has come after a fight of a decade-and-a-half.” “I am aware that people will start linking me to the BJP, but I am not associated with any political party,’’ he said.