Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Jan 2018 11:31:54

THAT the issue of whether National Anthem must be played in cinema halls or not has created a serious controversy in India, is very unfortunate, to say the least. There is nothing flattering in the details of the whole episode that has now come to rest at the door-step of a 12-member Government panel. All this could have been avoided easily had some elements not taken an extreme view from either side right in the first place. But when the Supreme Court decided that National Anthem must be played in cinema halls and that people should stand up in respect when it is played, the whole issue should have come to an end. Yet, some elements among us opposed the idea of standing up and even of playing the coveted song, in the process kicking up a controversy of considerable importance. Then came the Government’s request to the Supreme Court for a re-look at the issue. The honourable Supreme Court has now agreed that playing of National Anthem is not mandatory but said that a 12-member Government panel must take a final call on the issue. This chain of developments actually makes little sense in the fuller perspective. 

The idea of playing National Anthem in cinema halls came up decades ago when the country faced war. It was thought as a brilliant way to inject patriotic fervour in people. At that time, when the idea was first thought of, nobody objected and the people felt very proud to stand up in attention when the National Anthem came on the screen. Subsequently, quite good numbers of people were found standing lazily during the play of National Anthem, indicating how casual some sections of people were on issues related to national honour.

Yet, even in those cases, nobody raised the issue of an ideological opposition to the idea. The latest controversy came up because some people raised the ideological issue. In fact, the larger Indian society felt shocked that such an issue can get raised on such grounds. Yet, for reasons never explained fully, the Supreme Court took up the cause and made its first verdict making playing of National Anthem in cinema halls an imperative. And now the whole thing has turned a full circle and a 12-member Government panel has been left to take the final call.

How unfortunate is this chain of events! It was easily avoidable, but we -- the larger Indian society -- have become masters in the art of adding confusion even to anything as straight as the trajectory of a ray of light. It is unfortunate that we allow even non-negotiable issues like national honour become subjects of debate. This is something that must be avoided at all costs in future. For, if such debates keep us engaged, then our attention would get trapped in non-issues, so to say. Singing of National Anthem and demonstrating our sense of respect to it to the fullest measure, in fact, should never become a subject of debate.

Efforts should be made by each and every Indian, regardless of political leaning, to ensure that national honours and symbols are never allowed to become parts of a debate or discussion. In fact, a culture must be bred with much care that every symbol of national honour is respected fully without question. Whenever and where National Anthem is played, all must stand up in full respect for it. All symbols of national honour must get a similar treatment without question.

There is also another critical point of consideration here: Why should we overdo things as regards national symbols and honours? If we keep things restricted to only right places -- and the cinema hall may not be one -- then we will be able to demonstrate our respect for them in a more dignified manner. The issue is not actually complicated, but we have made it to be. This is the lesson we must learn from the current episode.