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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

INDIA NATIONAL ANTHEM LAW Sees Arrest of Sitting Moviegoers


National pride and patriotism are prized qualities in the people of any nation, but sometimes such sentiments can go into unnecessary and dangerous extremes, whether by the citizenry’s own fervor or through the harshly enforced dictates of the government over them. Last November the Supreme Court of India ruled as constitutional a law that mandated all movie theaters in the country to play the national anthem before every feature showing, complete with an image of the flag of India on the silver screen, and that all moviegoers must stand for the duration or face arrest and prison time.

The New York Times reports that Indian police are enforcing this regulation with intense vigilance. A total of 12 moviegoers were nabbed by cops across two cities of Southern India for violation of the “Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act of 1971”, onto which the Supreme Court had added the theater anthem regulation last month. One man, S. Viji, was arrested in Chennai, while the other 11 were caught sitting on the anthem during a film festival at Thiruvananthapuram. While the perpetrators were later released on bail, if found guilty to have willfully defied the court ruling at their trials, the suspects could be looking at expensive fines and up to a maximum three years in prison.

Thiruvananthapuram police commissioner Sarjan Kumar said in a statement that the police will thoroughly investigate the violators to determine if their negligence to stand for the anthem at theaters were doe out of deliberate intent. One of the 11 detainees told media that the reason he sat during the anthem and risked being arrested was because the film festival was crowded with patrons, and he along with several of his companions were afraid that other moviegoers would steal the seats from under them.

The theater anthem playing rule was but the latest in a slew of numerous regulations being heaped on the Indian population, in a push by the nationalist BJP party which holds governmental majority, to have the people constantly display patriotism and nationalistic zeal, especially in light of renewed tensions with perennial hostile neighbor Pakistan. Even before the Supreme Court ruling, militant Indian nationalists have been coming down hard on their fellows who didn’t display enough patriotism, even beating up a wheelchair-bound moviegoer in October for “allowing his disability to dampen his patriotism by not standing for the anthem”. The November ruling exempts the disabled from the law.

Opponents of this rising tide of forced nationalism decry the regulations as judicial overreach and an act of “turning democratic citizens into autocratic subjects”. Proponents of the rules however point to the wording of the Indian Constitution, which actually does not make any provision for individual rights and punishes differing notions.

Photo Credit to http://legaltrigger.com/

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