‘Respect for the national flag or national anthem is an emotional feeling, which comes from within’.
This week the Supreme Court made it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before feature films and laid down the condition that the audience was obligated to stand and show respect. However, not everyone is convinced about the state enforced nationalism on the common man. Director Centre for Social Research Dr Ranjana Kumari speaks to Nitin Mahajan on the issue and explains that it isn’t the job of any institution or the government to enforce nationalistic fervour on the people of the country rather it should come from within.
What is your view on the Supreme Court verdict making it mandatory playing of the national anthem before movies in theatres? Is it a concept that tries to enforce nationalism on Indian citizens?
The Supreme Court has come out with a verdict on the national anthem and that it needs to be played ahead of all movie shows in theatres across the country. Large numbers of Indians who are patriotic feel strongly about this judgment while we respect the Supreme Court verdict, we feel it needs to be reviewed in the light of the concerns raised by many patriotic Indians. Respect for the national anthem is natural and we learn in family and schools.
The peculiar problem will be how to enforce such a verdict. We go for entertainment to theatres. How will the government enforce total compliance when people will be moving in and out of theatre or eating and relaxing? Is the government going to book everyone who is eating or chatting during the playing of the national anthem at cinemas? Besides just by standing for the national anthem a non-patriotic does not begin to have respect for the country.
We are aware that there is no such rule in any other institutions be it Parliament, police stations or for that matter courts of the country, including the Supreme Court. In fact, across the globe, there is not even a single country where such a rule or law is in force, wherein you have to stand up for a national anthem ahead of a movie show. Respect for the national flag or national anthem is an emotional feeling, which comes from within. Feeling of patriotism arises when we get inspired by our national leaders, who make us proud and when institutions are performing well for the welfare of citizens.
How is this verdict going to affect the common man and the nation as a whole?
Each one of us are proud Indians for our shared history, common cultural heritage and above all having leaders like Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel and Savitribai Phule whose mere mention inculcates the feeling of nationalism. It should not be the job of any institution or the government to enforce nationalistic fervour on the people of the country. Nationalism cannot be enforced and such attempt would only lead to tension and rebellious behaviour.
Instead of enforced nationalism we need to create an environment in which the feeling of nationalism comes from within through visionary leaders, good governance and an inclusive harmonious environment in the country. We need to evolve into a country that elicits nationalism and feeling of love from everyone residing in it. Why only Indian citizens need to be nationalistic their motherland, other non-citizens should also have such feeling for India if they reside here. That is the kind of nationalistic feeling or belonging that needs to be promoted.
With the government under fire from the Opposition over demonetisation will this verdict be used by the Narendra Modi government as a diversionary tactic?
How the verdict is going to help the government is irrelevant. The government of the day should be known from its leadership abilities and governance capabilities. The leadership should ensure that there is peace and harmony, GDP growth, better business opportunities, more employment generation, improved standard of living of people, whether it provides for better healthcare facilities for the masses, above all safety and security of women. In such a scenario, respect for nationalistic symbols comes to citizens naturally and needs no imposition.
India is a diverse and democratic country with pluralist society therefore we need to protect these characteristics to make our nation great. We should not forget that colonial rulers did enough harm to our nation by playing divisive politics. In fact, we are suffering the consequences till date when we see our soldiers been martyred on the borders.
Do you think there has been an increase in promotion or imposition of hyper-nationalism ever since the Modi government came to power?
Indians are and have always been patriotic. With a long history of imperial rule and freedom struggle, everyone in our country is aware of the national cause and the sacrifices that our earlier generations had to go through for this freedom. Interestingly, we should also note that we are a young nation and this is probably the third or fourth generation of Indians post-Independence. Each and every family has a history with the Independence struggle or its aftermath and stories of the same are also been told to the children in our homes. That is the environment I grew in. This is the reason that Indians cherish their freedom and are nationalists to the core. We naturally respect our flag, our anthem and all other national symbols.
Ever since the Modi government came to power there have been allegations that it has been acting tough on NGOs and their funding sources. What is your take on the issue?
NGOs as largely known as civil society organisations are very important to any nation. They act as a bridge between the government and the common people. Mostly they articulate the voices of people. We should remember that it is due to the NGOs untiring efforts that we are able to see awareness and stellar work in the fields of women’s rights, human rights, child rights, human trafficking, tribal rights, education, right to information, PIL and healthcare. The work done by NGOs in the field of public distribution and self-help groups has also been recognised the world over. In fact, the Government of India and NGOs are partners in many areas. There needs to be better cooperation between the two for betterment of society and the nation.