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Flag of contention

Editorial |

Our Constitution begins with the words, “India, that is, Bharat, shall be a Union of States,” signifying the acceptance of a federal polity. Some of the States in the Indian Union have flags of their own. Some States have their own anthem.

That has not diminished their idea of India. When the Congress Chief Minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah, constituted a committee to examine whether there is any constitutional impediment in Karnataka having an official flag as a symbol of its rich Kannada heritage, there was a hue and cry from the Opposition BJP.

One BJP leader (Shoba Karandaljee) went to the extent of saying the idea of a state flag was against the integrity of the nation. The Constitution does not bar states from having their own flags. ‘One nation, one flag’ is the credo of the BJP. Siddaramaiah is entirely within his rights to seek a state flag. It is not anti-national for a state to have its flag.

It only has to be smaller in size and flown lower than the national flag. Karnataka is an outcome of the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 and was born from the merger of Kannada-speaking areas of Maharashtra, erstwhile Madras Province and Hyderabad State with the State of Mysore.

The quest for a Kannada flag dates back to 1938 as reflected in BM Srikantaiah’s poem, Kannadada Bavuta. The Karnataka Samyukta Ranga, an organisation founded in 1966, had designed a flag of yellow and red, yellow representing gold found in plenty in the Kolar gold fields, and red symbolizing the fighting spirit of the Kannadigas. It is a pity Union Minister DV Sadananda Gowda, who was formerly Chief Minister of Karnataka, does not know the nation’s Constitution. He maintains India is one nation and there cannot be two flags in the country. India is not a unitary nation like Sri Lanka where there is scope for only one flag.

India, like the United States of America where every state has its own flag, is a union of states where any state can have a flag if it chooses. Karnataka’s anthem, Jaya He Karnataka Maate, adopted in 2004, declares the State as the daughter of Mother India. New Delhi’s paranoia over the integrity of the nation being compromised by a flag is ridiculous. The creeping imposition of Hindi by the Union government like the recent decision of the External Affairs Ministry to record details in Hindi alongside English in Indian passports has only rekindled the anti-Hindi sentiments in the states south of the Vindhyas. In a federal setup like India, linguistic democracy and coexistence is a must and any deviation from it would only promote separatism.

Remarks such as, “Why would we have the entire south and live with the people of Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu if we are racists? We have black people around us,” by a former editor of Panchjanya, Hindi weekly of the RSS, while denying that attacks on African students could be racist, is indicative of how the north Indians view their southern counterparts. Federalism is our greatest strength. This should not be undermined.