Forced Patriotism: An issue of debate
Gestures and acts like saluting the tri-colour flag, singing songs and reciting poems like Jana Gana Mana and Vandemataram and raising slogans like Inquilab Zindabad against the brutality of the ruling class played a key role in mass mobilization during the struggle for independent against the British. Even in post-independent India. The importance of such sloganeering has never been undermined and show of respect towards National Symbols continued especially during important occasions like Independence Day and Republic Day.
However, in recent times, a debate has been raging over – How important is it to display one’s respect towards national symbols not voluntarily but due to external enforcement by the legitimate state institutions – including the judiciary and non – state academic institutions.
For instance – In a widely criticized move, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Dipak Mishra ruled that it is Mandatory for movie theatres to play the national anthem before the screeching of every movie. The court also cast upon all cinema goers the obligation to stand up during the national anthem in a cinema hall.
The purpose for the measure as cited by the court was to instill the feeling of committed patriotism and nationalism within one. It is, however, difficult to understand how playing the national anthem, particularly at cinemas, which are essentially a recreational avenue, will guarantee patriotic feelings. The recent directive of the Madras High Court to schools and government and private offices for the compulsory singing of Vande Mataram caused displeasure among some sections of the society.
It is against this backdrop. It is pertinent to know to know and discuss the arguments put forward by advocates of enforced patriotism as well as advocates of politics of liberal values.
Arguments in Favour of Enforced Patriotism.
The following arguments are put forward by the advocates of enforced patriotism.
- Collective expression of sentiments play a positive and important role in achieving social and political cohesiveness. For this ‘Expression’ to happen on a continuous and pre- determined basis, enforcement by the legitimate state institutions is a necessary condition. Hence, the recent judgment’s of various court’s are the necessary steps in this direction.
- Citizens should realize that, there is no protection for individual rights without a state. In building and maintain a stable and legitimate state, the citizens must forge a part of their individual freedom and liberty and should show and display the respect towards national symbols in a collective environment. Hence, it is in the best interest of citizens to follow and abide by the directives of enforced patriotism.
- The proponents argue that the acts of enforced patriotism have a legal basis. The article 51A (a) of the constitution prescribes that showing respect towards the national flag and the national anthem is a fundamental duty of citizens.
Arguments against enforced patriotism
- The Indian state is democratic in nature. In a functioning and vibrant democracy like ours, fundamentals rights take high precedence. As per the Article 19(1)(a), all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.
- Legally speaking, the fundamental duties prescribed in the part IVA of the constitution are not enforceable by the judicial pronouncements alone. They should be backed by legislation of the parliament. They only provide moral and ethical basis for the behavior of citizens, but cannot be enforced through judicial pronouncements. And, it should be remembered that fundamental rights are always superior to fundal duties in a democratic set up.
Patriotism towards the nation is a sentiment. Hence, different people have different ways of expressing it. Moreover, some people find it unreasonable to express patriotic sentiments in a recreational space (like cinema halls) and cradles of liberty and free speech like universities.
Asking the law abiding citizens to prove their patriotism by performing certain acts stifles the democratic spirit of our political setup.