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Let the freedom colours unfurl

'Har Ghar Tiranga?' Let us live up to the true spirit & not the faux celebrations

A week to go for Independence Day and local markets are already flooded with tricolours of all sizes and merchandises while patriotism is reawakening on social media only to culminate on August 15. On the occasion of the 75th Independence Day of the country, the head of the state is on a mission to instil patriotism in every citizen’s heart by encouraging Har Ghar Tiranga, or tricolour in every house. He has also changed his profile photograph on social media to the tricolour to set an example for all netizens to do the same.

The events which are unfolding in the country in the run up to I-Day remind one of the story of The Naked King, in which a child calls the king’s bluff as his majesty tries to flaunt his ‘invisible attire’ made of fine fabric, or nothing in reality. However, it is disheartening to see that there is none in the country of billions who can bust the myth of the consumerist patriotism and faux celebrations. At a time when there is complete anarchy and voices of dissent are being stifled, celebrating freedom should be considered as an oxymoronic occasion for urgent introspection.


“As citizens we are, on a daily basis, building India. The Indian nation is not some static sets of symbols to be fixed and put on an altar,” says filmmaker and activist Tarun Bhartiya.

Symbols may change, as these did in the past century as the Indian national flag evolved, but the idea of ‘unity in diversity’ in a multiracial country such as this has always remained the core ideology, at least till the recent past.

The transformation

Talking about change, the tricolour has undergone changes several times with great personalities contributing to the process. In 1906, the national flag that was unfurled in Kolkata had three equal stripes of green, yellow and red from the top. There were eight lotuses (lotus symbolises the strength to renounce materialism and upholds purity. In Buddhism, the eight-petaled lotus depicts Buddha’s eightfold path to enlightenment) on the top and ‘Vande Mataram’ written in the middle in Devnagari script.

‘Vande Mataram’ is considered as the first resonance of revolt in Bengal, as well as the entire country, chanted by the swadeshis in Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Anandamath. However, the song resonated more with Bengal and in its landscape than the entire country. Yet, there is another version of the 1906 flag where the lotuses were replaced by stars.

The history of the current form of the tricolour goes back to 1921 when Pingali Vankayya of Vijayavada took his version of the flag to Mahatma Gandhi during the latter’s visit to the southern town. The original design had two colours, green and red from top. Gandhi suggested white in the middle with the spinning wheel to represent the struggles of all communities and religious groups to attain freedom of being.

Defining patriotism

What the current India is fighting for is the freedom of being, and this the tricolour on rooftops cannot ensure. “This (Har Ghar Tiranga campaign) is not patriotism. It is fake patriotism as   progeny of fascism,” says veteran citizen Dilip Mukerjea, a thought leader and designer of learning ecosystems who has a collection of works on education and cognitive intelligence.

Activist Angela Rangad cites Rabindranath Tagore (as he wrote in a letter in 1908 to his friend Anandamohan Bose) to remind what patriotism is in the backdrop of the ongoing campaign for tricolour. “‘Patriotism can’t be our final spiritual shelter. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.’”

“There always have been contending visions of Nationalism and patriotism. On one hand you have Janani Janmabhomishcha, Swargadapi Gariyasi (nation as mother that is better than heaven) or the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam (the world as a family)… This idea that the flutter of our tricolour has to be instilled by the state amongst the Indian citizens belongs to idea of nationalism as merely sets of symbols to be unthinkingly worshipped under the rubric of patriotism. Contrast this with what Rabindranath Tagore argued about the darkness that lies at the heart of such a bhakti/worship,” Rangad adds as she refers to the Bard’s novel, Ghare-Baire (later made into a film by Satyajit Ray).

While the Prime Minister of the country continued to propagate the greatness of the tricolour, there is no practical reflection of the hyped sentiment, both at the national and state levels. “It (The tricolour campaign) is a device to create a negative aspect of fresh additions of consciousness in the public. They want to reshape the public mind,” observes Mukerjea.

The opposition has undoubtedly raised questions about the integrity of the country’s ruling party and its ideological parentage (the twitter handle of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has not changed its Twitter profile photograph to the trixolour) but the voices have been feeble. Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh, an activist who is contesting from North Shillong, wonders whether any opposition is left in the country where disagreement has become almost unconstitutional.

Rather, Pyrtuh raises the issues of practical needs of the citizens like jobs and affordable education.

“It is very encouraging and motivating. It is also a way of celebrating 75 years of independence. Every child will understand the great nation and its heroes who sacrificed for the country,” says Dipayan Chakraborty, state BJP vice-president.

On the adverse comments about the tricolour campaign, he adds, “As far as criticisms against the initiative are concerned, I don’t want to comment. It is not a political issue and it is for all of us to celebrate as this this Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav and also an occasion to remember the heroes from every nook and corner of the country. The cultural dance programme at Police Bazar on August 5 was also to send a message that it is nothing to do with a particular religion, creed or community.”

Freedom is not political but when it is twisted to score political brownie points, then there barely remains any room for anyone to celebrate the auspicious occasion.

“Freedom is incomplete without justice. Not just political democracy. India needs economic democracy which was Ambedkar’s dream. There also has to be a progression from vedna (sufferings) to samvedna (empathy) and from mukti (liberation) to insaaf (justice),” asserts Pyrtuh.

The dissent

Of course, the undercurrent of dissent can be felt in the country but a nationwide organised movement is yet to happen. Castigations on virtual platforms and legal proceedings against those who dare to speak up have diluted the essence of independence in the country.

Rangad says the tricolour does not symbolise narrow ideas of a nation state “but a certain set of humanist values rooted in the rights of freedom, dissent, egalitarianism, secularism and multi-cultural India”. “Those are the values need to hoist in every ghar (house),” she adds.

Is ’Har Ghar Tiranga’ a celebration of the flag? Because if it is so, then the government has to be reminded that some parts of the country, for instance Nagaland, are still fighting for their identity. In fact, several tribal belts in India are still struggling to even get constitutional rights.

“The North East, even Meghalaya that comprises of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo Hills, have their own aspirations in the larger context of independent India. Their issues need to be addressed upfront sans political mileage. 75 years of independence also witnesses the evolution of the North East in the larger Indian political system,” Pyrtuh opines.

The way ahead

For India, or its states, to propser and move ahead of time, one requires true leadership and not an authoritative government. Comments and shared posts on social media may go as far but what we require now is an organised movement and awareness among the less educated stratum.

“People, especially the marginalised, try to make claims on the nation for not fulfilling its promises to its people… Symbols can be coercive or can become focus of dreams and aspirations. In a democracy coercive idea of nationalism needs to be critiqued,” says Bhartiya.

The criticism has to come from all quarters as every citizen needs to understand the rights and constitutional empowerment. That independence is not the powerful handful’s property has to be realised. Most importantly, the citizens have to fathom the true sense of independence and not participate in the Gadarene swine march that the political powers are leading. There are lives at stake along the borders and deaths in the dungeons. There is drudgery of the common man, protests on streets and injustice in the court of law. There is disillusionment and despair. And there are questions. But as we ask ourselves a hundred questions on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day, we must also seek the answers in them.

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