Monday, 30th October 2017

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Unwarranted things keep happening in India. The Supreme Court had made it mandatory for moviegoers to stand up for the national anthem. In Chennai, eight people were roughed up for choosing to stay seated while the anthem was being played. A writer from Kerala has been arrested on charges of insulting the national anthem in a Facebook post.

  • Published 20.12.16
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Unwarranted things keep happening in India. The Supreme Court had made it mandatory for moviegoers to stand up for the national anthem. In Chennai, eight people were roughed up for choosing to stay seated while the anthem was being played. A writer from Kerala has been arrested on charges of insulting the national anthem in a Facebook post. It is not difficult to guess the identity of those sneaking around to catch sundry non-conformists and not only telling on them to the authorities but also appropriating law enforcement for themselves. These bullies are the self-styled nationalists who have found the perfect opportunity to prove their credentials. If earlier they have been running amok with the blessings of the ruling party at the Centre, now they are citing the court decree to justify their activism. They are encouraging a division of the population into those who, according to their myopic view, 'belong', and those who do not. The latter are not necessarily those who do not profess to believe in the ideals of patriotism - having nothing to show for their beliefs is enough to earn them the hyper-patriots' wrath. Predictably, they are being asked to leave for Pakistan.

Is not ultra-nationalism of this kind - which spreads hatred and promotes violence - the real face of anti-nationalism? The smothering of dissent and the related attempt to create uniformity of perception do not portend well for democracy. Why should patriotism be proved by 'tests'? It seems that the State machinery is becoming increasingly suspicious of the citizens' motives. The Supreme Court's stipulation, with its emphasis on compulsory displays of fealty, has been seized by thugs who take it upon themselves to enforce it. In recent times, when prejudices - religious, cultural, national - have gained ground with the patronage of majoritarian groups, the judiciary has restored sense and people's faith in the even-handedness of the institution by delivering balanced judgments. That faith may face a challenge as chest-thumping nationalists, now swearing by the Supreme Court, win the day.