I cannot stand for the National Anthem, what do I do?
My name is Salil Chaturvedi. I am a writer, I just heard the Supreme Court verdict that it is mandatory for the National Anthem to be played in cinema halls and for people to stand for the same.
Many people are saying all sorts of things about this issue. I want to make my point as a disabled person to the Supreme Court. I have not read the entire verdict but I am concerned about whether the Supreme Court thought about the disabled before giving out this verdict.
It's not that I am not a patriot or my faith in the National Anthem is less than anyone else. But I have a compulsion. I'm disabled. Like me, five to ten percent of the people in this country are disabled. In the last census, the government was ready to count people on the basis of their caste but not on the basis of their physical inability. There was no systematic survey. Otherwise, I could have given you a more accurate number.
Danger posed by those implementing the verdict
There must be many people who will welcome this decision and will strive passionately to implement it. But I don't know how many people like me would have been beaten up for not standing up while the National Anthem was playing in a theatre.
It happened in July. I went to the cinema hall with my wife. Like always, I entered the hall before the film began to avoid causing inconvenience to other people. Those working in the hall lifted me and helped me get to my seat.
Everything was fine before the film began. Eventually, the National Anthem began, everyone stood up but I was unable to get up because of my disability. Suddenly, the man who was standing behind me hit me and shouted at me for not standing up.
I told him that he should've at least asked me why I didn't stand up before hitting me. My wife was stunned by the assault on me. Anyway, after a lot of argument and misbehaviour, that man realised his mistake and he apologised and left the cinema hall.
There was a lot of discussion in the media about this incident which took place with me but this does not always happen. An elderly relative of a friend of mine was also assaulted while the National Anthem was being played in a cinema hall. Because of a surgery on his knees, he is unable to stand up for 52 seconds. Yet, he was also beaten up.
I have not been able to gather the strength to go to a cinema hall after the day I was assaulted.
Will anyone ask questions before beating someone up?
There is a Disability Act in India. The Act says that every place will be made disabled-friendly. But I think that this Supreme Court verdict will make the very opposite situation arise.
Will people think before abusing or calling someone a traitor? Will the court give out some instruction that a slide asking people to pose questions before beating someone up be displayed before the National Anthem is played?
It is strange that the Supreme Court gave this decree for a PIL. Does this country run by decrees or by the Constitution?
Another thing which is difficult to understand is whether this is an order given by the executive or legislature or by the judiciary.
If the government had given out an order like this, we would have gone and made our point to the Supreme Court. We will still try to do that. After all, what else can we do?
Now, there will be many arguments and counter-arguments made. Someone will definitely say that if the country gives us rights, it also gives us duties. The National Anthem is one such duty. But why should only the duty linked with the National Anthem be analysed?
Another issue difficult to comprehend is this: Why is patriotism being connected with the National Anthem in this way?
Why not a deeper investigation of 'patriotism'?
Is it right to test the patriotism of a person who has gone to a cinema hall with his family for the purpose of entertainment? By this logic, isn't it equally important to test whether a person who has gone to an ATM to withdraw some money is overwhelmed with patriotism while getting access to his money? If this is the case, then people should be ordered to sing the National Anthem even before withdrawing money from an ATM.
It should also be important to test the patriotism of a person eating in a restaurant. Otherwise, what will happen if an anti-national eats the country's food?
What kinds of standards are being set for patriotism? Don't the people collecting black money also stand up for the National Anthem?
In the past years, was the absence of patriotism felt so strongly that the Supreme Court had to make the National Anthem mandatory in cinema halls? Isn't the patriotism of our country's writers, sportspersons and our army's soldiers — who are known throughout the world — enough for us?