A 29-year-old sound engineer Jithin was arrested on Wednesday (8 May 2019) by Ashok Nagar Police, Bangalore for disrespecting the National Anthem that was being played before a movie at Garuda Mall theatre reported The New Indian Express. He was booked under Prevention of Insult to National Honours Act.
What Exactly Happened?
On Tuesday, Jithin had gone to Garuda Mall to watch a movie. The theatre played the National Anthem before starting the movie and Jithin did not stand up for it. This attracted the attention of another audience member Suman Kumar, who questioned Jithin.
According to reports, a feud ensued and an irked Jithin reportedly abused Kumar and a few of the women in the audience too. He also allegedly made defamatory remarks about the National Anthem during the chaos that followed.
Following the incident, Kumar filed a complaint at the local police station. The Logical Indian spoke to the inspector of Ashok Nagar police station who confirmed that a person had been arrested on this issue, but was later released. However the inspector also said more details about the events and the CCTV footage cannot be divulged, as an investigation is still pending.
On Wednesday, Jithin was booked under the Prevention of Insult to National Honours Act of 1971 but was soon released on bail.
The Act reads,
“Whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
The Supreme Court order
In November 2016, a Supreme Court bench headed by former Chief Justice Deepak Mishra directed that “all cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.” It was made clear that the audience would not need to stand if National Anthem was played during the course of the movie as part of newsreels and documentaries.
In January 2018 however, the 2016 order was modified which stated that playing the National Anthem before a movie was not compulsory and left it to the discretion of the cinema owner.
“Charges were false and my life is in danger”
The Logical Indian reached out to Jithin and he had a different story to tell.
The incident he says took place when he had gone to watch a movie with a friend and he didn’t stand up for the National Anthem. A guy in front of him ordered him to stand up in what he said to be a “threatening and rude manner.”
After responding to the provocation, the matter snowballed and more people gathered. At this point he says he was surrounded by a mob of over 10 people, some were even shouting death threats.
Jithin says he willfully walked to the police station and an FIR was filed against him by the theatre management. He was booked under sedition charges. And mentions that he didn’t get a chance to file a report against the guy who punched him and that guy walked free.
He denied saying anything derogatory against the national anthem. Jithin also said he is not out in bail, but has been released, as he hadn’t done anything wrong.
He reiterates that the charges were false and his personal safety was threatened. “I’m a victim and I get treated unfairly. Now I’m smeared online for being the bad guy.”
Jithin is now in the process of gathering evidence to corroborate his version of the story and says he “never wanted any of this.”
The Logical Indian take
Ever since the Supreme Court order on the issue became public, it has ensued a divided debate.
One side of the debate is of the opinion that playing the National Anthem and standing up for it is a matter of National Pride. The Anthem duration is exactly 52 seconds which is less than even one minute. The National Anthem here not only serves as a symbol to acknowledge our great nation and those who serve our country but also as a reminder that despite all our differences, we are united under the banner of one country.
The popular point of contention about the order, however, is whether people should stand up when the National Anthem is played. While standing up for the National anthem is a symbol of respect, does this justify the rise of a self-appointed vanguard who assume the authority to heckle those who do not stand for the National Anthem?
The incident brings to public memory the many instances where people have been heckled by fellow audience members for the same.
In October 2017, a wheelchair-bound activist was called a “Pakistani” at a cinema hall in Guwahati for failing to stand up during the National Anthem. Limited by Cerebral palsy, Arman Ali later took to Facebook to comment on what he called ‘#PsuedoNationalism’
This incident took place despite the Supreme court exemption of disabled or differently-abled individuals from standing for National Anthem in movie halls in April 2017.
In Maharashtra, the State Government passed a law to play the National Anthem before the movie as early as 2003. And in November 2015, a family was evicted by fellow patrons at a cinema hall for allegedly not standing up when the national anthem was played.
The unresolved debate only presents a bigger question,
Where do we draw the line between Nationalism and Forced Nationalism?