It came as a surprise to me today when the news of Government of Karnataka setting up a committee to look into the possibility of having a State Flag broke out. I’m sure many other Kannadigas living in and outside the state wondered, like me, as to why we need another flag? Don’t we already have one? Apparently, no!
The bicoloured Yellow & Red flag that is seen hoisted in every nook and corner of our cities is apparently not the official flag of the State of Karnataka. I used to be proud that apart from Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka was the only state in India to have its own flag. The Yellow & Red flag is in reality Kannada flag. So much for our Rajyabhakti.
The larger question that has cropped up as a result of today’s announcement is whether Karnataka or any other state in India can have an official flag and hoist it? Is it constitutional? Some people like Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena have termed it separatist. The national media too has touted this step as political, separatist and even anti-national. The term anti-national should be declared word of the year 2017!
Let’s get to the basics of who we are. We are people. People who live in societies. People who identify with like-minded people. Societies are social groups of such like minded people. In a democracy, a government represents the legal administrative arm of that society. A multi-cultural, multi-lingual nation like India has multiple such societies. Given that India has long been divided into administrative states on the lines of language, not by chance or choice, but under pressure; the rise of the regional powers and aspirations is imperative.
There’s nothing wrong in having a flag dedicated to the state. In fact, I believe every single state in India should be allowed to design and hoist their own flags next to the Indian flag. If the Indian flag is hoisted higher than the state flags, it’ll be symbolic of the supremacy of the nation’s interest versus the state’s. Each of those flags should be hoisted in front of Parliament of India. That’d stand as a symbol of inclusion and truly show Unity in Diversity – a phrase we often throw around but never live by.
Not that we don’t already have symbols that are unique to states. Every state already has its own Coat of Arms apart from official emblems, state animals, state birds etc. Karnataka already has Ganda Bherunda as its official emblem, Elephant as official state animal, Indian Roller as official state bird. It has its own official anthem recognized by passing a legislation in the state assembly. When a state can have its own anthem, a flag will only make the state feel complete. How is it that a state flag is termed anti-national and separatist while an anthem or a Coat of Arms are not? Karnataka’s Coat of Arms carrying the Ganda Bherunda also carries Ashoka’s Four Lions – India’s national emblem. Is it fair to tag Karnataka as a separatist because of its voice against imposition of Hindi and because of its desire to hold up its identity by commissioning an official flag? Is it fair to a state that contributes 7.5% to India’s GDP, a state that gave India IISc, HAL, the banking system and accounts for 38% of the IT exports?
If today’s constitution doesn’t allow for a state flag, instead of striking it down calling it unconstitutional, we should bring in necessary amendments to allow the states to have their own flags. After all, it’s not possible to identify every single problem 70 years before such problems arise. Our forefathers and the drafters of our constitution couldn’t possibly have gauged the aspirations and interests of their grandchildren 70 years down the lane!
We Indians always look at the ways of developed nations and try to imitate them. Democratic federal countries like Australia and United States allow their states to have official flags. Time to get inspired from them?
The voices against the flag are the ones who believe in a pure majoritarian Hindi speaking Hindu rashtra. The concept of nationalism has to rise above one language, one religion or one region. India is because of its diversity, let’s respect the diversity and rise above our narrow-minded approach towards nationalism.