The essence of the Supreme Court’s ruling on playing the tiol anthem can be summed up in one of its pithy observations: “Time has come when people should feel they live in a tion.” For far too long in this country, this feeling has gone conspicuously missing. So much so, that standing at attention on the few occasions the tiol anthem is playing nowadays, invites derisive looks and even outright taunts. The PIL on which the apex court ruled on Wednesday arose from one such unfortute experience. Retired engineer Shyam rayan Chouksey, who runs an NGO in Bhopal, had in 2001 gone to see the Karan Johar blockbuster ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’. When the tiol anthem was playing out within the movie, Chouksey stood up — only to be hooted out for ‘blocking the view’. The mortified senior citizen began a decade-long crusade against the commercial treatment given to the tiol anthem, and more importantly, the utter disregard shown to it by spectators. He then moved the Jabalpur High Court which banned the screening of the movie until the tiol anthem part of it was deleted. Karan Johar filly got some relief in the Supreme Court when it ruled that the audience ‘did not need to stand up’ when the tiol anthem was played in the movie as that would create ‘disorder and confusion, rather than add to the dignity of the tiol anthem’. But the case left open the question of law, which will now be settled after Chouksey petitioned the apex court that proper norms and protocol be fixed for playing the tiol anthem, and that under Article 51(A) of the Constitution, it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to show respect to the tiol flag, tiol anthem and the Constitution.
There was a time when cinema halls used to play the tiol anthem after the movie ended. But the practice faded away sometime as the Seventies drew to a close. Why? Because, cinegoers would simply head for the exit as ‘Ja Ga Ma’ began playing. Soon multiplexes took over, and seeing a movie became part of an overall entertainment and eating-out package. In this brash new milieu, playing the tiol anthem and paying respect to it became an incongruity of sorts, something ‘not cool’ at all. As for the tiol flag, it remained confined to government offices and public sector undertakings, while common citizens got to hoist the Tricolour only on tiol days. Thanks to industrialist and former Congress MP vin Jindal for knocking at the Supreme Court’s door in the Nineties, flying the tiol flag is now a fundamental right, provided it is exercised with ‘respect, dignity and honour’. The Flag Code, established in 1950, now stands amended — though there is a sensible list of do’s and don’ts in how to fly the Tricolour. We are now quite used to see our sportsmen draping themselves with the flag after triumphing at the are, fans painting their faces with the Tricolour and kids flying kites on I-Day with saffron, white and green colours. But the tiol anthem is yet to see such enthusiasm, though as late as the Rio Olympics this year, crores of Indians yearned to hear it but once at the medal-winners ceremonies. For those who think passiote identification with the tiol anthem is an achronism, they only need to see how misty-eyed hardened Olympians get when they get to hear their anthems atop the podium. In Football World Cups, players join hands and sing their tiol anthem with common diehard intent and gladiatorial spirit. The Supreme Court has now rightly observed that at the root of protocol for tiol anthem — ‘is respect for tiol identity, integrity and constitutiol patriotism.’ Once this respect is ingrained as a pulsating force among citizens, there will hardly be the need to keep movie theatre exits closed in the beginning of the show when the tiol anthem will be played — as specified by the SC bench. Neither will citizens then feel the need to commercially exploit, dramatize or distort their tiol anthem, or to scorn its playing as an exhibition of ultra-tiolism.