For 66-year-old Shyam Narayan Chouksey, the national anthem represents the pride, the struggles and the sacrifices made by the people and freedom fighters for freeing India from British rule.
“Can’t we even spare 52 seconds to give due respect and honour to the anthem that represents so much…?” Chouksey told HT after the apex court gave the historic order on Wednesday.
It was his public interest litigation on which the Supreme Court ordered that the national anthem must be played before any movie is screened at a public theatre.
Chouksey runs an NGO Gandhivadhi Manch in Bhopal and has been fighting for nationalistic and environmental causes since his retirement for last 15 years. “I can’t bear to see people dishonoring or not showing enough respect for things that symbolically represent our pride, the struggle of lakhs of people for making this beautiful country independent,” he says.
Chouksey says his fight began when he watched Bollywood movie ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ at Jyoti Theatre in 2001. “When the national anthem was sung in the movie, I was surprised to see no reaction among the audience. Apart from me only a few stood up to pay respect. Some people sitting behind even objected to our standing up. I couldn’t bear the disrespect. So I staged satyagrah outside the theatre and put banners.”
Chouksey went on to file a case in the high court in 2002. “In my petition, I objected to the use of national anthem in a commercial venture and its dramatisation. In July 2003, the high court banned its screening till the scene was removed from the movie. But the movie producer approached the Supreme Court and got a stay.”
Chouksey adds it was in 2005 that the apex court set aside the high court’s order that directed the producer and director to delete that portion of ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ where the national anthem was sung. “Finally I decided to file a PIL in the apex court last month to take the fight on the issue on a broader level on the national stage.”
“I pleaded that national anthem be sung for entire 52 seconds, without any disruption, without dramatisation or commercial exploitation, before a movie starts and during prayers in the schools. And there should be prior intimation before the anthem starts. And I will continue my fight to ensure that National Anthem is played in the schools during morning prayers. This will instill patriotic fervour in our children.”