Foreigner sits during national anthem in Mumbai theatre; gang thrashes Indian friend

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Mumbai, Oct 21: A media executive was thrashed by a gang in a Mumbai film theatre because his South African friend did not stand up when the national anthem was played before the film!

The duo were at PVR Phoenix to watch the film 'Kill the Messenger', said a Mumbai Mirror report. The 31-year-old man, Mahek Vyas, was at the theatre with his partner Nicole Sobotkar to watch the 10.50 pm show. Ahead of the movie, National Anthem was played in the theatre. Vyas stood up while Nicole continued to be seated.

According to a Mumbai Mirror report, a person shouted at Nicole, asking her to stand up. The newspaper quotes Vyas, "I realised that the person sitting a few rows behind us was referring to my girlfriend, so I turned back and told him she was not an Indian. The guy said it wouldn't hurt if she stood up, to which I replied, 'she doesn't have to if she does not want to." When Vyas said this, a man sitting behind the duo, started hurling abuses at them.

A bitter exchange of words followed and when a furious Vyas raised his middle finger at one of the abusers, the men tried to attack the duo.

Immediately, the staff at PVR intervened. But again, one of the abusers punched Vyas several times and three of his friends joined him in the attack. His Nicole tried to intervene and she was screamed at by the men.The attackers were soon taken to Joshi Marg police station. The police berated the men for taking the law into their hands.

Vyas told Mumbai Mirror that the policemen told him that he should have made Nicole stand up for the anthem as not doing that was tantamount to a crime.

However, Sobotker is not ready to take the policeman's 'word of advice'. She reportedly told Mirror that henceforth, when she is in an Indian theatre to watch a film, she will enter the theatre only after the anthem is played.

She said Mirror that she was uncomfortable with the idea that rule was forced upon foreigners. She said since she's not an Indian citizen, it was not mandatory for her to respect Indian national anthem.

"I don't believe that any of my reasons above mean that I disrespect India or its national symbols", she told Mumbai Mirror.

It was mandated in January 2003 by the Nationalist Congress Party's deputy chief minister, Chhagan Bhujbal that national anthem should be played in every movie theatre in the state before the movie begins. 

There are many critics opposing this rule. Recently, when Preity Zinta threw a man out of the theatre for refusing to stand up for national anthem had kicked up a controversy. Not many were pleased with Zinta's over-enthusiastic act of patriotism. She was widely criticised on media and social media networks. 

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