19 June, 2021

For People To Wield This Bound Aaron’s Rod

The Indian’s great, organic faith in the secular Constitution grew out of its emergence as a site for struggle since its earliest years

For People To Wield This Bound Aaron’s Rod

Bijou Emmanuel and his siblings, Binu and Bindu, had gone to school on a July morning in 1985. Like every other day, during the morning assembly as the other children lined up to sing the national anthem, the Emmanuel siblings respectfully stood to one side and remained silent. As devout Jehovah’s Witnesses they believed they are part of god’s kingdom and like many of their fellow believers around the world did not salute national flags or sing national anthems, which were seen as a form of worship. Several of the Emmanuel family had attended the same school across generations and had been allowed to stand silently. Yet on that July morning, a “patriotic MLA” who was visiting the school noticed and took objection. He raised questions in the Kerala assembly, setting off a process which ended with the headmistress regretfully expelling the students. The Emmanuel children moved the Supreme Court, after the Kerala High Court rejected their petition, holding that no word or phrase in the national anthem offended religious sensibilities. The Supreme Court,...

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