News shows these days are theaters of the absurd and sensible viewers must constantly remind themselves that what they are watching is not a clever parody but the real thing, the happening world. Consider this for instance – a group of people calling themselves gau-rakshaks (cow protectors) use such modern technologies like smartphones and the internet to trace and find people they suspect of trafficking beef because they believe the cow to be their mother. They are aided in their efforts by the state police. Meanwhile, trafficking of children and women goes on unabated with nary a nari-rakshak anywhere in sight.
The latest to join this burlesque is the national anthem debate. The Supreme Court has decided to cultivate patriotism in the land by singing the anthem in movie theatres before each show. Citizens are advised to stand during the recital. People who choose to sit are spotted by anthem-rakshaks and arrested by police. The court order has divided movie-goers into four groups- the Joyful Standers (JFS), the Joyless Standers (JLS), the Grim Sitters (GS) and the Cool Shitters (CS). The last are the ones who said, “Oh, shit”, and stopped going to movie halls. The JLS is the most common, followed by the JFS, the CS and the GS in that order.
The Cool Shitters are quiet dissenters. The Grim Sitters are more vocal and wish the world to take note of their dissent. These may also include the occasional alcoholic who cannot be bothered to stand up. The Joyless Standers are those who have no particular opinion one way or the other about the whole rigmarole but feel that they might as well do what is required so that they can watch their movie in peace. The recently concluded IFFK saw such people stand in large numbers before the movies which, ironically, highlighted State intrusion into civilian life. Joyless Standers may disagree with the exercise but do not feel it necessary to press the question. The Joyful Standers are a small group who feel that the court order is right and proper. Within their number is a sub-group, the anthem-rakshaks, who are not content to merely stand. They must make sure that everyone else also stands, and will spare no pain to punish sitters with whatever means at hand – vigilante justice or the more conventional form. The anthem-rakshak interprets dissent as disrespect to the national anthem and seeks to criminalize it.