January 24th, 2017
In November, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that the national anthem should be played before the screening of movies in theatres, and the audience should stand in respect while it was being played. This was reportedly done to “instil committed patriotism and nationalism”. At the same time, it was notified that these rules would not apply to differently-abled citizens, but the Government would soon set the rules regarding how they should show respect for the anthem.
Last week the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued guidelines on how the differently-abled can show respect to the national anthem. The MHA guidelines stated that people with disabilities should not move and position themselves “maintaining the maximum possible alertness physically”.
A few highlights of the MHA guidelines
- Persons with locomotor disabilities and other wheelchair users “shall position himself/herself to the extent of maximum attentiveness and alertness with or without the help of appropriate aids and appliances”.
- Those with a hearing disability may be unable to identify that the national anthem is being played on the screen. For these people, “suitable instructions may be given in the form of captioning as well as in sign language on the screen so that the persons with hearing impairment are well informed that the National Anthem is being played”.
- Those on crutches are to become “non-mobile to the extent of maximum alertness”.
- Blind citizens are to stand up for the Anthem.
- As for people with mental disabilities, if their condition is “mild”, they “can be trained to understand and respect National Anthem”, though “the same may not hold good in other cases”.
The MHA has said that the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities will advise on further modifications as per the Rights Of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016.
The Logical Indian take
The guidelines have raised eyebrows among activists who fear they will increase discrimination against differently-abled people. There have been many instances of mob violence because some people would not stand up for the national anthem in theatres. This jingoism could negatively affect people with disabilities, many of whom will find it physically difficult to be “non-mobile” or “alert” or “still”. The guidelines need to be re-written to ensure the safety of persons with disabilities.