For a country National Emblem, Standard, Flag and Anthem are symbols of national sovereignty and, therefore, every citizen — minority community or majority — must respect them and abide by the protocol relating to them.
In our country, National Anthem or National Song feuds took centre-stage even during Freedom Struggle and sadly for India even after Independence.
It was some Muslim members in the Congress and the Muslim League who did not accept Vande Mataram as National Song, at one time considered for National Anthem, and refused to sing it. Even after partition made on the basis that Muslims of undivided India could not co-exist with Hindus politically, the minority Muslims in India (a large number of them) continued to resist Vande Mantaram. But India as a unique “Secular Democracy” did not take the issue seriously or call it a feud — both UPA and NDA. So far so good. A tolerant country compared to its two neighbouring Islamic countries — Pakistan and Bangladesh.
While musing on these religion-based assertions of minorities in India, I was wanting to know if National Anthem has become an issue or feud in any other country in the world. And to my surprise it has. In our country the playing of National Anthem in cinema theatres still remains an issue with the majority, minority and the judiciary. Hence, my interest in finding out how other countries are answering this question.
In America National Anthem became an issue between the President Donald Trump and some NFL players when the latter were kneeling (instead of standing) during the Anthem to protest racial inequality and Police brutality.
Following this, political leaders and Governments in other countries are taking stronger steps to defend the honour of their National Anthems.
In October last, soccer fans in Hong Kong turned their backs during playing of China’s National Anthem. It is not known what action communist China took against these fans. However, China’s National Anthem law went into effect on October 1. The law covers Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. Under this law those who mock or insult the country’s Anthem will be punished with prison term of up to three years.
In Philippines a Filipino man was arrested on Nov. 18 for refusing to stand while the National Anthem was played at a movie theatre. Punishment: Fine up to $2000 and jail term.
In Turkey, when in a purge the Government sacked the teachers, they then went on hunger strike and began holding demonstration singing the National Anthem.
The Government outlawed “singing of the National Anthem in a disturbing way,” last September. I think in India we too must take some steps to punish those who mock or disrespect our Anthem in the name of religion, secularism or freedom of choice or political ideology or what have you.
As Dr. B.R. Ambedkar says, if the country loses, who wins? Disrespect to National Anthem and National Flag is the first step towards weakening the sovereignty of a country. We are warned.
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