The governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have belittled the tricolour — and Independence Day — by directing madrasas to hoist the national flag and take out tiranga rallies on August 15. The UP government has asked them to submit videotapes of the event as proof. This should embarrass, if not shame, all right thinking Indians. But this is perhaps asking for too much from people who are high on nationalism.
A section of Muslims have argued that this should be done demonstratively in order to demolish the RSS propaganda that Muslims are not, or less, loyal to the nation. It has also been said that Muslims have always held the tricolour with pride and by doing so this time, they would only be continuing that tradition. Whatever this section of Muslims feels, we need to reject the idea of nationalism being imposed through government orders, that too on a particular section of the people. This is not an innocent order. More than Muslims, the order is addressed to Hindus — to show them that Muslims, the natural deviants, are now being reined in.
Mosques and madrasas have always been depicted as enclaves that are beyond the state’s reach. They are seen as places where conspiracies are hatched, arms stored and terrorists produced. So, there has been always a demand to discipline them and bring them under state control.
It is no use citing instances from the past to show that madrasas — or Muslims — were integral to the national struggle and that they need not confirm their nationalism. In the popular imagination of a section of Hindus, they remain insufficient Indians; they think that it is their duty to nationalise all Muslim spaces. One way to do so is to place seemingly innocuous nationalist demands which the Muslims would find difficult to resist. But the intent is sinister: To demoralise Muslims by telling them that they do not have a private sphere of their own.
It would be unimaginable to ask gurudwaras or mandirs to fly tirangas on the Independence Day — not that this should be done for the sake of parity. One should not even ask private organisations like the RSS to hoist the tricolour. It was abhorrent to see the kanwarias draping themselves with the tiranga last year.
Madrasas impart religious education. They are not regular educational bodies. The state should not impose its protocol on them. Religions are not constrained by national boundaries. The nation cannot impose itself on religion.
Religions function in different institutional ways. It has been difficult for the Hindus to appreciate the trans-national Muslim or Christian approach. Since Hinduism in their understanding is coterminous with the territorial boundaries of India, they even forget the notion of trilok.
Religions are also not the creatures of the state. They precede them. Similarly an individual may not allow the state, which bears the nation, to colonise herself.
The tiranga and the national anthem is being used for a nefarious purpose. When deployed to achieve this end, it could degenerate into the saffron flag. In keeping with the spirit in which the national flag was adopted, I find it necessary to reject the orders of the state to foist it on me or my private space. Let us recall the words of Nehru who proposed the flag before the Constituent Assembly, “….this Flag that I have the honour to present to you is not hope and trust, a flag of empire, a flag of imperialism, a flag of domination over any body, but a flag of freedom not only for ourselves but a symbol of freedom to all people who may see it. And wherever it may go — and I hope it will go far, not only where Indians dwell as our ambassadors and ministers but across the far seas where it may be carried by Indian ships, wherever it may go it will bring a message, I hope, of freedom to those people, a message of comradeship, a message that India wants to be friends with every country of the world and India wants to help any people who seek freedom. That I hope will be the message of this Flag everywhere and I hope that in the freedom that is coming to us, we will not do what many other people or some other people have unfortunately done, that is, in a newfound strength suddenly to expand and become imperialistic in design. If that happened that would be a terrible ending to our struggle for freedom. But there is that danger… in a country suddenly unshackled… trying to hit out at other people. If we do that we become just like other nations who seem to live in a kind of succession of conflicts and preparation for conflict.”
Nehru could foresee the danger of nationalism and the flag being used to dominate others. His fears are coming true.