Patriotism under Surveillance

The English word patriot is first attested in the Elizabethan era, it originated from the late Latin patriota in middle French, which means “countryman.” In Greek Modern, “fatherland” is named It describes one’s country as patriotic, devotional, and vigorous support. Patriotism or nationalism implies a person’s allegiance to his / her own country or the nation’s leaders. Patriotism is different from Nationalism.[1]

The standard dictionary definition reads it as “love of one’s land.” In ordinary usage, this captures the core sense of the term; but it may well be considered too thin and need to fill out. Stephen Nathanson (1993, 34–35), in what is still the sole book-length philosophical study of the subject, describes patriotism as involving: deep affection for one’s nation, a sense of personal connection with the nation special concern for the country’s well-being and willingness to sacrifice to promote the good of the country.

Over the historical time, the general notion of civic virtue and community devotion has been attested globally in culture. For the enlightenment thinkers of Europe of the 18th century, loyalty to the state was regarded largely as opposed to loyalty to the Church. It was argued that clerics  should not be allowed to teach in public schools since their patrie was heaven so that they could not inspire the love of the homeland in their students. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of the most influential advocates of this classical notion of patriotism. Enlightenment thinkers have opposed what they viewed as the excess of patriotism.

In such dynamic times, it is impossible to define patriotism as it may always differ from one person to another. Such a statement would say something about the patriot’s convictions about his country’s values, his desire to belong to a community and be part of a more inclusive narrative, to relate to a history and a future that transcends the narrow confines of an individual’s life and mundane concerns, as well as the social and political circumstances that influence the ebb and flow of patriotism, its political and cultural influence and more. 

There can be different ways to show love and devotion towards your country, ranging from honouring the soldiers, respecting your culture and diversity, voting in the elections, paying the taxes and being overall a vigilant citizen.

India is a land of diversities. In a country like India where languages, culture, religion, faith, food etc. changes just in a few kilometres it is obvious that the faith in one’s nation would also have a hint of change. We read in school books that India has been invaded many times since 300 BC, and has been controlled by several foreign powers up to 1947. The main explanation for this was the division of Bharatvarsha; there was no unity in the country; states (kingdoms) clashed with each other. Invaders took advantage of this anarchy and Indian separatism and reigned over our land. During the period of Chanakya, the vast land called Bhart Bhukhand was divided into princely states like Takshila, Magadh, Kaushal etc, each fighting against others for supremacy. Taking advantage of this, Alexander, the Greek Invader tried to conquer India.

Mughals and British followed, invading and occupying India for five hundred years. Then the kings and the states fought for dominance and control. Today, through Vote Bank, the political parties are battling together to gain power over the Indian Government, as India is governed by a democratic form of government. So, the politicians can split India into Vote Banks and win over them, even at the country’s expense. Gandhi Ji called for patriotic sentiments to be established which led to lakhs of people sacrificing their lives, jobs, etc. to free India from British rule. Many​ patriots battled to protect liberty for India against the British rule.

They have never hesitated to sacrifice their security, happiness and life for their motherland’s cause. Some of the most glorious chapters of Indian history have been written as well in the blood of patriots. Maharana Pratap, Tipu Sultan, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Surya Sen, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Jatin Das — are all great patriots to remember. But​ the importance of patriotism, after attaining independence, seems to have been lost. Under foreign rule, the misery and suffering had unified India and created a revolutionary wave that gave India independence. Now, the achievement of power and greed to share power seems to have diminished, if not killed totally, the patriotism in Indians. If patriotism is not revived, the Indians will continue to fight among themselves for power and supremacy like the kings of medieval India and invite foreign power to occupy India.

However, in today’s scenario, the idea of patriotism is compelled upon the people. It​ appears that the government is encouraging patriotism as an “agenda” rather than a continuing process. The promotion will begin at the basic level of education where the children are familiar with Indian culture so that they can embrace the values they want to uphold in their lives by the time they grow up. Instead when patriotism is pushed down the people’s throats in the form of Good Governance Day, Swachchh Bharat, Clean Ganga etc. people will only be associated in order to be seen as following the laid down norms, instead of willingly adopting the values which would lead to the above-mentioned agenda. If citizens voluntarily follow these principles-Good governances will occur, Bharat will become Swachch and Ganga will become clean over time.

Indians national anthem is Jana Gana Mana, the anthem of 1.25 billion Indians wherever we are whatever we do the national anthem unites us all but lately, it has become a dividing device for Indians. The so-called custodians of nationalism are back in motion after the Supreme Court hinted at changing its order to play national anthem in movie theatres. National Anthem in cinema halls is enforced patriotism. Nationalism in the cinemas was a wartime measure to bring people together at a time of crisis. India used it at the time of three wars with China and Pakistan. “Forced patriotism is the opposite of the liberty and freedom the constitution is supposed to symbolize”

In a widely criticized move, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Mishra ruled that playing the national anthem before each film is screened is compulsory for movie theatres[2]. The Court also imposes a duty on all cinemagoers to stand up in a cinema hall during the national anthem. The object of the Court’s cited measure was to’ instil within one the feeling of committed patriotism and nationalism.’ However, it is difficult to understand how playing the national anthem can guarantee patriotic feelings, especially at cinemas, which are essentially a  recreational avenue. 

