Arresting 12 people for not standing for the national anthem is very alarming, India

Published: December 16, 2016

The court’s decision has emboldened those Hindu fringe elements, who have already been creating havoc in the country. PHOTO: AP

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chain”

This famous line from The Social Contract, a powerful treatise written by the 18th century French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, was an attack on the prevailing monarchical system in Europe.

The book played an inspiring role in the French revolution while establishing individuals as a sovereign entity. Today, it is the same sovereignty of the individual which is under siege in democratic India. Currently, the political leadership is trying to contain individual freedom and intrude into the sovereign rights of the citizens in the name of nationalism and patriotism.

The latest ruling of the Supreme court stating that the national anthem must be played before any film is screened in the country’s cinemas, to which the audience must stand, is a blatant interference into the individual liberty and an attack on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution. The apex court wants to impose a sense of patriotism among the citizens.

But what is the need to impose this kind of punitive patriotism?

The court’s decision has to be seen in the context of the prevailing political reality in India today. Ever since Narendra Modi’s government assumed office in Delhi in May 2014, a new political discourse has taken over, resulting in a different debate on nationalism. Anyone with secular views is now being labelled as an anti-national. All along, their aim has been to impose a Hindu majoritarian view of the nationhood.

Having said that, the ban on beef consumption is a result of the same political philosophy. The government has merely imposed its will on the people as to what they can and cannot eat. This campaign went to an extreme and a group of Hindu radicals even killed an elderly Muslim man based on a rumour that he was storing beef at home.

Similarly, the ‘love jihad’ campaign has also been inspired by the same majoritarian nationalism. The fringe Hindu groups, emboldened by the presence of Modi in Delhi, went berserk and started targeting Muslim boys who either married or were in a relationship with Hindu girls – this further polarised the society.

Since day one, the Modi regime has been trying to impose a rigid way of life, discarding the plurality that has always dominated the political discourse in the country. And when liberal and secular forces try to protest against the rising intolerance, they are branded as anti-national and a threat to the country.

The Hindu right wing party has also been trying to curb dissent in university and college campuses. If anyone questions the government’s stance on terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir, they are instantly termed as traitors. Delhi based, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) became a flashpoint when the government tried to curb the academic debate in the campus. Those who questioned the government’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir were instantly arrested as they were accused of being anti-nationals.

In the same way, the government attempted to silence the voices which questioned the logic behind the surgical strike against Pakistan. Modi and his media, again, portrayed dissenters as anti-state and fit to be shamed and slammed.

Now the government is trying to defend itself by calling their actions patriotic. This is trivialising the pain of millions of people. Unfortunately, nationalism has become a tool to browbeat any opposition to government’s majoritarian political agenda.

The Supreme court’s decision will start a very dangerous trend. When the judiciary loses its core strength of reasoning and gets influenced by politics, it is clearly not a good sign for democracy. The court’s decision has emboldened those Hindu fringe elements, resulting in further havoc in the country.

Arresting 12 people for not standing for the national anthem is a very alarming sign for the wellbeing of a civil society. Why should it be considered disrespectful if one chooses to not stand for the national anthem? Are such demonstrative gestures of patriotism the real parameter to assess their love for the country?

Such Hindu radicals derive inspiration from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the patron of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), yet they themselves have not respected the national flag till the 1980s. The RSS never unfurled the national flag at their headquarter and back in the days, they fought alongside the English. They were not a part of the nationalist movement that won independence for the country.

One ugly truth is that these Hindu radicals usually spread animosity in the society and they never advocate harmony and secular wellbeing of the nation. Keeping that in mind, does their so called respect for the national anthem mean anything, when they cause nothing but chaos for the country?

Individual sovereignty is the core of a democracy. So it’s safe to say that the apex court’s ruling is an attempt to chain that sovereignty.


Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • kanshabati

    The author is quite correct to point out that the above SC order limits personal freedom. In India there is also limitation on freedom of speech. Kamlesh Tiwari, a BJP politician is in jail because his speech was offensive to Muslims. Effectively a blasphemy law has been effected in a secular country. It would be good to know if the author is against all such limitations or only certain selective ones.Recommend

  • auginpk

    Anybody who is justifying to what was done by some misguided student in JNU is simply pathetic.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    “The fringe Hindu groups, emboldened by the presence of Modi in Delhi,
    went berserk and started targeting Muslim boys who either married or
    were in a relationship with Hindu girls – this further polarised the
    You r wrong .Its muslims who r radicalizing Hindus by creating one way traffic of marrying Hindu girls.I m not going to comment about dumb Hindu girls.They dont have idea about long term implications of it.What i want to say is muslims r hypocrite. they r marrying hindu girls and convert them.Likewise muslim girls should be free to marry Hindu men and convert to Hinduism.We r tolerating it for long.If muslims wont mend their ways we will force them to accept uniform civil code.India is no land for practicing saudi arabia brand of islam.Some of these girls have suffered a lot but they have no option of coming back.Either their parents have shunned them or they may not be accepted by society.I pity these people.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    muslims of india must take some responsibility.They have grown enough in number to take precedence on some issues.We would like to see how much they have grown up.We still believe that these muslims r good for nothing.Even liberal muslims know this fact that their fellows r good only for namaz and religion. World has moved ahead but muslim people have regressed into 5th century. Look at what a havoc it has created in pakistan.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    This is supreme court’s order not Modi government’s Recommend

  • singh

    “Individual sovereignty is the core of a democracy. So it’s safe to say that the apex court’s ruling is an attempt to chain that sovereignty.”
    Please move to country where you can have absolute freedom. Can you name one country where you can have complete freedom without any Law or regulation.
    Why you stuck in India if you feel like you are in hell hole.
    Shame on you.

