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Monday, February 10, 2014

Misuse of the Indian National Flag by Political Parties

100th Edition 'Flags and Stamps'

Misuse of the Indian National Flag by Political Parties

The Supreme Court of India on Friday last ( 7th February 2014) issued notice to Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Trinamool Congress on a PIL seeking to restrain them from using party flags resembling and similar to the Indian National Flag.
A bench of justices  B.S. Chauhan and J. Chelameswar also sought response from the centre and the election commission on the issue of framing guidelines to restrain parties from imitating the India National Tricolour (Tiranga).
The court passed the order on a PIL filed by Jamshedpur- based social activist Amarpreet Singh Khanuja who pleaded that the apex court must direct the centre to take immediate steps to stop all political parties from imitating the National Flag.
He submitted that Congress is using a “colourable imitation” of the National Flag with the only difference being that the party was using the ‘hand’ symbol in place of the Asoka Chakra. Similarly in case of NCP and TMC, he said the parties were using ‘watch’ and ‘flowers and grass’ respectively in place of the Ashok Chakra.
“The common man of this country recognises the tricolour as a symbol of national integration and unity and identifies itself with the tricolour and the political parties should not be allowed to use flags resembling and similar to the Indian National Flag,” he said.
The petition sought issuance of appropriate writ, order or direction to the central government/election commission to frame appropriate rules, regulations and/or guidelines with respect to grant of permission regarding use of National Flag or its colourable imitation by any person.


It's A Flagrant Violation, writes The Sunday Standard , February 9, 2014

 SC issues notices to EC, political parties, The Pioneer
Saturday, 08 February 2014 

                The pre-independence Tricolour Flag christened as the Purna Swaraj flag                            was adopted in 1931 
Only a few days before India was granted independence in 1947, the flag was modified and the Charkha (spinning wheel) emblem was substituted with Asoka’s Dhrama Chakra  

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, as vice-president of the Governor-General’s executive council and Prime Minister-designate placed the recommendations before the Constituent Assembly  on 22 July 1947.  
“…… may I say a few words about this particular Flag? It will be seen that there is a slight variation from the one many of us have used during these past years. The colours are the same, deep saffron, a white and a dark green. In the white previously there was the Charkha which symbolised the common man in India, which symbolised the masses of the people, which symbolised their industry and which came to us from the message which Mahatma Gandhi delivered. Now, this particular Charkha symbol has been slightly varied in this Flag, not taken away at all. Why then has this been varied? Normally speaking, the symbol on one side of the Flag should be exactly the same as on the other side. Otherwise, there is a difficulty which goes against the rules. Now, the Charkha, as it appeared previously on this Flag, had the wheel on one side and the spindle on the other. If you see the other side of the Flag, the spindle comes the other way and the wheel comes this way; if it does not do so, it is not proportionate, because the wheel must be towards the pole, not towards the end of the Flag. There was this practical difficulty. Therefore, after considerable thought, we were of course convinced that this great symbol which had enthused people should continue but that it should continue in a slightly different form that the wheel should be there, not the rest of the Charkha, that is, the spindle and the string which created this confusion. The essential part of the Charkha should be there, that is, the wheel. So, the old tradition continues in regard to the Charkha and the wheel…….”

 Mahatma Gandhi was not too happy with the replacement of the charkha in the flag with Asoka’s Dharma Chakra. Though Nehru insisted that the change was not significant, Gandhi had his reservations.
 In a statement made in Lahore on 6 August 1947, Gandhi said,
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. He however maintained, ‘if we neglect the charkha ...we will be acting like a man who remembers God in sorrow and forgets him when he showers happiness”.

The Indian national Flag

Unissued essay, 1947. Image source: Spink (London) auction catalogue, January 2014

After independence, the un-divided and then dominant Congress party enjoying overwhelming majority and popular support, immediately hijacked the Tricolour Charkha flag and retained the same as their own Party Flag since then.  (the charkha flag was devised as "National flag" in August 1931, based on inputs received from different organisations, as well as, from individuals after discarding the original Swaraj flag - 'white over green over red', devised in 1921).
There were protests raised from time to time, however.

The Statesman published a report on April 23, 1991 under the caption “Flagging down a sacred symbol”. It reported that Mr Mahesh C. Bhat, adviser to the “People’s Manifesto” had written to Mr.  T. N. Sheshan, the chief Election Commissioner, saying  “……….. Apparently this difference is unnoticeable and, therefore, deceptive, giving the impression of similitude of the flags. 
                                                                                                                                                            Mr Bhat said, “The National Flag, by virtue of being the national property, deserves the honour of inherent sanctity and exclusive dignity and uniqueness, the preservation and guarding of which, with loyalty and respect, is the sacred duty of all”……..’

 The “Letter to the editor” columns of the national news papers often publish letters on this subject expressing their valued views.

Flags of the Political Parties resembling the Indian National Tricolour

This flag was adopted in 1977 as the symbol of break away group of the Congress (I). 

The Indian National Congress party split in 1969, and became two – one what was known as Old Congress or Syndicate Congress led by S. Nijalingappa, Kamraj, Morarji Desai, et al, and the other led by Indira Gandhi and christened Congress (I).

While the old guards of the Syndicate Congress gradually faded away,  the later group, i.e., Congress (I) survived and is still kicking.

The Congress (I) advertisement  in 
national news papers with slogan “Twenty Indias or One?” 
The ad violets all norms of decency '…. It is abominable to find side by side, a map of India with the Asoka chakra at the centre and Mr Rajib Gandhi adorning the Chakra. No leader, however great, can be placed on the National flag….', wrote Ranu Das (Flagging Zeal, the Statesman, Letter to editor, November 21, 1989).  

Flag Code : Section V (Misuse), clause 3.28 stipulates “Lettering of any kind shall not be put upon the Flag”, while clause 3.29 stipulates “The Flag shall not be used in any form of advertisement nor shall an advertisement sign be fastened to the pole from which the Flag is flown”.

“Tricolour slip-up – scant respect for the country’s flag on Republic day”.
Hyderabad; A major incident of violation of rule for flying the tricolor came at the Congress headquarters when state party chief  Mr. M. Satyanarayana Rao found to his horror that he had hoisted the party banner instead of the national flag. He has sacked two officials and set up a six-member committee to probe the circumstances leading to hoisting of the flag, but it seems to have failed to contain the damage to the party’s image. (The Telegraph, 29 January 2003)

 Who can differentiate the Congress party flag from the National flag?

At present there are several other break away groups of the erstwhile Congress and most of them have adopted variant of the tricolour defaced with sundry symbols. 

All India Trinamool Congress Party Flag (abbreviated AITMC, TMC or Trinamool Congress) . Adopted in 1998

Nationalist (Rashtravadi)Congress Party Flag, adopted in 1999.
The Bodoland People's Front (BPF) is a state political party in Assam state in northeastern India.

Election Commission defends Congress Party, inaction on misuse of flag. Posted date: July 13, 2013

The Flag Issue, Published by the Kashmir Bureau of Information, New Delhi, 1954

'........In this connection it will be helpful to recall that the national movement in Jammu & Kashmir had from the beginning a distinction growth and character. Although it gradually widened the sphere of its contacts and was actively associated in particular with the Indian National Congress, the National Conference did not have a formal affiliation with any organisation. There is no doubt that the Congress movement greatly influenced its outlook and when in 1938 the question of the adoption of a flag came up before the National Conference, all possible choices were fully considered. It is likely that in our State too, the tricolour flag might have been adopted. But the Indian National Congress at its Tripura (Tripuri) Session had decided that no political organisation in any Indian State should adopt the tricolour'.