On Monday, a video of a couple being forced out of a movie theatre for not standing up during the anthem started to go viral on social media. The video was uploaded by YouTube user Sunny S and according to the Times of India, took place at a cinema hall either in Mumbai or Bangalore. The report claims the couple kicked out of the theatre was Muslim.
This has been a familiar story ever since several state governments across India made it mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before each film screening. In August 2014, a young man named Salman M was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram for refusing to stand up during the national anthem before a movie. According to report in India Today, he was accused of “sitting and hooting” during the national anthem. Salman was charged with sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. He had to pay a surety of Rs 2 lakh and surrender his passport.
In October 2014, Preity Zinta threw a boy out of another movie theatre, this time in Mumbai, for refusing to stand up during the national anthem. Her nationalist vigilantism – and subsequent boasting about it on Twitter – earned her the ire of social media.
We take a look at how other countries expect their citizens to behave during performances of their national anthems.
The Japanese, who have had a rocky relationship with overt displays of nationalism since World War II, passed a law that officially established their national flag and anthem only in 1999. The Act on National Flag and Anthem made no provisions for usage and treatment of the symbol. Each city is free to make their own regulations regarding the national anthem. This has resulted in unexpected problems.
In 2003, Tokyo passed a regulation that required school or board officials to record the names of teachers who did not stand and sing the national anthem. The anthem, Kimigayo, is a solemn song about Japan’s emperor. Some feel this song is associated with Japan’s militarist past and do not stand as protest. As a result, more than 500 teachers in Tokyo have been disciplined for refusing to stand and sing the national anthem. Some have lost their jobs while others were let off with warnings. Some of the other sanctions include re-education courses and pay cuts.
Last year, nine teachers from seven schools were reprimanded for not standing up during the national anthem during graduation ceremonies.
In Mexico, according to the Law of the Coat of Arms, Flag, and National Anthem, all schools and universities are supposed to honour the flag on Monday mornings, and the beginning and end of school terms. Honouring of the flag involves a pledge and the national anthem. At many schools children are expecting to wear a different uniform on Monday, generally all white, out of respect for the flag and anthem. Teachers walk around to check whether the children are actually singing.
A Mexican woman, Guadalupe Madrigal, was fined $40 by the Mexican government for messing up words to the national anthem. Under the law, she could have been fined $880, but the authorities let her off because of her weak economic situation.
In Italy, the national anthem isn’t played at schools or other public places, except during sporting events, at formal state ceremonies and at public rallies attended by the President. No one is required to sing along or behave in some particular way while the national anthem is being played. However, Italians are required to stand and show respect to any national anthem.
Claudio Marchisio, a top-flight footballer, was accused of mocking the Italian national anthem during a match between Italy and Switzerland back in 2010. The controversy arose when a video was uploaded online showing the player adding the phrase “Ché schiava di Roma” (The slave of Rome) to the anthem’s lyrics.
Thailand’s love for its anthem is more fervid than most. It is played everyday on television at 8 am and 6 pm. Students of all ages gather in front of the national flag at 8 am and sing the national anthem together. The national anthem is also played regularly in government offices, and before movie screenings. However, there is no law regarding the national anthem in Thailand. It's just an unofficial convention.
The convention in the United States is pretty clear: when the national anthem is being played, whether or not the American flag is displayed, all individuals should face the flag/the source of music and stand at attention with the right hand over their hearts. But the United States does not discipline its citizens for failing to stand up.