Even if it is accepted that the move was “cultural” rather than religious, the Administrator of Daman, Diu and associated Union Territories has been rendered silly after being forced to rescind the order that women employees of the government tie rakhis on the hands of male colleagues on the upcoming festival.

The move had sparked such social outrage that the “offensive” circular had to be withdrawn within 24 hours. The administration’s offices will now be closed on 7 August ~ the controversial order had directed they function, attendance was mandatory, and a “compliance report” was to be submitted.

Clearly the authoritarian tenor of the order proved irksome, and the staff (with some political backing) mounted enough resistance to thwart attempted high-handedness ~ a mini-setback for an overbearing North Block which exercises control over UTs.

Since the Administrator is an official and not a political figure (maybe a political appointee) it would be a trifle unfair to discern a saffron undertone to the order, though it would be difficult to accept the line that the move was aimed at fostering better staff relations.

Some members were not even on speaking terms, an official sought to explain. It is an unfortunate reality that the unique festival symbolising a woman seeking brotherly protection and love (is that appreciated by those who prefer “Ms” over Mrs or Miss?) has in recent years been hijacked by “Hindutva” elements. During the Kargil War there had been considerable discomfort in Army Headquarters when BJP activists collected rakhis to be sent to troops on the frontline.

The “uniforms” have since buckled. A recent newspaper photograph has drawn attention to paramilitary personnel mounting a parade at which schoolgirls tied the symbol on jawans’ hands.

The rakhi order has to be seen in the larger context of using the diktat-route to promote patriotism (the present interpretation of the word raises many hackles) and other noble sentiments.

Threatening prosecution of those who did not stand when the National Anthem is played in movie-houses is one example of the malaise, another is the judicial order directing Vande Mataram to be sung in offices at regular intervals, so too plans to exhibit an armoured fighting vehicle on the JNU campus.

There is little cause for quarrel with any of those specifics, but the larger question of whether nobility can be spread courtesy pressure-tactics remains unanswered.

Even the Lok Sabha has witnessed one member quietly depart when Vande Mataram was being played at the conclusion of a session.

That action was decidedly insensitive: so too when during his most recent Maan ki baat the Prime Minister listed a series of coming Hindu festivals to celebrate, ~ but ignored the reality that for Roman Catholics the world over 15 August is a special day on the ecclesiastical calendar