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His crusade made the national anthem a must at movie halls

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
December 01, 2016 12:58 IST
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'When the national anthem is played it has to be played for 52 seconds.'
'It is mandatory. It is in the law.'
'One or two seconds here and there is fine when kids sing. But you cannot deliberately stretch the national anthem by singing in long aalaps.'

IMAGE: Two Supreme Court judges ruled on November 30, 2016 that every cinema hall in the country would play the Jana Gana Mana before every movie screening and that everyone in the theatre would need to stand up when the national anthem is being played.
Photograph published only for representational purposes.

On November 30, Shyam Narayan Chouksey, 77, became known all over India.

Acting on his petition, two Supreme Court judges -- Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy -- passed an interim order stating that the national anthem must be played before any movie screening in theatres across the country.

Chouksey, who runs Rashtrahit Gandhiwadi Manch, a Bhopal-based NGO, tells's Syed Firdaus Ashraf about his mission to inculcate patriotism in all Indians.

In the 1960s the national anthem used to be played in all movie theatres. After that, the practice was discontinued. What was the reason?

In those days, the national anthem used to be played after the movie. People did not have the patience to wait and would walk out of the movie halls.

The Supreme Court's decision states that the national anthem has to be played before the movie begins.

This is the difference from then to now -- it is a practice that is already followed in Maharashtra.

In Maharashtra, then home minister Chhagan Bhujbal made it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem.
Bhujbal has since been arrested on corruption cases and is currently in custody.

A true desh bhakt will not do such acts. Instead, he will sacrifice his life for the country.

Check our borders. Our soldiers get minimum salaries and face Pakistani bullets. They still keep fighting.

This is called desh bhakti. People like Bhujbal are opportunists. There are such people in every field.

When did you feel that the national anthem should be played in cinema theatres?

My father was a freedom fighter. In school, I was a very patriotic student. I always loved our national anthem, song and national symbols.

I retired from central government service in December 2000 and since then I have started raising these questions.

I have filed many cases against people who have shown disrespect to the national anthem and national symbols.

Some cases are going on in Bhopal and other places.

You filed a case against director Karan Johar, alleging he disrespected the national anthem in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

The Jaipur high court banned the screening of the film, but Johar approached the Supreme Court and got a stay order.

I had demanded that the national anthem scene should be removed from his film because it was picturised in a very dramatic manner.

The film, however, was running in theatres and therefore that scene could not be taken out. But then the decision was taken that there will be no commercial exploitation of the national anthem in the future.

No one has misused the national anthem after the Jaipur high court decision.

Do you mean that after Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, the national anthem has not been picturised in movies?

After the Jaipur high court ruling against the movie, no filmmaker has picturised the national anthem.

In the movie Mary Kom, the national anthem is played while the credits roll on screen.

Before the credits come on, the audience is asked to stand up for the national anthem. It is announced on screen.

There are other films too, but it is a complete different topic to discuss. Like in Fanaa, there was the national anthem in the beginning, but then they took out the national anthem and put Saare Jahan Se Accha.

There have been cases wherein disabled people have been assaulted because they did not stand up for the national anthem. What do you have to say to them?

This did not happen. People did not stand up for the national anthem and they were thrown out of the movie hall by the public.

For disabled people, who are unable to stand up, they can sit properly and respect the national anthem.

IMAGE: Shyam Narayan Chouksey, patriot.

Do you think patriotism of this kind must be imposed through a court order?
Shouldn't such feelings be voluntary?

It must come from within, but it isn't. So what to do?

In countries like Japan, Singapore, or in America, do you see people littering or urinating on the roads?

No. They have been taught since childhood they must not litter.

When they drive, they do not honk unless it's an emergency, unlike our drivers who honk incessantly.

Therefore, Modiji has given the call of 'Swachch Bharat,' so people inculcate these habits.

Therefore, if the court gives an order on the national anthem, then our countrymen will inculcate the habit of respecting the national anthem from childhood.

We will develop that kind of culture.

Why did you choose only movie theatres?

It is not theatres alone, but schools too.

This is an interim order. I had petitioned that every school in India must play the national anthem. That decision is still pending.

In government schools, the national anthem is played daily, but in Christian schools they do not play the national anthem. They play hymns.

I have seen schools in Mumbai play the national anthem. Christian schools too play the national anthem.

It may be possible in Mumbai, but in Madhya Pradesh there are many (Christian) schools where the national anthem is not played.

Playing the national anthem in schools is not mandatory. I have put in my writ petition that schools must play the national anthem. Hopefully, that verdict too comes in our favour.

There were comments on social media that you aren't telling people to play the national anthem at weddings or at clubs, but only targetting movie halls.

Our petition says the national anthem must be played at places where respect to the national anthem is possible.

In weddings, people are dancing, so how can one expect to stand for the national anthem?

During a funeral, when someone has died, people are crying, how can the national anthem be played?

Therefore, I have mentioned the places where the national anthem must be played.

Besides movie theatres and schools, are there any places where you have petitioned that the national anthem must be played?

Any graceful desh bhakt function can begin with the national anthem.

The national anthem cannot be a part of variety entertainment. It can only be played at the beginning or at the end.

Have you thought of joining politics?

No. What has politics got to do with it?

I was in central government service. I am 77 years old and run this NGO, Rashtrahit Gandhiwadi Manch.

What was your reaction when you heard about the Supreme Court decision?

I was in tears, overwhelmed. I knew the decision would be in our favour. However, I never expected the interim order would come so soon.

I filed the petition in the last week of September. Now the Supreme Court has given theatres 10 days to arrange for this facility.

I would also like to add that when the national anthem is played it has to be played for 52 seconds. It is mandatory. It is in the law.

One or two seconds here and there is fine when kids sing. But you cannot deliberately stretch the national anthem by singing in long aalaps.

If you do that, you will be insulting the national anthem.

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