Two persons were arrested in Hyderabad for failing to stand up for the national anthem inside an INOX theater, The Times of India reported. The incident, which happened on Saturday, saw police being called in to the theater in Kachiguda area after a journalist complained that two moviegoers, Syed Safeer Hussain and Mohammed Ilyas, allegedly refused to stand up for the national anthem. The police arrived in the middle of the film and took Hussaini and Ilyas to the police station. The journalist was identified as A. Sampath, who said he informed the police out of “personal interest” and as “a citizen”, according to Huffington Post.
Hussaini told Scroll.in that the police were reluctant to show the duo under which section they had been booked in the FIR. They were also not allowed to call their families and were instructed to switch their mobile phones off. They were booked under Section 3 of Prevention of Insult to National Honours Act, 1971, which deals with intentionally preventing the singing of the national anthem or disrupting someone engaged in singing it. It carries a sentence of up to 3 years in jail and/or fine.
According to the report, 30-year-old Hussaini had been working in Australia for several years and had temporarily come to India for his wedding and was scheduled to head back soon after. “I had sprained my leg climbing the stairs,” Hussaini told Scroll.in. “Though I was about to stand during the national anthem, I heard someone behind me shouting, ‘arrey… arrey’. When I heard him shout, I was really annoyed and didn’t stand.” The police finally called his brother, a lawyer, and “threatened him, saying I had committed a very big crime, as if I murdered someone”, he said. The men were finally released on bail that night after being detained in the police station for 4 hours.
The whole incident has reportedly worried Hussaini’s family if the police case would end up upsetting his return to Australia and work. “I just want to know this – if it is punishable to not stand up during the national anthem, then shouting during the national anthem should also be a crime, right? I too can file a case against him”, Hussaini told Scroll.in.
The complainant, A Sampath, told Scroll.in that a disappointing past experience guided his actions in filing the police complaint over call against the two men. “Earlier, I was watching another movie, Dwaraka, when I saw a couple, one of whom did not stand for the national anthem,” he said. “I felt bad then. And when I came for this movie and I saw the same situation being repeated, I felt really annoyed … One person [Ilyas] stood on my insistence but the other person [Hussaini] forced him to sit down and was chatting on his mobile.” He also felt that the ‘law’ against not standing needs to be made more stringent and implemented more strictly.
The arrest followed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s November 30 ruling that made it mandatory for all cinema halls to play the national anthem prior to all movie screenings and for all in the audience to stand for that duration.
The ruling has resulted in a series of violent incidents against individuals incapable of standing such as disabled rights activist Salil Chaturvedi who was attacked from behind in a Panjim theatre. There was the confusion regarding whether or not people were required to stand up for the national anthem when it was played in a movie scene. It has also raised the question of forcing foreigners or arraigning non-resident Indians (as in this case) for a rule that they are not familiar with.