Days after the Supreme Court directed all cinema halls to play the national anthem before the start of a film and made it mandatory for all present to stand as a mark of respect, 12 persons, including two women, were detained by police for not standing while the anthem was being played at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.
A day earlier, eight persons, including three women, were assaulted by a group of 20 in a Chennai cinema hall for not standing when the anthem was being played. The eight who were assaulted were booked by police under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. Police said they were forced to register a case against the eight as the other group had cited the Supreme Court order.
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In Thiruvananthapuram, the 12 were let off after registration of a case under Section 188 of the IPC — disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant. City Police Commissioner Sparjan Kumar said a case under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act was not filed since the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, organisers of the film festival, did not move any complaint.
Those taken into custody were named as Ramith Raj, Vijesh, Ajith, Amaljith, Jishnu, Mridula, Vineesh Kumar, Joylal C Jose, Haneefa C S, Noushad, Ashok Kumar and Rathimole — Vineesh Kumar, Joylal C Jose and Rathimole are journalists.
Vineesh Kumar said there was a scramble for seats before the film. “If we did not sit on chairs, I thought we would lose the seats. That apart, I cannot fully agree with this directive. For all shows from the morning, I stood up in respect when the national anthem was played. It was made a controversy at the intervention of Sangh Parivar supporters,” he said.
The incident took place at the Nishagandhi open air theatre where an Egyptian film ‘Clash’ was screened at 6 pm. When the anthem was being played, the 12 did not stand up though festival director Kamal had urged delegates to do that. Policemen on duty at the theatre, who reminded the 12 about the directive, later took them into custody. They were let off after registration of a case.
Earlier in the day, Yuva Morcha state general secretary R S Rajeev complained to DGP Loknath Behera, seeking action against festival delegates who failed to stand up when the anthem was played. The DGP sought an explanation from the festival organisers.
At the Kasi theatre in Chennai Sunday, eight persons who did not stand for the anthem were assaulted during the screening of Tamil film ‘Chennai 28-II’. Social worker Sreela M, one of the three women in the group, said they were assaulted and abused by a group of 20, allegedly led by a student.
“It is true that we did not stand up when the national anthem was played,” Sreela said, adding she believed this was not the way to prove one’s patriotism. “I work for people. Many among us were social workers like me. One among us, who was beaten badly, works as a college lecturer. Another is a freelance writer. It was just that we did not stand up. But by Sunday evening, the other group also alleged that we took selfies,” she said.
Sreela said there was no argument until the interval. “Almost an hour later, as the movie was about to resume after the interval, a man grabbed Viji (freelance writer among the eight) by his shirt and sought an explanation for not standing up. He kept threatening he would kill us. Some 20 people seated near him joined him. We asked him to call the police if he had a problem with what we had done. But he grabbed my hand and pushed me. Nobody in the hall came to our support,” she said.
A security guard stepped in and led the 20 outside the hall. The eight who were beaten were also told to leave the hall. “We were afraid to go out since they were waiting outside. We requested him to allow us to remain in the hall till the end of the movie,” Sreela said.
An official at the Kasi theatre said the matter was settled but the 20 who had stepped out returned while the film was still on. “As they started abusing the girls, we took them out again. The manager had asked them to call the police if they had a complaint. By then, a police patrol team arrived,” the official said.
Around 2.30 pm, all of them were taken to a police station in MGR Nagar where, Sreela said, officers gave them a lecture on nationalism and patriotism. A police officer said an inquiry had been ordered into the assault.