The BJP-led central government’s ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign, part of its plans for India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations, has revived discussions around the relationship of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological parent, with the national flag.
While Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on August 3 questioned why did “the RSS not hoist the Tricolour at its headquarters for 52 years”, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi on August 4 tweeted that the “RSS had rejected independent India & the Indian flag.”
What is the latest controversy about, why didn’t the RSS hoist the Tricolour at its Nagpur headquarters for 50 years, and why had MS Golwalkar, the second RSS Sarsanghchalak, called the adoption of the Tricolour “just a case of drifting and imitating”? We explain.
As part of the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign, the BJP government is encouraging people to hoist the national flag at their homes and to use it as their social media display pictures (DP). While several senior BJP leaders and ministers, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have changed their Twitter DPs to the Tricolour, the RSS is yet to do so. This has led to the Opposition questioning the organisation’s motives.
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh has tweeted in Hindi: “We are putting the DP of our leader Nehru with the Tricolor in his hand. But it seems the PM’s message has not reached his family. Those who did not hoist the flag at their headquarters in Nagpur for 52 years, will they obey the Prime Minister?”
The RSS, on its part, has not said whether it will change its DP from the current saffron flag, but has spoken out against the “politicisation” of the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign.
“Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav is a national festival and the entire country has to celebrate it together. On July 9, the RSS had announced its support to all programmes being organised by the Government of India, state governments or other organisations. The RSS has called upon all its workers to enthusiastically participate in all such programmes. There should be no politics over Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. All should rise above politics and focus on celebrating the festival,” RSS publicity in-charge Sunil Ambekar said recently.
The RSS shakhas fly the Bhagwa Dhwaj, or ‘saffron flag’.
The national flag was hoisted at the RSS’ headquarters in Nagpur on August 15, 1947 and on January 26, 1950. After that, there was a gap of five decades, and the flag was next hoisted on January 26, 2002. Some RSS members have claimed this was because India’s Flag Code, before 2002, restricted the hoisting of the national flag by private organisations.
On January 26, 2001, the Tricolour was forcibly hoisted at the RSS Smruti Bhawan in Nagpur, by three members of the Rashtrapremi Yuwa Dal. A Press Trust of India report from August 14, 2013, says, “The incharge of the premises Sunil Kathle first tried to stop them from entering the premises and later tried to prevent them from hoisting the Tricolour.” The three were booked, and discharged in 2013 due to lack of evidence.
In 2018, RSS Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat, at an event in New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan, had said, “The question is raised, why the Bhagwa Dhwaj at shakha and not the national flag? The Sangh is closely associated with the honour of the Tricolour since its birth…”
In 2015, however, the RSS at a seminar in Chennai had said that “saffron should have been the only colour on the national flag as other colours represented a communal thought.”
In his book Bunch of Thoughts, MS Golwalkar writes: 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. How did this flag come into being? During the French Revolution, the French put up three stripes on their flag to express the triple ideas of ‘equality’, ‘fraternity’ and ‘liberty’. The American Revolution inspired by similar principles took it up with some changes. Three stripes therefore held a sort of fascination for our freedom fighters also. So, it was taken up by the Congress.”
The idea of the three colours being “communal” can be found in Golwalkar’s following lines.
“Then it was interpreted as depicting the unity of the various communities-the saffron colour standing for the Hindu, the green for the Muslim and the white for all the other communities. Out of the non-Hindu communities, the Muslim was specially named because in the minds of most of those eminent leaders, the Muslim was dominant and without naming him they did not think that our nationality could be complete! When some persons pointed out that this smacked of a communal approach, a fresh explanation was brought forward that the ‘saffron’ stood for sacrifice, the ‘white’ for purity and the ‘green’ for peace and so on.”
In 1947, RSS mouthpiece Organiser had found another problem with the Tricolour. On August 14, 1947, the Organiser wrote that while Indian leaders “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.”