Indian Citizens Have Been Arrested and Assaulted for Not Complying With New National Anthem Law

India’s Supreme Court ruled last month that all movie theaters had to play the National Anthem at the start of every screening, and all citizens were required to stand up for it. As if forced patriotism would make everyone love their country more…

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They’re not messing around either. Now that the law’s in effect, people are getting arrested and assaulted for not complying:

Twelve people were arrested on Monday evening at a cinema in India, after they remained seated while the national anthem played.

The cinemagoers, who were attending an international film festival in the city of Trivandrum in Kerala, were later freed but they face charges of “failure to obey an order issued by a public servant, thereby causing obstruction or annoyance to others”.

And at a cinema in Chennai on Sunday, eight people who did not stand for the anthem were assaulted and abused, police said. The eight were later charged with showing disrespect to the anthem.

It’s a bizarre way to instill love of country, by making everyone participate in a mandatory ritual during an otherwise enjoyable and popular pastime. What message does it send to the rest of the world when Indian people have to be forced to say the anthem or else they won’t do it? It also stifles legitimate resistance to the idea. Anyone trying to be the Indian Colin Kaepernick will be swiftly punished. (To make matters worse, the law requires all doors to stay shut during the anthem, in order to prevent anyone from walking out. Only last week was an exemption offered for disabled people physically unable to stand up.)

Hindustan Times columnist Gopalkrishna Gandhi is right to say that forcing people to sing the anthem is the wrong way to get them to love the anthem:

The national anthem is not a traffic signal that has to be respected. It is not a tax that requires compliance. It is not a test that has to be submitted to. It is the poetic equivalent of collective pride, the lyrical expression of a nation’s resolve to advance from ancient primitivisms and medieval bigotries to a future in dignity and justice. If songs are sung because one wants to sing them, heard because one wants to hear them and not under orders, anthems are sung or played when the occasion and the moment for it is right, when the sound of it saturates one’s sense of belonging to the greatness of India, and the greatness of India belonging to oneself.

You can’t show pride in your country when it’s no longer a choice.

Those of us who hold unpopular beliefs — and have fought a lot of battles for our right to peacefully dissent — should recognize why India’s law here makes no sense. Just like the phrase “I love you” means absolutely nothing if you’re saying it under duress, this law is designed to backfire. The National Anthem will come to represent an authoritarian regime instead of the largest democracy in the world.

Somewhere, I’m sure, Donald Trump is trying to figure out how to implement this law in the U.S.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Scott for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.