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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quest for a National flag for India, Part - XVII "National Flag of Independent India- 1947"

The Birth of Free India’s National Flag;
July 22, 1947
‘A creation of the genius of the people of India'
We have seen in the series of articles published in this blog under the heading “Quest for a National flag for India”, the evolution of India’s own Swadeshi (National) flags beginning in 1883 till 1943.
Here is the recap;
First; National Flag bearing the figure of the Sun devised by The Indian National Society founded by Srish Chandra Basu in 1883 in Lahore. 

Second‘Lotus’ as National Symbol first suggested by Raj Narayan Bose in his book ‘Bridhya Hindu-r Asha’ (An Old Hindoo’s Aspiration) written in 1888. 
 Third; Sister Nivedita (Margaret Noble)’s essay “Vajra (Thunderbolt) Flag” in 1904. 

Fourth; “Vande Mataram” Flag of 1906 created by the members of ‘Anti-Circular Committee’ and hoisted for the first time by Sir S. N. Bannerjee on Boycott Day on August 7, 1906 and later, by Sir Dadabhai Naoroji at the Calcutta Session of Congress in the same year in December 1906.
 Fifth; Madam Cama’s “Vande Matare Flag “hoisted for the first time in a foreign land at Stuttgart, Germany in 1907. The stunning similarity of the two flags, Hem Chandra Kanungo (Das) was the link man between the two flags. 

 Sixth; Publication of the article “The Vajra as a National Flag” by Sister Nivedita in 1909. 

Seventh; Formation of the 'Indian Flag Mission' and publication of a booklet “National Flag for India” Pingali Venkayya in 1916
 Eighth; Annie Besant’s “Home Rule Flag” devised in consultation with B. G. Tilak, Mohd. Ali JinnahB. P. Wadia, first hoisted in the Calcutta Session of 1917.
Ninth; Pingali Venkaayya’s design of First Swadeshi Flag of 1921 with input from Lala Hansraj (for Charkha emblem) and Mahatma Gandhi’s directive on the dispositions of the colours. Mahatma Gandhi's article on “National Flag ” published in April 1921. Raising of the Swaraj Flag for the first time at the Ahmadabad Congress in 1921.

Tenth; Firm demand for inclusion of a ‘Sikh colour’ in the National Flag in 1929.

Eleventh; Formation of Flag Committee in April 1931. Pandit Nehru’s letter of April 12,1931 to the Convener of Flag Committee. Promulgation of ‘3-point Questionnaire’ by Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Publication of article by Dr. Suniti Kumar Chottopdhyay on “National Flag for India” in May 1931.
 Twelfth; All saffron Charkha flag, recommended by the “Flag Committee-1931”, which never saw the light of day.
Thirteenth; Purna Swaraj Flag, with new colour scheme approved by the AICC at its Bombay CWC, presided over by Sarder Ballavbhai Patel and the prototype flag as per new design was made by Dr. N. S. Hardikar in 1931. 
  Fourteenth; INA’s “Springing Tiger Flag” adopted by Netaji Subhas Bose in 1943
(There were several other National Flag essays, proposals, even devised and raised at different places (within and outside India), on different occasions, by different organizations but none of them could enthused the public at large to get national acceptance). 

“The Birth of Free India’s National Flag; July 22, 1947"

On February 20, 1947 the British Prime Minister, Clement R. Atlee (who once held the office of Postmaster General in 1931) announced that the British would transfer the power to India latest by June 1948. Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India worked out a compromise plan between the Congress and the Muslim League and on June 3, 1947 announced his ‘Plan of Partition of India’. Mountbatten brought forward the date of transfer of power. India would become free on 15 August 1947.

   "August 15" had a special significance, exactly two years before, on 15 August 1945, surrender of Japan was announced signaling the end of World War II. (The Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Captain of  renowned HMS Kelly, Supreme Commander South East Asia accepted surrender of Japan) .

Louis Mountbatten, proposed on 24 June 1947 (Helpful suggestion) to the Congress and Muslim League leaders to retain the Union Jack at the canton (upper left corner) occupying 1/9th of the National flags of both India and Pakistan to render visible the symbolic continuity with Britain. Reportedly, he even made prototype of the flags, but his proposal did not get enough support.

On the protest against the Viceroy’s proposal for the Indian Dominion’s flag to carry a small Union Jack, Gandhi said on 19 July 1947, that he saw nothing wrong in that as long as India was a Dominion included in the British Commonwealth. Such a display would be an act of courtesy, and a gesture worthy of the best traditions built up in India. But, he had learn at the Working Committee Meeting that the Union Jack was not, in fact, going to be included.
Mohd. Ali Jinnah on the other hand remarked that orthodox Muslims would by no means tolerate the Cross - emblem of Christianity, side by side with the Crescent.

This 1s.6d. stamp marking the Gandhi Birth Centenary year is the first from the Great Britain to commemorate an overseas leader and also the first to be designed by an overseas artist named Biman Mullick.
 There was again hunt for a new National Flag design. It was felt by many that the Purna Swaraj Flag was synonym with the Congress Party, as such, may not be acceptable by the people affiliated to other political parties, Therefore, on the eve of Independence, the Constituent Assembly set up a nine member Ad-hoc Committee on 23 June,1947 to design a ‘NEW NATIONAL FLAG’ for Independent India.

The members of the Ad-hoc Committee; Dr. Rajendra Prasad (Chairman), Abul Kalam Azad, C. Rajagopalachari, Sarojini Naidu, K. M. Pannikkar, K. M. Munshi, B. R. Ambedkar, S. N. Gupta, Frank Anthony and Sardar Ujjal Singh.

