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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Resurrection of the National Anthem and rising weight of moral pressure

Today, the Supreme Court declined to accept the plea to make Jana Gana Mana mandatory in all Indian courts.

Written by Radhika Iyengar | New Delhi |
Updated: December 5, 2016 7:54:57 pm
national anthem, supreme court, national anthem in movies,national anthem in courts, jana gana mana, national anthem before movies, movies national anthem, supreme court national anthem, SC nationa anthem, Patriotism, india news, indian express news In Oxford’s Modern English Dictionary, ‘patriotism’ is described as the “love and loyal or zealous support of one’s own country”.

The Supreme Court has declared it compulsory for movie theaters to play Jana Gana Mana before every screening to instill “committed patriotism and nationalism” among Indians. By making that statement it is presumed then, that all Indians are not ‘patriotic’. That they need to be taught patriotism; that by standing for the anthem will in some sense, fix them – it will turn them into committed, chest-thumping, nation loving countrymen/women.

In Oxford’s Modern English Dictionary, ‘patriotism’ is described as the “love and loyal or zealous support of one’s own country”. To be ‘loyal’ and ‘zealous’ are problematic, loaded words, because they suggest that a patriot is one who, in being loyal, exhibits faithful allegiance by never challenging or questioning one’s country. ‘Nationalism’ on the other hand, is defined as “a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others.” It’s a sentiment that is rooted in nurturing an extreme sense of superiority for one’s nation.

Today, the Supreme Court declined to accept the plea to make Jana Gana Mana mandatory in all Indian courts. In response, it asked for a formal petition to be filed. The national anthem doesn’t play in Parliament either.

Increasingly though, an intense moral pressure is being placed on us. Overnight, screening the anthem has become compulsory, sacrosanct, a “sacred obligation”. If we talk about the decision; if we question it; if we raise it as a concern; if we voice dissent – almost immediately we are pigeonholed as detractors, as anti-nationals. Being grounded on two feet while the national anthem plays before a film, however, does not imply that one necessarily respects his/her nation. Because respecting a nation that is populated by myriad people who nurture diverging ideologies and belong to different castes, religions and languages is tough.

For instance, in this country, there is an strong, inherent bias against certain social castes and religions. Respecting one’s country lies in respecting all people (who as a whole represent the country) and treating them equally. Discriminating against particular people, that shows disrespect for the country. In similar vein, unabashedly throwing litter on the streets, that shows disrespect for the country. Openly urinating in public spaces, that shows disrespect for the country. Jumping traffic lights and underhandedly paying the cops when caught, that shows disrespect for the country. Whether you’re appreciative of the national anthem being played in cinema halls or not, cannot and should not be the measure of how appreciative you are of India.

Respect for one’s country depends entirely on the way we think; it’s a way of life. It cannot be taught. Neither can it be enforced or imposed upon us. And it definitely should not be neatly wrapped in a bow and presented to us as “committed patriotism and nationalism”, because then we begin to tread a complicated territory. Rabindranath Tagore, the author of Jana Gana Mana, fiercely voiced against the “bondage of nationalism”. He wrote in The Modern Review, a respected Calcutta journal that the time, that he hoped to “achieve the unity of man by destroying the bondage of nationalism”.

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