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Thursday, May 06, 2021

A symbol of unity in diversity, it’s time India has a National Flag Day

For us Indians, to love India is an organic process, and it cannot be diminished despite the greatest challenges.

Written by Naveen Jindal |
Updated: January 23, 2018 12:15:36 am
Displaying the flag everyday as a symbolic gesture reminds us citizens of our duties towards the Nation, shows our faith in and love for what we stand for. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty/Representational)

Love for India cannot be controlled. In a nation as diverse as ours, where it is hard to even singularise ‘one Indian people’, it is impossible to expect everyone to have only one type of emotion towards the nation. There cannot practically be just one type of nationalism that we all adhere to.

There is also nothing political about loving India. Respect, pride and adoration for India’s National Anthem, National Flag – the Tiranga, or for that matter any other national symbol, is a deeply personal issue. The degree of reverence – or not – towards these symbols is a powerful metaphor of how each one of us ordinary citizens feels towards India, which is our private nationalism. In fact some of India’s major national symbols have been nurtured, spontaneously, by the civil society itself.

The Song ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was written by a poet, not a politician. When Rabindranath Tagore composed it in 1911, it was known only to the readers of the Adi Brahmo Samaj journal, of which Tagore was the editor. At that time it was hardly meant to be a political anthem!

Similarly, the need to have a National Flag – with red representing Hindus and green representing the Muslims of India, with a charkha or a spinning wheel in the centre – was first written about by Mahatma Gandhi, in his journal Young India in April 1921. Young India was not a political journal per se, but it instead focused on the socio-economic challenges in India and how to overcome them with non-violence. The charkha was later replaced by the Ashoka Chakra, Colours Red by Saffron representing renunciation, White for peace and Green for prosperity.

Upon India’s independence, even when the flag was unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly held on July 22, 1947, private citizens could fly the Indian Tricolour only on a few days in a year, such as the Independence Day and the Republic Day of India. We, the citizens of India, fought relentlessly in court for several years and won on January 23, 2004 the rights of ordinary citizens to be able to display the National Flag on all days.

Displaying the flag everyday as a symbolic gesture reminds us citizens of our duties towards the Nation, shows our faith in and love for what we stand for. Now, the rhetorics of what we ‘must’ do to be seen as nationalistic have clouded our memory of the pure passion and love that drove citizens to establish the symbols of our nation, for no political purpose.

Most countries in the world have a National Flag Day for citizens to introspect and express how they feel towards this important national symbol. Citizens freely articulate their personal relationship with the flag, at least on this day. In fact the United States has a ‘week’ long celebration around their flag day!

In India we have an Armed Forces Flag Day on December 7 that celebrates the respective flags of the army, navy, and the air force. But unlike the world over, we in India do not have a National Flag Day.

Is it not time that we Indians have a National Flag Day?

Jindal is Founder, Flag Foundation of India

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