Vigilantism or nationalism? 12 people arrested for not standing during National Anthem at Kerala film fest

The SC ruling on national anthem could just give saffron groups and vigilantes another reason to ramp up their moral policing

Twelve people were booked by police in two separate incidents at the International Film Festival in Kerala for not standing up during the playing of the national anthem.

Activists from Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing who were present during the movie screening pointed out to police personnel towards certain people for not standing up when the national anthem was being played, according to media reports.

Members of Kerala Police are believed to be present at all the movie screenings at the ongoing festival, apparently just to make sure that delegates abide by a recent Supreme Court directive. India’s highest court recently made it mandatory for the national anthem to be played at the beginning of movie screening in theatres across the country.

Some of the vocal critics of the new SC directive have expressed reservations about the decision which is being seen as ‘forcing’ patriotism on citizens. Many express fear that SC order could lead to members of nationalist groups taking to movie theatres to enforce the directive, a trend that’s already taking shape.

Instances of moral policing by groups claiming affiliation to the ruling BJP are not uncommon in India, and the latest SC advisory could just give saffron groups and vigilantes another reason to ramp up their moral policing.

The incident comes merely a day after a group of eight persons, including three women, were beaten in public for sitting while the national anthem was being played. While those beaten up were booked under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, the thrashers were allowed to walk away scot-free.