As people around the world watched the clash on Wednesday between a mob of US President Donald Trump’s supporters and law-enforcement authorities at the Capitol building, the Indian Tricolour could be seen fluttering in a sea of US flags.
The flag-bearer was 54-year-old Virginia-based entrepreneur Vincent Xavier Palanthigal, who moved to the US from Kochi in Kerala in 1992 and is a member of the Virginia Republican Party’s State Central Committee.
“It was because of my patriotic fervour and love that I took the Indian flag. Not to defame it or give it a bad name,” he told The Indian Express.
“Why is there an Indian flag there??? This is one fight we definitely don’t need to participate in,” BJP MP Varun Gandhi tweeted. Shiv Sena spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi, too, condemned the bearer of the flag. “Whoever is waving this Indian flag should feel ashamed. Don’t use our tricolour to participate in such violent & criminal acts in another country,” she wrote.
Why is there an Indian flag there??? This is one fight we definitely don’t need to participate in… pic.twitter.com/1dP2KtgHvf
— Varun Gandhi (@varungandhi80) January 7, 2021
Visuals of the Tricolour on social media had drawn strong reactions. “Why is there an Indian flag there??? This is one fight we definitely don’t need to participate in,” BJP MP Varun Gandhi tweeted. Shiv Sena spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “Whoever is waving this Indian flag should feel ashamed. Don’t use our tricolor to participate in such violent & criminal acts in another country.”
Vincent claimed he had nothing to do with the “miscreants” and said he has been constantly fielding calls from journalists in an attempt to “clear his name”.
On Wednesday, Vincent, along with a group of 10 other Indian Americans, joined a Trump rally in Washington DC to protest against the Congress’s certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. Carrying the flag was their way of representing the Indian American community, he claimed.
“We marched from the White House lawn to the Capitol in a very disciplined way. Initially it was a very celebratory event. There was laughing and singing, it was like a festival in India,” he said. “Trump rallies are usually very fun events. There are always a million American flags as well as flags from other countries.”
It was only after they had arrived at the Capitol building that things started getting out of hand, he said. “We saw people climbing the walls with their claws like animals, which is very difficult for regular people to do.”
Vincent said he knew little of what transpired inside the Capitol building. “The internet was jammed and we weren’t getting any news. I had to call my wife and ask her to turn on the news. It was only then that I found out that they had managed to get inside and were destroying property.”
Several lawmakers, including members of Republican Party, have blamed Trump for the violence.
The US Capitol Police said they had arrested 14 people suspected of involvement in the rioting, most charged with unlawful entry, while the Metropolitan Police Department has made at least 68 arrests.