Aftermath of The Order

  • On December twelve people were arrested for not standing when the national devotional song was played before a film was screened at the ongoing Kerala International Film Festival in Thiruvananthapuram. The people were charged and captured after Bharatiya Yuva Morcha’s members, BJP’s youth wing gripped the DGP against their act of’ hostile to national.’
  • Four young men and four young ladies were attacked and whipped by a group of 20 people and called police. The police enrolled a body of proof against such undergraduates for disregarding the national devotional song although no action was taken against the attackers for the use of violence.
  • On a similar occasion, the Kerala Police arrested an author and theatre extremist Kamal C Chavara on eighteenth December on charges of offending in a Facebook remark the national song of praise. The recording was taken during the same Bhartiya Yuva Morcha reporting a grievance.
  • The Facebook statement was an excerpt from his successfully published novel about which there was no clamour until the Supreme Court arranged. Nevertheless, after much input from all quarters on the case, Chavara was charged with rebellion for his message, the police decided to start the path to drop the subversion charge against him.
  • The manner in which the request no position demonstrates what needs to be done on the occasion of its rebelliousness is practically taking into account such arbitrary criminal charges as the one on Chavara and far more influential degree for the conservative forces to continuously target individuals for the sake of vigilante patriotism.

In typical aftermath of this between time arrangements, criminal charges are being slapped on individuals for not consenting to an application which has no legal basis. The appeal conjures up Article 51(A) of the Constitution, which specifies that it is each resident’s fundamental duty to recognize the national song of praise. Although basic responsibilities are among the form of regulations to be looked after and no one can be arraigned for non-compliance with them.

Only the legislation relating to the Prevention of Insults to National Honors Act does not properly endorse this appeal. Section​ [3] of the law punishes the demonstration of’ deliberately holding the singing of the Indian National Anthem or making aggravations of any get together occupied with such singing’ which no place sums up that any person can be legally charged for not remaining for the devotional song.

Freedom of expression and Patriotism

Patriotism is a very personal feeling and the right of an individual to express it in his or her way is rooted in the constitutional right to free speech. A contrast to the logic adopted by the Supreme Court in its 1986 decision in Bijoe Emmanuel vs. Kerala State can be drawn to fortify this claim. Here, the Apex Court had extended protection to children belonging to the Jehovah’s

Witness sect, who had refused to sing the national anthem during a school assembly. Although maintaining categorically held the right of the children to freedom of speech and expression and the right to religion, the Court”… no statute requires anyone to sing the National Hymn…”.Similarly, in the landmark case of West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a bill requiring schools to expel their students who declined to welcome the flag and fulfil the Pledge of Allegiance. The US Supreme Court ruled that requiring students to welcome and recite the Pledge was a forced speech and violated the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the First Amendment. Justice Robert Jackson’s majority opinion held that,

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. …We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”

The tenor of the Indian Supreme Court order suggests coerced patriotism, while these required patriotism shows go against the very grain of free expression. The Court in Excel Wear Etc. vs. Union of India held that the constitutional right provided for in Article 19 has reciprocal rights,

i.e. “the right to freedom of expression requires the right not to talk and the right not to join an association is implicit in the right to form associations.” Correspondingly, the freedom to speech provided for in Article 19 should also provide freedom not to speak within it. The​ expression of patriotism should be left to the personal choice of an individual, and should not be determined by a decree or any other means such as an order or rule of government. It is also extremely

important in this context to highlight the Barnette opinion of Justice Jackson on making’ patriotic ceremonies’ a’ compulsory practice.’ He stresses that patriotic ceremonies should be optional and spontaneous, rather than mandatory. To do so would underestimate free-minded institutions.

Can a Fundamental Duty be imposed?

The Court took refuge from Article 51A of the Indian Constitution to order individuals to stand forcefully as a ‘sacred obligation’ during the national anthem. Article 51A(a) of the Constitution only imposes on people the duty’ to abide by the Constitution and honour its principles and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem,’ and does not prescribe unique requirements such as those needed for singing and/or showing respect. The Court has failed to note that though there is an inherent compulsion to comply with the fundamental duties, there is no legal sanction provided for the violation or non-performance of such duties.

The Kerala police had arrested eleven people for showing disrespect for the national anthem by not standing up at a foreign film festival held in Thiruvananthapuram as a consequence of the Supreme Court order. Since the’ accused’ were released on personal bail, they were charged pursuant to section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes penalties for disobeying a public servant’s order.

