As Indians, our patriotism is often ridiculously put to test—from a BJP candidate proclaiming that “if you are anti-Modi, you are anti-India” to cricketer Virat Kohli telling a fan who had said he enjoyed watching English and Australian batsmen more than Indian ones, to “go live somewhere else” to, funnily enough, Kohli himself being questioned for getting married in Italy over India, something a true “rashtra bhakt” (patriot) would’ve never done.
But another ludicrous place that this litmus test plays out at is in the cinema halls, most of which play the national anthem before each movie screening. Reports of those who have sat their way through it being attacked verbally or even physically—even those with disabilities—have regularly surfaced in Indian media. And the latest one emerged this week.
On October 23, a group of people who did not stand up during the national anthem in a cinema hall in Bengaluru were heckled, abused and even called “Pakistani terrorists”. In a video that has now gone viral, a group of people, including Kannada actor Arun Gowda, are seen confronting four people and accusing them of “not [being] able to spare 52 seconds for the country.” “But you have the audacity to sit here and watch a three-hour movie?” said one of them. The unnamed man went on to ask them, “Are you Pakistani terrorists?”
The video also showed Gowda saying to the camera, “Look at these guys. Just look at their faces once again. They are telling us to file a complaint.” The video that was shared on Facebook by fellow actor BV Aishwarya, who was also amongst the group that insulted the group, said, “So called citizens of India refused to stand while the national anthem was played, we are here as the true citizens to set these anti-Indians right. Don’t you dare.” While the two girls who were being harassed told them that this show of patriotism is “definitely” a choice and that “I am amazed to hear that the opposite of Indian is Pakistani”, they ultimately left the movie hall after being subjected to loud heckling.
After the video went viral, Gowda, over a Facebook post, tried to defend his actions by saying that nobody was manhandled during this confrontation. “[It’s] ok if they don’t stand up for our anthem according to SC order, but when they spoke bad about our India Army not me no one will spare them,” he wrote in the post.
The Twitterverse, as always, was divided in their opinions
Some even pulled up the fact that Gowda was once arrested for illegally running a hookah bar.
While none of the involved parties have been arrested in this incident, a similar one in Bengaluru earlier this year had led to the arrest of a 29-year-old. Playing the national anthem at cinemas before every show was made compulsory in 2016 following a Supreme Court order, with exceptions made only for the differently-abled. However, this was later modified and made optional, even though most cinemas across the country continue to play the national anthem before shows.
However, a year after the 2016 order to play the national anthem was passed, then chief justice Dipak Misra had questioned the ruling, saying that it "cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for national anthem, then he is less patriotic". In a time when it does not take much to be branded an anti-national, these words that you’d otherwise assume are logical actually need to be spelled out.
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