Let the flag campaign be symbolic like the flag

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A video released by BJP MP Varun Gandhi revealed the underside of the “Har Ghar Tiranga” campaign launched as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. The video shows a senior complaining that he does not have Rs 20 to buy a flag to get his monthly ration. It also shows the ration merchant endorsing the complaint when he says his superiors instructed him to only give rations to those who buy the flag. It does not show the flag campaign in a good light if the poor are forced to buy flags, no matter what the cost. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the people to hoist the flag in every household, he would not have imagined that government officials would use force. But when fixed quotas are given to officials, they can only resort to coercion. When Varun Gandhi’s father, Sanjay Gandhi, presented his five-point program during the emergency, district officials in northern India were given sterilization quotas to perform. It is another matter that Gandhi’s father and grandmother had to pay a heavy political price for vasectomies performed even on unmarried people.

No one would question the need to celebrate the 75th anniversary of independence, as it marks an important milestone in the country’s history and in its quest for a special place in the community of nations. Nothing symbolizes a nation like its national flag. It is not by chance that the tricolor flag was born. The Indian flag movement is as old as its freedom movement. Those who took part in the struggle wanted to hold a flag not only to express their defiance to foreign leaders, but also to express their national sentiment, but such a flag did not exist; it had evolved throughout the freedom movement. Finally, the Indian National Congress got a flag for itself, which had the three colors with the spinning wheel in the center as a mark of autonomy. After intense debate in the Constituent Assembly, the tricolor with the 24-pointed Ashok Chakra in the center was accepted as the national flag in July 1947.

The people have every right to use the flag to express their attachment to the nation. Yet, since the best place to store food is the stomach, the best place to keep the flag is in the heart. It doesn’t matter if some people are unable to purchase the flag due to abject poverty. If forced, they can skip a meal to buy a flag at Rs 20. India does not have to prove to the world that we as a nation are united by having a flag in every home. First, there are millions of people who are homeless, living on sidewalks and in public places. Their exclusion from the campaign is distressing and a huge embarrassment to the nation. If 100% turnout is what the government expects, then it should make sure the poor are given free flags and taught to follow whatever remains of the flag code. May the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign unite the people, not divide them.

Why stigmatize black?

Whether or not Bill Allen was the first person to coin the phrase “Black is beautiful” that spawned a powerful campaign in the United States, Rahul Gandhi can take credit for introducing austere color to the political arena in India. When he wore a black shirt with matching black pants, he couldn’t have imagined he was making a new political statement. Interior Minister Amit Shah saw in his robe a condemnation of what happened in Ayodhya exactly a year ago when Prime Minister Narendra Modi donned saffron for an almost religious ritual. This is another matter that neither Gandhi nor his mother would have imagined was on a birthday. Politics being politics, Modi cannot be blamed for seeing Congress in the dark jersey using black magic to regain lost ground. Memory, especially public memory, being short, he would not have remembered that he himself had once worn black in style. No one can match Modi when it comes to sartorial one-upmanship when he has a wardrobe as spacious as the bespoke Boeing plane at his disposal. He should have remembered what the American car manufacturer Ford once said: “all colors are good if they are black”. He didn’t want to raise the price of the car by going multi-color. It is for such a rational reason that millions of Ayyappa devotees wear black when visiting Sabarimala. And for good measure, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty is still as beautiful as ever.

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