The department of telecommunications (DoT) has instructed service providers not to offer the national anthem as a ringback tone, because the service does not “comply with the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971”. These tones are not, mind, distorted versions of Jana Gana Mana. If DoT’s notice is read right, even playing a faithful rendition of the anthem insults national honour.
The situation is reminiscent of Naveen Jindal’s struggle, in the early years of the 21st century, to fly the Indian flag. On 26 January 2002, the government’s P.D. Shenoy committee had granted private citizens the right to fly the flag; a few years later, the Supreme Court recognized the right to fly the flag as a fundamental right. The recognition that the flag belongs to the Indian public, and not to the government apparatus, now needs to be extended to the national anthem as well.