My patriotism, your patriotism

Patriots by defaults and those who needs to qualify!

shishir

Shishir Tripathi | January 30, 2015



Some years ago while watching Karan Johar’s hyper-melodramatic take on “loving your parents” I was forced to stand up. The scene set in London was about celebrating our national symbols. Shah Rukh Khan’s son in the film, giving patriotic goose bumps to his parents, sings the national anthem, amidst all white students.

Overwhelming as it was for his mother, played by Kajol, who wants to keep ‘the Indian’ in his son intact; it was no less for the audience. Some people stood up to the recital of the national anthem and the entire audience followed the suit, including me. Anyway, if I would have decided otherwise, nobody would have called me a traitor or a jihad sympathiser. I am a Hindu and by default a patriot.

However, everyone is not a patriot by default. It is different for others. “You Muslims will never learn to respect India,” said an email from an anonymous “patriot” to a friend who is by all means a dedicated journalist and a patriot. Just a few days ago while covering the Republic Day celebrations in Chandigarh, for a leading daily, she wrote on her Facebook page, “…the day I eagerly wait for when I could actually smell the fragrance of patriotism".

She was excited and talked about the celebration in unbroken breath to me over the phone. But yesterday, talking about the mail, she said, “It kills me from inside when people say such things.”
When the vice president of India decided to stick to protocol and not salute the national flag while it was hoisted on the Republic Day, there were people who doubted his patriotism. He is a Muslim and needs to prove his patriotism. Doesn’t he?

The murmurs from a few people criticizing Hamid Ansari reached the point where the vice president’s office had to issue a clarification, explaining that going by protocol only those in uniform have to salute the flag, the rest should stand still. That is why two cabinet ministers indeed stood still and did not salute the flag, but it was only the vice president who was singled out for controversy.

Sad as it is, the fact remains that the media to a very great extent was silent on the issue. Major TV debates which claim to be the “voice of the nation” refrained from giving a minute to the issue. Edit pages also lacked space as they were busy debating Indo-US ties, with president Obama present to grace the occasion.

Now returning back to Karan Johar’s family drama where our easily-hurt hyper-patriotism was at full display. After the recent incident I dug up a bit deeper to find out if my action in the cinema hall – standing up when the national anthem is played – was mandatory or not. I figured out that not following others would not have invited any legal action against me as it was not required by the rule book. And I would have also easily escaped social ostracisation as I am a patriot by default.

The rules regarding the national anthem states, “Whenever the Anthem is sung or played, the audience shall stand to attention. However, when in the course of a newsreel or documentary the Anthem is played as a part of the film, it is not expected of the audience to stand as standing is bound to interrupt the exhibition of the film and would create disorder and confusion rather than add to the dignity of the Anthem.”

Social media is an open place, where all kind of voices, informed and ignorant exist. One should not expect that those who make that crude judgment have enough patience to check the rule books before awarding a sentence. But then there is enough space among this social media insanity where serious voices exist. If they lay dormant then it is surely a wakeup call.

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