This article has been written by Raina Mahapatra. Raina is currently pursuing her undergraduate course from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
The Indian Express I opened today looked up at me with a plethora of information and a particular article on the seventh page caught my eye, quite rightly so. “No beard, uniformity must in IAF”, it read.
The Supreme Court on Thursday said that IAF personnel had no right to sport a beard on religious grounds, lest the ‘uniformity and discipline’ of the defence forces be hampered. Citing the power of the Parliament to determine the extent of restriction on fundamental rights among armed forces personnel as provided for in Article 33 of the Constitution, the apex court dismissed the appeal by Airmen Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed. The appeal was put forward challenging the High Court’s dismissal of their plea for quashing the IAF order directing them to shave off their beards. The bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur and comprising of Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao held that the petitioners had failed to show that their case fell within the ambit of Regulation 425(b) which says “personnel whose religion prohibits the cutting of the hair or shaving of the face of its members will be permitted to grow hair or retain beard.”
According to the court, although India treats every religion equally, such an action is quintessential to a cohesive, disciplined and coordinated functioning of the armed forces.
And while some might find this unrelated, it brought into my mind’s questioning the SC Anthem Ruling that plunged into controversy not so long ago wherein the honorable Supreme Court once more demonstrated that cinema is a soft target for all concerns nationalistic. How is it, if our nation respects all religions, that there is a requirement to strip down one off his unique identity in order to instil a sense of ‘uniformity’ within him? Why does our nation require symmetry in physical appearance or an outward act of patriotism so badly?
Days after it forced the patriotic pill down our collective throats by making the playing of national anthem and standing to it mandatory before movie screenings in all cinema halls, 12 people were detained during the International Film Festival of Kerala for not rising and 8 people, who chose not to rise in opposition, got beaten up in a Chennai cinema hall by a mob of 20.
What needs to be understood is that most of these people who voluntarily choose not to obey such a rule are not doing it out their hatred or lack of love for their nation but as a necessary act of defiance against the compulsory thrusting of nationalism against their will.
Since when does our judiciary require positive acts on our behalf in order to be satisfied of the feeling of patriotism that rests in our heart? How is nationalism being forced down our throats as a compulsion the only manner in which the SC can finally be satisfied with our patriotism? How is the judiciary the only possible protector of our nationalistic feelings now? The questions never end.
Of all places, especially in a country wild about movies, cinema halls are visited by the people to take a break from their lived reality and blow off steam; for the Supreme Court to single out the largest mass entertainment venue for such mandatory “inculcation” reeks of a design to deepen the state’s coercive powers over us. The only ones it has empowered through this order are chest-thumping jingoists and aggressive elements. Literally bashing people who do not consent to be force-fed nationalism, physically and legally, can be pictured in totalitarian, big-brother regimes, but not in the country we call home. Yet it is being allowed to happen.
The Freedom to Speech and Expression being guaranteed by our constitution surely imbibes within itself the right to denial and positively express our intention against something that is being forced on us without any reason. And yet, the forced discipline.
The December book bucket