Not standing up when the National Anthem is played before a movie at a theatre cannot define a person’s nationalism, say politicians across the board. This was the common view expressed by Asaduddin Owaisi, the President of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen, JD(U) leader Pavan Varma, Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta. Talking about the Supreme Court’s initial decision making it mandatory to stand up when the National Anthem is played before a movie in theatres, Dasgupta said the Centre appears not to have opposed it in the apex court apprehending what the opposition would say. He said that one should maintain a “basic attitude” of “no disdain for National Anthem or song”, but the issue of standing up while singing the National Anthem should not be made a “fetish”. “Problems arise when you make it (standing up for a National Anthem) a fetish,” he said.
Singhvi was of the view that the “National Anthem certainly should not be enforced as a singing job”. “Here it is being enforced by a judicial edict, that is where the problem arises. Make a law to the effect through the Parliament,” he said. Echoing similar sentiments, Owaisi said he is not against National Anthem or national song, but “I am against you telling me that it is a test of my nationalism. I am not accepting it. You have no right whatsoever to test my nationalism or my loyalty”. All the leaders made the remarks during a discussion on the issue of nationalism at the Times lit fest here. While debating the ongoing controversy over the hindi movie Padmavati, there was a difference of opinion among the speakers.
Dasgupta said he was not opposed to the rights of a filmmaker to make a movie, but one should not expect “aesthetic approval” of everything that is cleared by the the Central Board of Film Certification. However, the others were of the view that once a statutory body like the censor board has cleared a film for screening then it has to be challenged as per law by moving the courts.
Varma said that once a jury of experts (CBFC) is set up as per the statute, then over and above that how can the Information and Broadcasting Ministry unilaterally decide what a community is thinking. Singhvi wondered “where do you stop”, if the decisions of the CBFC are sidelined without following the due process of law. CBFC and the courts have to decide what constitutes unity and integrity of the country and not the 1.2 billion people, as each of them would have a different perspective, Singhvi said.