This August 15 (2022) we are completing 75 years of our freedom from the slavery of British rule. This is a time to introspect and commit ourselves to the movement which got us freedom and to assess whether we are walking the path of dreams of the visionaries of freedom movement. To mark the occasion the Government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged the people to participate in hoisting tricolor on their houses between August 13 and 15. The occasion has been titled as ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’.
It looks like another spectacle is being brought up on the lines of Tali and Thali during the Covid epidemic. We as a country have derived deepest of inspirations from tiranga hoisting on our national days and on occasions when we have something to celebrate. Every 15th August and 26 January the same thing is done to remind ourselves of the deeper spirit of tricolor and to rededicate ourselves to the goals of the republic which adopted this flag. Why it is being done now as we celebrate the 75th Year? On one hand it is a welcome move, at another level this is also the time when the spirit of our constitution is being trampled recklessly by targeting religious minorities, dalits and women. This is the time when our hunger index is competing with that of Nigeria. Unemployment and the inability to face regularly occurring natural disasters like flood are the order of the day.
This is also the time when we are disturbed that so many of social workers, raising their voice for poor and marginalized are put behind the bar for their struggle to uphold values of Indian Constitution and to come to aid of the victims of violence in particular. Case of arrest of Teesta Setalvad, R.B.Srikumar and putting fresh charges against Sanjeev Bhat is just tip of the iceberg of the type of politics underway in the society.
So while all the political moves are at cross purposes with the values which our tricolor represents what is the purpose of creating this spectacle? We also understand that though the BJP-RSS is presently projecting tricolor it is deeply opposed to the values which it represents. Going slightly back one recalls that during national movement, anti British movement, aiming at secular democratic India was having tricolor as its symbol. RSS the parent organization of BJP RSS not only kept aloof from anti British movement it also did not accept Tiranga and had saffron flag for itself. One recalls that when Jawaharlal Nehru became the President of Indian National Congress in 1929, INC gave a call of celebrating 26th January 1930 as a day of total Independence (Purna Swaraj) and hoist the tricolor. RSS Sarsanghachalak even at that time opposed the tricolor and instructed RSS shakhas to hoist saffron flag (Bhagwa Jhenda).
The tricolor was adopted as the national flag with a modification that the Charkha was replaced by Ashok Chakra. The then RSS Sarsanghchalak, M.S. Golwalkar commented, “Our leaders have set up a new flag for our country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating….Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we not flag of our own? Had we not national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds?” And also while addressing a Gurupurnima gathering in Nagpur on July 14, 1946, Golwalkar stated that it was the saffron flag which in totality represented their great culture. It was the embodiment of God: “We firmly believe that in the end the whole nation will bow before this saffron flag.
As India got Independence, a day prior to that RSS mouth piece Organizer was scathing in criticizing the tricolor. The August 14 issue also carried (of Organizer) ‘Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhawaj (saffron flag)’, which, while demanding the hoisting of a saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the tricolor as the national flag in the following words: “The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the tricolour but it will never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”
BJP is a dynamic organization. It did strategize the use of tricolor in due course. One recalls Uma Bharati using tricolor to communalize the Idgah maidan issue in Karnataka. Later when Murli Manohar Joshi became President of BJP, he took out Ekatmata Yatra to Kashmir and hoisted the tricolor in Srinagar under the protection of Indian army. In due course, what are called the fringe elements of this politics started taking out processions on various occasions, making it a point to take these through Muslim majority areas while waving the tricolors in an intimidating way.
Tricolor is a great inspiration to the people of India. Many a protestors have on different occasions unfurled this flag on appropriate occasions. One such instance one recalls was the Shaheen Bagh movement, protesting against the CAA. The protestors unfurled this flag on Republic day with due honors to give their message of nationalism and rights as citizens.
The present campaign planned for 12 to 15th August this 2022, comes in the with modified norm that Tiranga need not be just made of Khadi. So now polyester and other synthetic material will be used in abundance with adverse consequences to the environment. Can patriotism be generated by such moves? One recalls that when Smriti Irani was the MHRD minister there was a proposal to install the Tricolor in each Central university with the height of 207 Feet with due prominence. This was in the backdrop of student protests in various Universities. The idea was this will cultivate nationalism. All this while flouting the basic norms of Indian Constitution, which should be the core marker for our policies. Mere symbols don’t bring the substance unless values of Fraternity, Equality and Liberty are followed. These need to be highlighted while initiating any genuine campaign.
Originally published in South Asia Monitor