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When patriotism depends on religion

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The internet broke again, on November 30, with that tug-of-war that is becoming all too commonplace in India. The war between the "patriots" – who decide what is Indian culture and what isn't, who decide which citizens should migrate to Pakistan and which person qualifies as Indian despite having a British or American or Canadian or Australian passport, who think homosexuality is evil – and the "sickulars", who have been trying to roll their eyes for too long at vicious trolls and commenters.

At a showing of the film Tamasha at a PVR cinema hall variously reported as being in Bombay and Bangalore, a family was shown to be mobbed by angry audience members for not standing up when the national anthem was played.

The video, posted on Facebook by a Bharat Bhanushali, and shared 2240 times with more than 81,000 views when I last checked, shows a group being harassed by several angry men, who swear liberally despite the presence of children. Some others unsuccessfully try to placate the mob.

In the end, the family leaves. The audience breaks into spontaneous applause. A victory for the "patriots".

This is not the first time someone has refused to stand up for the National Anthem at the movies.

Last year, two cases made it to the papers – one involved a man from Thiruvananthapuram, who was granted bail after being incarcerated for more than a month for allegedly disrespecting the anthem; another involved Preity Zinta, who boasted on Twitter that she had got a man thrown out of the cinema for refusing to stand up for the anthem.

On October 7, 2014, with the timestamp 1:38 pm, Zinta wrote "#bangbang be4 Bang Bang ! Had2 throw a guy out of the Theater as he refused 2stand up4 our National Anthem ! Can u believe it?Now movie time" [sic]. She hastily deleted the tweet after a backlash.

There were far fewer trolls to defend Preity Zinta, though the incidents were similar.

Why? Perhaps because the man's identity was not known, and he was presumed to be Hindu – or anything else, really, but not Muslim.

On the other hand, the family that was forced out of the PVR theatre included one woman wearing a burkha and so is presumed to be Muslim.

The man who was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram was M Salman, a student who had gone to the movies with a group of friends from college. While the entire group got into an altercation with others in the audience because they did not stand up for the anthem, Salman was singled out.

He was accused of hooting during the anthem, a charge that his friends denied. He was reportedly arrested on the basis of a Facebook post that mocked the anthem and the flag. There appears to be no proof of this.

While the Home Ministry's Rules in the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act state that one must stand to attention when the national anthem is played, failing to do so is not called a crime, and no penalty is specified.

Section 3 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act states:

"Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Indian National Anthem 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."

Yet, a district sessions court declared at a bail hearing for Salman – who had been charged with sedition – that his "offence was more serious than murder". He was denied bail at that hearing, and had to appeal for bail in the High Court. To secure that, he had to pay a surety of Rs 2 lakh, and surrender his passport.

Earlier this year, on Republic Day, the patriotism of Vice President Hamid Ansari was questioned when a photograph was circulated of his standing in attention as the National Anthem was played. The photograph showed Ansari and US President Barack Obama standing solemnly, while President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar were seen saluting the National Flag.

Twitter trolls called Ansari a "jihadi" and "Pakistani", and some suggested he should join ISIS.

As it happened, and as his office clarified, Ansari had only been following protocol.

Section VI of the Flag Code of India states: "During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag, or when the flag is passing in a parade or in a review, all persons present should face the Flag and stand at attention. Those present in uniform should render the appropriate salute."

Other than those in uniform, it is customary for the Principal Dignitary to salute the flag. Ansari was not the Principal Dignitary at the event.

And yet, his patriotism was called into question.

One wonders whether the outcome would have been the same had Pranab Mukherjee had not raised his hand in salute.

When Pratibha Patil was President, she walked right past the Indian flag during an inspection of a guard of honour by the Presidential Guard in Mexico. She scuttled back when the Guard Commander called her attention to her faux pas.

Despite her act being a violation of protocol – unlike Ansari's, for the record – Patil's "patriotism" was never questioned.

And despite all three incidents at the cinema being similar, the Muslims were singled out for hate.

When patriotism depends on one's religion, can India claim to be secular?


Then again the word secular is taboo in India today.
This has nothing to do with being secular or non-secular, I feel. Any Indian must stand up while the National Anthem is being played. The people who did not do so in that cinema theatre seem to be non-hindus. There is no need to invent something to make that incident sound illogical. Anyway, the people who objected to the action of disrespect for the NA were polite and the culprits were allowed to leave the cinema hall.
Playing of national anthem is becoming common place in all kinds of places and at all hours of day.

One can reserve it for special occassions like republic day or independance day , after speeches by national dignitories.or international events

If it is an uncommon rare event most would respect the same more.

It can be avoided in cinema halls and places of entertainment definitely.

When it is played on TV how many stand up home and pay respect.?
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