The Ad-Hoc committee also received several suggestions from various quarters for the new National flag to be adopted for FREE INDIA

V. D. Savarkar sent a telegram from Bombay (now Mumbai) addressed to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr B. R. Ambedkar, Sarder Vallabhbhai Patel and Dr. N. B. Khare on July 7, 1947 reading thus; “... The Standard of Hindustan must be Bhagwa-Ochre coloured ... The Charkha too must be replaced by a Chakra (Wheel) or any other symbol signifying Progress and Strength".

The Ad-hoc Committee however finally referred to the strong sentiment in the country in favour of adopting as the National Flag of India, the flag used for years and suggested that it should be honoured. After detailed deliberations the Committee decided on July 14, to retain the Purna Swaraj Flag of 1931 with a minor change by replacing the CHARKHA with Asoka’s ‘DHARMA CHAKRA’ (Wheel of law) on the centre of the white stripe. The committee immediately arranged for the samples of the new flag for approval. The sample prepared by Mrs. Badr-ud-Din Tyabji was finally approved on July 17, 1947.

 A cartoon drawn by the Indian Express cartoonist Gopi published on July 17, 1947 had captured the general mood.

It was decided then that Pandit Nehru would place the recommendations before the Constituent Assembly on July 22, 1947. Nehru delivered the opening speech after moving the resolution on the new National Flag, the ‘Flag of Freedom’ to be adopted for free India.
Resolved that the National flag of India shall be a horizontal tricolour of deep saffron (kesari), white and dark green in equal proportion. In the centre of the white band, there shall be a wheel in navy blue to represent the charkha. The design of the wheel shall be that of the wheel (chakra) which appears on the Sarnath lion capital of Asoka. The diameter of the wheel shall approximate to the width of the white band. The ratio of the width to the length of the flag shall ordinarily be 2: 3”
 “... this Flag that I have the honour to present to you is not, I hope and trust, a flag of empire,a flag of imperialism, a flag of dominion over anybody, but a Flag of freedom not only for ourselves, but a symbol of freedom for all people who may see it. And wherever it may go - and I hope it will go far.... it will bring a message of freedom and of comradeship, a message that India wants to be friends with every country of the world and India wants to help any people who seek freedom.”
Pandit Nehru’s speech excelled the expectation of everyone by the warmth, patriotic emotion and unanimity, some thought that no more speeches were necessary, but the House demanded that full opportunity should be given to all members to speak on the occasion. It became a National Flag Day in the Constituent Assembly. “A nation adopts its flag only once. Let us have our say”.
“... 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 .”
Frank R. Anthony

.. . now it is equally incumbent upon us to maintain the dignity of this fluttering flag ..
Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir
Chaudhri Khaliquzzaman (Muslim League) later, migrated to Pakistan, said
"I think that from today everyone, who regards himself as a citizen of India, be he a Muslim, Hindu or Chrisian, will ..make all sacrifices to uphold and maintain the honour of the flag..."

 Dr. S. Radhakrishnan  stressed upon the philosophical interpretations of the flag, “... The green is there our relation to the soil, our relation to the plant life here on which all other life depends. We must build our Paradise here on this green earth. If we are to succeed in this enterprise, we must be guided. by truth (white), practice virtue (wheel), adopt the method of self-control and renunciation (saffron). This Flag tells us ‘Be ever alert, be ever on the move, go forward, work for a free, flexible compassionate, decent, democratic, society in which Christians, Sikhs, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists will all find a safe shelter”. 

 Mrs. Sarojini Naidu was given the honour to conclude the proceedings of the debate. She began her speech by recalling her the most terrible moments of anguish in free countries, because India possessed no flag. At the signing of the peace treaty at Versailles in 1918 after WW-I, amidst the rejoicing nations celebrating the victory, that India , which participated with the Allies, seemed excluded from the festivities....again at the peace celebration in October 1928 in New York, the absence of the “Flag of Free India” among the flags of the forty-four nations at an ‘ASSEMBLY OF FREE NATIONS’ convinced her that the Indian flag would become the most historic flag of the world in the not distant future....” Sarojini Naidu concluded her speech by saying, “Under this Flag, there is no difference between a prince and a peasant, between the rich and the poor, between man and woman .... , I BID YOU ALL TO RISE AND SALUTE THIS FLAG”.

All members without exception stood up for half a minute to solemn silence to pass the resolution and pay homage to the Flag of the Nation. Latter, the House agreed to preserve the two Flags, one made of silk Khadi and the other of cotton Khadi (which Pandit Nehru had unfurled while moving the resolution), as national monuments to be kept in the National Museum. 
***N.B. we will discuss about the fate of these historic Flags in an upcoming issue

Mahatma Gandhi was not too happy with the replacement of the ‘Charkha’ in the flag with the Asoka's ‘Dharma Chakra” (Wheel of Law)
Gandhi admitted in a statement published in the Harijan, that  “.... nothing would have lost if our councillors had never thought of interfering with the design of the original flag .....

“ .... I must say that, if the Flag of the Indian Union will not embody the emblem of the Charkha, I will refuse to salute that flag. You know the "National Flag of India" was first thought of by me, and I cannot conceive of India’s National Flag without the emblem of the "Charkha". We have, however been told by Pandit Nehru and others that the sign of the 'Wheel' or 'Chakra' in the National Flag symbolises the 'Charkha' also...”
News paper report of the following day August 23, 1947


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