Three people including a woman senior citizen were roughed up by a mob in Chennai on Wednesday for not standing up for the National Anthem at the Chennai International Film Festival. The incident took place at around 12 noon at Palazzo Cinemas in Vadapalani.
Shreela, her 60-year-old mother Subhashri and Bijon, a graduate were arrested by the Chennai police and booked under Section 3 of The Prevention of Insults to National Honour. They were later released by the police.
Eye-witnesses say that the commotion began when the National Anthem was being played ahead of the screening of Bulgarian film Glory. The three allegedly refused to stand up for the national anthem. Agitated by this, the organizers and the audience allegedly attacked the three, said reporters who had attended the film festival. They also stated that the mob, who roughed up the three people, consisted of more than 30 people while the organisers called the police.
Speaking to The News Minute following her release, Shreela said, "My mother and I did not stand up for the National Anthem as my mother is old and I did not because of my principles. Some people began assaulting the other student, who was sitting next to us, they abused him and tried to drag him out of the hall." While she said many in the audience supported them, she added, "They started playing the movie but some people left the hall after getting angry. The people who went out, they called the police."
When the police arrived at the cinema hall, some members in the audience pointed the three of them out, she said. Shreela, who is a member of an organisation called CPI(ML) RESIST, explained that she did not stand up owing to her principles.
She, however, observed that both volunteers of the Chennai International Film Festival and audience members had manhandled Bijon.
The incident in Chennai, however, isn’t the first such case of a scuffle breaking out at a theatre.
Days after the Supreme Court directed cinema halls across the country to play the National Anthem before the commencement of films, seven people were allegedly assaulted by a group in Chennai's Kasi Theatre on December 11, 2016, after they refused to stand up for the National Anthem.
Sreela was among the seven members of RESIST assaulted at Kasi Theatre.
On December 12, 2016 eleven people were arrested (and later released on bail) for not standing up during the National Anthem which was played before the screening of a film at International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram. This included three journalists who were at IFFK to watch the night screening of a movie.
The Supreme Court had on November 30 ordered ordered all cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films. The court said the practice would "instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism."