Indian Police Crack Down on Theatergoers Not Standing for National Anthem

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Patrons standing for the national anthem in Indian theater.

A recent Supreme Court order has made it mandatory for the anthem to be played in cinemas nationwide.

Indian police have reportedly arrested theatergoers for not standing during the national anthem, which the country's Supreme Court recently mandated must be played before film screenings. 

Several local reports say that seven people were booked by police in the southern city of Chennai on Sunday for "disrespecting" the anthem. A group of six men and one woman allegedly took selfies when the national anthem was being played in a cinema, leading to a fracas when another group objected to their behavior. A case was registered against the group, making it the first such case following the Supreme Court order.

Similarly, there are reports that at least six people were taken into custody for refusing to stand up during the national anthem ahead of a screening at the International Film Festival in Kerala. The group did not stand up even after festival personnel and some policemen, who were present in the cinema, asked them to do so. The incident took place at an open air theater where Egyptian film Clash was being screened. The group was arrested and later released on bail.

The Supreme Court order, designed to foster “love and respect of the motherland,” has divided opinion in India. While some prominent people have welcomed the move, others, such as best-selling author Chetan Bhagat, have called the order “ridiculous.”

Playing the national anthem in cinemas was first made mandatory in 1962 when India fought a war with China, but the practice was discontinued by the 1970s. However, a couple of states, such as Maharashtra — of which film hub Mumbai is the capital — still enforced the rule. The Supreme Court ruling has made it mandatory for the anthem to be played nationwide.

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