Recently I got a forward email…
It read thus:
Greetings on Independence Day!!
The National Flag is a symbol of the Nation’s respect and pride. There is a liberal use of the flag on Independence Day and Republic day. There is a new trend of selling flags made up of paper and plastic, which is incorrect.
Do’s and Dont’s
- Hoist the Flag at a height in a suitable manner.
- Do not let small children use the National Flag as a toy.
- Do not use or buy plastic Flags.
- Do not use paper Flags to pin up on shirt pockets, etc.
- Take care to see that the Flag does not get crumpled.
- Do not use the Flag as a banner or for decoration.
- Take care to see that the National Flag is not trampled upon or torn.
- Do not let the Flag fall on the ground.
- Do not join cloth pieces to resemble the National Flag.
What do you say? Do you agree? Of course, most of us would. But why? Why does the respecting the National Flag mean respecting the nation? I do not agree completely though…
I will elaborate what I mean to say…
For most of us Indians, The Flag represents The nation. The Flag is an iconification of our national pride. We like to have icons for everything that we respect. That channels our feelings towards the thing respected. The Flag is just like the idolization of many things, you respect the idol, you respect the thing. National Flags project the identity of a nation, they represent and foster the national spirit. The unique designs and colours the flags embody, reflect a particular nation’s character and declare the nations’s separate existence. It is the identity of The Nation. Thus it is but natural that a national flag has a great amount of significance. The respect and dignity of the flag needs to be fostered and maintained, for which explicit rules have been laid down. The rules provide against the burning, mutilation and destruction of the flag. The above mail was a sort of Flag Hoisting for Dummies which contained do’s and dont’s derived from such rules. Respect for the National Flag would mean that the you are respecting the values for which the national flag stands for. The history and the various protocols related to our National Flag refer to the Wikipedia entry, very comprehensively written.
Our flag, therefore, is both a benediction and beckoning. It contains the blessings of all those great souls who brought us to freedom. But it also beckons us to fulfil their vision of a just and united India. As we confront crucial challenges to our security, our unity and integrity, we cannot but heed to the call of this flag to rededicate ourselves to the establishment of that peaceful and just order wherein all Indians irrespective of creed, caste or sex will fulfil themselves.
“[The National Flag is] a flag of freedom not for ourselves, but a symbol of freedom to all people who may seek it.”
Jawahar Lal Nehru
“…while this is a symbol of our past, it inspires us for the future. This flag flies today as the flag of the nation, and it should be the duty and privilege of every Indian not only to cherish and live under it, but if necessary, to die for it.”
More than an object the National Flag is an emseble of ideas, which form our nation. National Flag indisputably stands for the whole nation, its ideals, aspirations, its hopes and achievements. It gives you the feeling that you are an Indian.
The importance of a National Flag does not depend on its colour, its bands or its other parts. The flag as a whole, is important and other things-the colours etc, that it contains- are immaterial. The flag may be of a piece of white cloth or of any other insignificant material but when it is accepted as a National Flag, it becomes the emblem of national self-respect. It becomes an expression of the sense of freedom of a nation.
The points that are raised in the quotes above, all of us would surely agree. The Flag played an extremely vital role in India’s struggle for freedom and its adoption was one of the indications of the culmination of that struggle. But today, in the light of the present society, The Flag should be something much more than a mere symbol of freedom.
From time immemorial, people have laid down their lives for their flags. Indeed, there is something so compelling in this piece of cloth, called the National Flag, the people make even the supreme sacrifice for its sake. The National Flag stands for the whole nation, its ideals, aspirations, its hopes and achievements. It is a beacon showing to its people the path hen their very existence is threatened. It is at this time of danger that this much length of cloth inspires people to unite under its umbrella and urge them to defend the honour of their motherland.
Let me ask you another question. How many of you have your own National Flag? When I was a child I, people were allowed to hoist the flag only on certain special days, otherwise you could be jailed for hoisting your own National Flag in your own country. People were afraid in their own country to raise their own Flag. And the police are found to be extra alert for locating and taking action on any disrespect for The Flag. [If they could just show equal enthusiasm for implementing the other laws as well!] What kind of free country would not allow its own citizens to raise The Flag? If we were still under the occupation by the British, this would be understandable, but we were not…
It took maybe 50 years for people to realize this, and kudos to Naveen Jindal for fighting the case in Supreme Court on people’s behalf. The result of this PIL is is that now…
Right to fly the National Flag freely with respect and dignity is a fundamental right of a citizen within the meaning of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India being an expression and manifestation of his allegiance and feelings and sentiments of pride for the nation;
But even after this people are afraid, when I bought my Flag, people asked me, What will you do with it? I mean this is just plain ignorance, what do you do with a flag? Another few suggested that I could land in trouble [read jail] if The Flag was “disrespected.” And all of these call themselves patriotic…
But is it just that? Just respect The Flag according to the Flag code and you are done. Is there nothing beyond this? The point that I want to raise here is that respecting The Nation does not start at respecting The Flag nor does it end there. It goes much more beyond.
The Flag code is just a ritual, but the meaning of it goes much deeper than the rituals associated with it. From what I see The Flag code is just a hollow ritual, which prevents you from seeing things that lie beyond. If you really respect the nation, there are much better ways to do it, rather than giving too much respect to a piece of cloth so revered.
I ask you another question, of all the bureaucrats and the politicians who “officially” enjoy the privilege of The Flag, how many actually deserve it? Even with MPs who have dozens of cases pending against them, can boast having a flag. This I find the worst possible disrespect for The Flag. This offence is much more grave than one in which a person does not follow The Flag Code.
What I mean here is that see beyond The Flag Code, and try to understand what it implies in our actions. If you are following The Flag Code strictly but are corrupt or promote corruption, or do not follow the rules [lets say even trafic rules], not pay the taxes, etc. etc. You are dishonouring The Flag more than you could do by doing away with all the rules in The Flag Code.
Just a passing remark…
The Flag Code [3A vi] in particular mentions a punishable offence:
lettering of any kind shall not be put upon the Flag;
Then what do you say about this:
Citation : 2004 SOL Case No. 069
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Before :- Brijesh Kumar and S.B. Sinha, JJ.
Civil Appeal No. 2920 of 1996. D/d. 23.1.2004
Union of India – Appellant
Naveen Jindal and Anr. – Respondents
[Available online here.]
The Flag Code of India
[Available online here.]