"SAAMNE EK PAKISTANI BAITHA HAI"
Wheelchair-bound man called 'Pakistani' for not standing during National Anthem
- TEAM PT
Wheelchair-bound man called 'Pakistani' for not standing during National Anthem



A WHEELCHAIR-BOUND MAN, who has been fighting for rights of the disabled, was abused at a multiplex in Assam capital Guwahati on Friday for not standing up when the national anthem was being played.
 
Arman Ali, a top official at an NGO, had taken his nephew and nieces for a matinee show of Lucknow Central last week. They were seated in one of the front rows. As others got up when the National Anthem played, he straightened up as a mark of respect. However, towards the end, he heard a few men at the back say, "Saamne ek Pakistani baitha hai (A Pakistani is sitting in front)". 
 
"I was singing along while sitting. I heard someone commenting and calling me a Pakistani. 2 men sat behind me, smirking,” Ali was quoted as saying by ANI.

"I don't think the Supreme Court would have thought of situation like this. I'll write to the Chief Justice about this incident and plight of people like me,” he added.
 
"When I looked behind, they bore smug expressions on their faces. How easy to call someone Pakistani without even bothering to know if that 'Pakistani' can stand up or not? Maybe, to them, their national duty is done by commenting on my not standing up for the national anthem," TOI quoted Ali as saying.
 
"I felt humiliated," he said. He spoke about his experience on Facebook, in which he likened the practice to "pseudo nationalism".

"How could they call me a Pakistani? I didn't get into an argument with them as I had children with me. I stayed quiet. I wonder how many people would have supported me if I had raised the issue. I am quite aware of the dangers of mob mentality," Arman Ali, executive director of Shishu Sarothi, told NDTV.

He didn't take up the issue with the management of the multiplex nor does he plan to file a complaint.
 
Recalling a similar experience last year, when he had gone to watch Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, he said he stayed out of the hall and didn't enter till the film started.

"When the National Anthem played, as part the film, every body got up. I felt uncomfortable when people looked at me. It's pointless. Singing National Anthem inside a cinema hall doesn't make you patriotic. But such comments surely make others feel vulnerable. According to me, this practice needs to be done away with," he said.
  
Ali is director of Shishu Sarothi, an NGO that works for differently-abled people.
 
This is not the first time hysteria over the national anthem has driven self-appointed custodians of patriotism to attack people for failing to honour the national anthem by standing up for it. This has been a contentious issue in India, with growing emphasis on overt displays of patriotism.
 
In a widely publicised incident, Salil Chaturvedi, an award winning writer and disability rights campaigner who suffers from spinal injury, was assaulted at a multiplex in Goa by a couple standing in the aisle above him for not rising when the national anthem started playing, in October, last year.

In November, 2016, the Supreme Court made it mandatory for cinemas to play the national anthem before every screening and for everyone in the audience to stand up and show their respect. A week after its verdict, the top court did exempt persons with disabilities from standing up.

"At our organisation, where we closely work with people with disabilities in all seven northeastern states, we sing our National Anthem every day. I don't think we need to prove our patriotism by standing inside a cinema hall."
 
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