This is what happened in a movie theatre in Mumbai last week, when a family of five was harassed into leaving because they didn’t stand up for the anthem. It was caught on camera, and as is wont, went viral. What was even more disturbing than people abusing and issuing threats of violence was that as the beleaguered family left, there was applause—in effect, justifying what happened. The theatre authorities did nothing, except issue mere platitudes of wanting to avoid violence. According to reports, action may be taken against those who led the abuse.
Mumbaikars are used to seeing the anthem played before a screening, a practice that began in 2003. However, nobody is bound by law to stand up for it. People who do stand up don’t necessarily respect the country, and those who keep sitting cannot be assumed to be unpatriotic.
One ought to honour the national anthem, but the hope that mandatorily playing it before a movie will turn people more patriotic is rather unrealistic. On the contrary, it often ends up diluting the anthem’s spirit.