This blogpost examines how technology can assist in inculcating patriotic feelings in Indian citizens while disabusing them of prurient tendencies. (Please sing the Indian national anthem before reading any further).
The Supreme Court of India recently made it mandatory for all cinemas in the country to play the national anthem before every film screening. Not only is it compulsory for moviegoers to listen to the national anthem – they must do so in a patriotic manner (by standing for its duration). The judgment is unclear on whether actually singing the anthem is required, and also fails to appropriately answer the seminal question posed by Joe Cocker - “what would you do if I sang out of tune?”
Theatre owners and moviegoers have by and large complied with the decision (standard social media griping aside). Numerous commentators have been critical of the judgment, but there is no real political mobilisation around this issue yet. The Supreme Court timed the decision well – just when demonetization and its fallout was top of the pops.
However, recent news reports indicate that problems may be in the offing. A Huffington Post report of December 9, 2016, indicates that owners of adult movie theatres in Kolkata are finding it difficult to convince customers to stand up for the national anthem. As a patron noted rather eruditely, “I love my country and I don't need to display it at a time when I have come to watch an adult film.” Another quipped “Whether you are erect just before the movie starts or ten minutes after it starts – what’s the difference?”
Other than confirming the government’s oft-repeated claim that anti-nationals are indeed perverts, it is evident that the flippant and dismissive attitude displayed by the casual cinema-goer in Kolkata threatens the integrity of not just our esteemed judiciary but the nation as a whole. Quite clearly our national interest and security cannot be predicated on/held hostage to the libido of the masses.
But what can be done – how can one in a sense, excommunicate these ex-communists? After all as was pointed out by a theatre owner, can one really “expect a crowd coming to watch Matric Pass 2 to stand while the national anthem is being played”?
The answer is quite simple actually. If they don’t behave - throw them in jail (or better still into Bangladesh. Pakistan would be ideal, but is further away and will incur greater costs of transportation). The tools to enable this are already available to the government.
Since India’s overnight conversion to a cashless / digital economy earlier this month (as our Prime Minister has noted, even vagrants only accept digital/mobile payments now) it should be simple enough for the authorities to utilize the data collected from the gyroscopes built into every persons smartphone to ascertain whether that person stood up at the time the national anthem was being played in the cinema hall. Thanks to the variety of applications that access virtually every bit of data being processed by our phones, the authorities could have access to such information within hours of signing the necessary order. Combined with information on show timings, and if necessary CCTV and digital data from the cinema itself – the authorities will with minimal effort, have a perfect method to catch every single anti-national.
In fact, why stop at movie halls? A twitter user noted that a national file anthem should be attached to each movie torrent file. What a marvelous suggestion! Requiring Netflix or a DVD production company to include the national anthem in every copy of a movie will only help inculcate patriotic sensibilities in the younger generation. And lets not forget the collateral benefits – ridding Indian teens of the corrupt influences of western culture. After all nothing disrupts a ‘Netflix and chill’ session like a well timed rendition of the national anthem. Authorities can then – using people’s smartphones and other connected devices / sensors - check on whether movie watchers are being sufficiently obsequious at the appropriate times.
This also takes care of the weakest link in the Supreme Court’s decision - its discriminatory attitude towards cinema halls. Why should these institutions be the sole standard bearers of patriotism? Technology can however help overcome this issue – by ensuring that that every Indian not only pays homage to the national anthem before watching a movie, but at virtually any point of time.
After all we are getting used to everything being on demand – be it entertainment or even governance solutions. So is there any reason why a citizen’s fundamental duties cannot be re-interpreted to include on-demand techno-patriotism? Such a move will also help the economy by assisting nationalist startups who can find innovative ways to further build the national anthem into our everyday lives.
So be prepared – the next time you want to open the little panel in your car to fill fuel - you may have to sing it the national anthem; the next time you want to enter your home – you may have to sing the national anthem to your doorknob. And you will – if for no reason than the fact that every device will be listening.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.