  • SuperNeo™

    “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chain” ask ET to print articles about forced conversions,
    support free Baluchistan
    Support free Karachi
    Support free Punjab

    after all “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chain”Recommend

  • Michael Scot

    Indian Caste System: Since casteism is a major source of problems in India, is Hinduism the root cause?Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    This Delhi fellow does not know that people arrested by Kerala police. That state is ruled by Communist party which is staunch opposition to BJP. The Kerala minister told media that every one must respect anthem and if you cannot stand for 2 minutes then you should not go to cinema hall. Also the decision to play anthem was given by supreme court. He should blame supreme court for that.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Buddy worry about yourself.You people r already dealing with hard time.Do i need to say more about achievement of yours religion.If you talk about Hindus,we have left you people far behind.We r more than 5000 yrs old civilization and the heart breaking news for you is that we will continue to survive and dominate subcontinent till eternity.Recommend

  • Uzair

    Disparities in Hindustan are manifestations of the entrenched caste system that perpetuates inequality and systemic oppression of the minorities.Recommend

  • Asad Malik

    There is a difference b/w a normal person and a maniac..Everyone can see you are more interested in disintegration of pakistan than free states.Recommend

  • Pure Ind

    Micheal Casteism may be a problem in India especially in down right rural areas but one musnt forget that there are many facilities & benefits that lower caste people get to uplift themselves right from reservations in jobs to educational institutions.
    Secondly about Hinduism, buddy do you even know how great & old this great civilization is?? The oldest University in the world Nalanda was developed under this civilization, Yoga the gift to the world was given by this civilization, Kalari Payattu the oldest form of martial arts the mother of Chinese martial arts is from this civilization, Ayurveda, Chess, Vastushastra the science of construction, Trignometry, Algebra, the number Zero, Kamsutra the art of making love, buddy which civilization in this world has contributed so immensely in various aspects of life, do you even know that Indian vedas & Upanishads have been translated in Arabic,German & other European languages, Sailors all over the world wanted to come to India, even countries like America were discovered because some one wanted to come to India!!
    But I guess there is no remedy for hatred, which you have against a religion, god bless you….Recommend

  • Mustafa Kashmiri

    Give me one nation where national anthem is not respected? Even if it at home when national anthem is played civilized citizens give respect… in fact if you come to know national anthem of a different country is being sung you give respect… is there anything wrong in expecting this?? So stop writing nonsense as you have no takers. If it is brought in by supreme court, people have to follow rule of land. Recommend

  • omarsadiq

    Most of the public in both the countries India and Pakistan do not want animosity towards each other and live their lives not worrying about the other. But ever since, the RSS inspired Modi and his goons have come in power, they have spread poison and hatred in the Indians mind not only against Pakistan but also against each other.
    Indians troll against the Punjabis and the Pak Army and say that the snake it Pakistans backyard is coming to bit themselves now; True, but the hatred and anger these Indian politicians are spreading to its own nation and lying about everything (lessons learnt from their Jewish masters now), just like us, this snake will come back to bite and destroy the Indian society itself.
    Bring in the Sonny Leones and the Mallika Sherawats and the Malaika Aroras and that is the first step towards your decline. Example being the Delhi bus rape, etc. Don’t believe it???? Wait for a few years and watch the fun.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    Since Jihadi Islamic terrorism is a big issue in the world, is Islam the root cause?? I think it is. ET , lets see how unbiased you are.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Well, hindus have to go by Hindutva.
    Three times a day you must prove your
    hinduness….or be prepared to be hanged
    from the nearest Holy Tree. Banyan tree?
    Peepul tree? Jamun Tree….Coconut….?Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Nothing wrong in it.
    Those who refuse to comply can pack their bags and get lost.Recommend

  • Sane

    In a country where beef eating people are killed, those who do not stand to honor national anthem must be hanged in public. If they are Muslim or any non Hindu, then their family members must be burnt alive.Recommend

  • Sane

    Talk about Hindu terrorism, which has increased many folds in recent past. This Hindu terrorism is also a kind of Jihad as per their interpretation of ‘Hinduwta’. This terrorism has promoted global terrorism significantly. If world is not wake up, this Hindu terrorism shall engulf the globe. They hire people of various religions and send them in different parts of the world. Some of them are labelled as ‘Muslim’ or any other minority and killed by their mentors to make a hue and cry of so-called Islamic Terrorism. This is well though and planned to malign Muslims and Islam.Recommend

  • Sane

    You are 5000 years old civilization and your mindset is also 5000 year old. Remember you have a history of invasion, which you always welcomed as never had any choice. A huge part of India got separated in 1947 and you remained bystander. Kashmir and Khalistan is about to liberate.

    While you naked and hungry population is increasing everyday. You are known as RAPE COUNTRY of the world. Still you think to survive till eternity. Live in dream word, your choice.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    How did you read my mind?
    It’s amazing!Recommend