India is back in the international news, again, for what is being described as “another controversy” that adds to the “debate on growing intolerance” in the country. Last month, a video emerged, showing an irate group of people throwing out a family (some reports say, a Muslim one) from a cinema hall in Mumbai for not standing up for the national anthem. Many citizens lauded the actions of the group, condemning the acts of those who did not stand up as “shameless” and equal to “blasphemy.” Others averred that there is no need to provide proof of patriotism by standing up for the national anthem – I agree with that.
I grew up in West Bengal, where the national anthem takes on a richer significance because it is written by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who is worshiped in that state. And it hurts me badly when it is trivialized by being played in an entertainment venue when it has become clearly evident that some people resent it. I dislike the manner in which it is disrespected. I understand on one level the anger of the people. But I do not condone the way they expressed it.
It also angers me when people are cruel to minorities and accuse them of not being “patriotic enough”. That is unnecessary and violates human rights, which is a cause I am particularly devoted to. In a democracy, to play the national anthem at any entertainment event is just plain silly. In fact, I can even argue that it’s disrespectful and undignified to play the national anthem before some of the trash that Bollywood churns out, complete with ma-behan gaalis and suggestive item numbers.