Trying to mandate patriotic behavior is not new. It happened a few days after independence, at the constitution hall, during the framing of the Republic. How it was handled makes all the difference.
The Supreme Court ruling from the bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Amitava Roy have made it mandatory for cinema halls in the country to play the national anthem before a movie begins during which the national flag is to be shown on the screen. They also ruled that everyone present in the cinema hall should rise up and pay respect to the anthem when it is played.
This is not the first time that a group of singularly sensitive scandalmongers have brought to the attention of the public and the court, the many ways in which unpatriotic citizens of the country insult the flag or the anthem. The court, and the justices have also, given petitions like these time, money and attention that are sorely needed elsewhere. Enabling court ordered patriotism has become a national vocation in this country.
The justices in addition to the many rules and regulations, seemingly criticized “the ideas of individual liberty“. By doing so, they have not only revealed the casualness with which they regard the constitution and its contents, but also a worrying ignorance of the central tenets around which this republic was built.
Trying to mandate patriotic behavior is not new though. This petitioner can be forgiven, for even in the hallowed halls of the constituent assembly, even as the republic was being shaped, a member made the following complaint.
On 26th August, 1947 just as the assembly was getting ready for the the day’s agenda, H. V Kamath from C & P Berar had the following to say
“Mr. H. V. Kamath (C. P. & Berar: General) : Mr. President Permit me, Sir, to invite your attention to an incident which took place on the historic midsummer night of August 14-15. I must apologise to you, Sir, and to the House for harking back on old times, but in view of the intrinsic importance of the matter, I will request you to condone the delay in bringing it to your notice. You will be pleased to recollect, Sir, that on the night of the Assumption of Power Ceremony, the first item of the agenda was the singing of the Vande Mataram. Some of us in this House noticed that a number of our Honourable friends entered the Assembly Chamber-I would almost say trooped into this Hall-after the song had been sung. I would request you, Sir, to look into this matter, because there are certain considerations which arise from this action of theirs. They entered the Hall simultaneously, so simultaneously that it gave the appearance of the act having been performed not so much by accident as by design. You will be pleased to remember that the Assembly had resolved to leave this matter of programme entirely in your hands and they were in duty bound as members of this House to participate in the programme. My friends all very well know that this song, though it has not been adopted by this House as our National Anthem, yet it is a song, Sir, which has been hallowed, which has been consecrated, sanctified by the suffering and sacrifice, blood and tears, and the martyrdom of thousands of our countrymen and women. I shall be happy to hear from those members who came after the National Song had been sung that they did so not by design, but only by accident. Thank you.” (Emphasis added)
Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the president of the assembly in all his wisdom, post a few members who rose to make additional points, asked them to respectfully drop the subject and moved on.