Fallacies of enforced patriotism 

  • In its essence the Indian State is democratic. Fundamental freedoms take high precedence in a working and vibrant democracy like ours. As per Article 19(1)(a), all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. In various cases, the apex court pronounced that the freedom of expression includes the freedom of non-expression also. Hence, the enforced acts of patriotism are antithetical to the democratic spirit of the constitution itself.
  • For liberalism, the nationalism is a demon. In addition, there are high chances of increasing patriotic sentiments and reverence for national symbols and institutions, not when they are held aloof but when they are within reach and open to the common man. For example, after the 1995 Supreme Court removed the restriction found in the Flag Code-India relating to the flying of the National Flag by private citizens in the case of Naveen Jindal Vs Union of India​, more and more people became endeared to the tri-colour.
  • Legally speaking, the fundamental duties specified in the Constitution’s Part IVA can not be imposed by the judicial pronouncements themselves. They will be accompanied by legislative legislation. They only provide a moral and ethical basis for the behaviour of citizens, but can not be enforced through judicial pronouncements. And, it should be remembered that the fundamental rights are always superior to fundal duties in a democratic setup.
  • Perhaps notably, the root cause of all the problems is to equate nationalism with imperialism. While both nationalism and patriotism display an individual’s relationship to his or her country, they vary widely. While Nationalism means to give more importance to unity by way of cultural background, including language and heritage, patriotism pertains to the love for a nation, with more emphasis on values and beliefs.

So, essentially, a patriot passively expresses the emotion of affection for his country, while a nationalist actively expresses his affection or concern for the country. An incident in October 2016 in which an award-winning writer and disability activist Salil Chaturvedi, who is suffering from a spinal injury, was allegedly attacked at a multiplex in Panaji, Goa when he wasn’t standing up while playing the national anthem better demonstrates the nationalist mindset.


Nationalism equating with patriotism is the root cause of all the problems. While both nationalism and patriotism display an individual’s relationship to his or her country, there is a huge difference between them. While nationalism means giving greater importance to unity across a cultural context, including language and heritage, patriotism is about a nation’s love, with a greater focus on ideals and beliefs. India is a land of unity in diversity. As earlier stated also, individual rights always supersede. Enforcing people to stand and sing Jan Gan Mann or installing army tanks in a particular universities’ campus won’t ever develop the feeling of patriotism as well as of nationalism.

It is not going to make people aware of their country nor it will help anywhere to change the mindset of some “lazy” people towards the issue. Politicizing a citizen’s rights and interests is acting as a venom only. Politicians when on the other hand are gaining their vote bank on the sake of love, devotion etc. but some communities and organizations are taking the shelter of the SC’s decision and spreading hatred towards each other by indulging in heinous crimes like man slaughtering; hence, further taking someone’s rights.

The author is of the opinion that the government should not interfere in such personal matters of the citizens and must take the philosophy behind fundamental duties seriously; as enshrined by our constitutional forefathers and mothers in the constitution. However, what steps the government can take to somewhat “instil” the feeling of patriotism is to organize programs in school levels and community level and make citizens aware about the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters. All this should be done by the citizens voluntarily, not forcefully.


The order could spell disastrous consequences by giving teeth to self-appointed watchmen seeking to preserve the dignity of the country. In the recent past, there have already been many instances of such jingoism which trigger serious apprehension about the implementation and outcome of the court order. A paraplegic man was recently attacked at a theatre in Goa for not standing up during the national anthem, and a group of college students were abused and harassed for not standing up at a theatre in Chennai during the national anthem.

In Young India in 1922, Gandhi said-Before making any further steps towards our goal, we must first make good the right to free speech and free association. With our lives, we will protect these basic freedoms.

Gandhi’s beliefs were based on his conviction that freedom of association is genuinely protected because only progressive ventures can be debated by assemblies of people. Such thought-provoking ideas became an important part of our fight for democracy and incorporated in the Constitution. It should be noted that it was never in the veins of Indian society, being anti-State. Even​ during the anti-British resistance, the resistance was against the rulers ‘ tyranny but not the authorities per se. The resentment was against the undemocratic and unjust law but was never against men. It’s a feeling to patriotism the country.

Therefore, numerous people have different ways to say it. Besides, some people find it unfair to display patriotic feelings in a public space (like cinema halls) and as universities cradles of democracy and free expression. Asking the law-abiding people to show their patriotism by conducting such acts stifles our political setup’s democratic spirit. Only the US Supreme Court, which serves as a torchbearer for democratic tradition in the modern world and whose decisions still lead the Indian supreme judiciary, agreed to this logic.

[1] system created by people who believe their nation is superior to all others. Most often, this sense of superiority has its roots in a shared ethnicity.

[2]  Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. UOI (2016)

[3] ​ ​Fundamental duties: It shall be the duty of every citizen of India (a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.

Vipasha Shukla from SVKM’s Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies

Hello everyone! I am Vipasha Shukla, a second year law student who had fallen in love with psychology and social work but got happily married to law. I have been an orator for years maybe that’s why I prefer mooting rather than those boring lectures. Being a first generation would be lawyer is challenging as well as interesting. I feel much happier by knowing the ‘why’ of an act rather than delving into the bare acts and learning the sections! 

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