Shyam Narayan Chouksey. Remember this name. You’re going to come across this name multiple times in this article as well as in the news.
15 years ago in 2001 when Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham released, Shyam Narayan Chouksey was among the millions of Indians who flocked to the theater to catch the family blockbuster.
However his experience of watching the film at Jyoti Talkies in Bhopal sent him on a 15-year long journey to change the film-watching culture in India.
Shyam Narayan Chouksey went through a rather interesting experience during a screening of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham in Bhopal.
During a particular segment of the film when the national anthem was played, Mr. Chouksey was shocked that no one else stood up to pay respect to the national anthem which was being played during a scene in the movie.
So when Mr. Chouksey stood up during this scene to pay his respects, he faced resistance by people sitting at the back.
“There was some hooting from the back. The two people behind me told me to sit down because I was blocking the view. I told them that they should stand up,” he said.
“I was very troubled and I felt hurt.”
This made an impression in Shyam Narayan Chouksey’s mind and he began a movement of sorts in Bhopal. He went around the city raging protests and setting up posters on cinema halls, criticizing how the national anthem is treated during movies.
“It got a tremendous response,” he said.
In a matter of days, Mr. Chouksey took the matter to the Jabalpur High Court which banned the screening of the film until the portions bearing the national anthem were deleted from the film.
To stir up your memories, in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, SRK-Kajol’s son sang the national anthem in his school in London.
It wasn’t until the film’s director Karan Johar made an appeal that the Supreme Court intervened and clarified that people did not need to stand up during the national anthem if it’s being played within the movie.
The Supreme Court said that if people stood up during the national anthem being played within a movie it “would create disorder and confusion, rather than add to the dignity of the national anthem.”
But this did not deter Shyam Narayan Chouksey’s spirit. He began collecting evidences of instances where he found people were disrespecting the national anthem or the national flag.
In one particular instance, Shyam Narayan Chouksey recalls, a District Collector in Madhya Pradesh had served food on paper plates which had the words of the national anthem printed on them.
“People were eating on these and throwing them in the dustbin,” he said. “How can one see that and not feel bad?”
After spending years collecting similar accounts, Shyam Narayan Chouksey began his legal battle in September. He filed a petition in the Supreme Court under the Section 51(A) of the Constitution which says that it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to show respect to the national anthem and the national flag.
Much to his surprise, the Supreme Court passed a timely ruling in his favor by agreeing to 3 of his appeals; national anthem to be played before films in cinema halls, the national flag to be displayed on the screen and for people to stand up during the national anthem for 52 seconds.
But according to Shyam Narayan Chouksey’s lawyer Abhinav Srivastava, the matter is far from over.
While speaking to Huffpost India, Srivastava said “there are other questions which the petitioner has raised including a clear mandate on what constitutes respect for the national symbols, how people can show their respect, and the penalties for showing disrespect.”
Not sure if Mr. Srivastava understands the difference between feeling patriotic and imposing patriotism
H/T: Huffpost India.