This was not a news item that had touched me; in fact, I had dismissed it as just another routine decision by the Government – the one on the National Flag, our beloved Tirangaa. Ok, I thought : so universities have to display the flag; nothing passed my mind – no issue, no question, no controversy. Therefore, I found it surprising when I started getting whatsapp updates on how Arnab is liked for his stance; I also ran into a couple of facebook updates on his now-famous Newhour Debate on the Tirangaa issue.
My interest was piqued, and I watched the programme – with bile rising in my throat, tears in my eyes and with a mind numbed and shocked into total disbelief at the display – nay, the mind-numbingly tasteless display that was being presented on the screen. I mean, seriously – you are actually debating about whether or not the decision to tell universities to fly the flag is a correct one? Now how can this be a matter of debate?
And yet – the evidence of my eyes, my ears and my mind was inescapable : this was a matter of debate; at least in some quarters. The tricolor, our Tirangaa is the pride of every Indian – that I am sure of; then how does this question even arise that telling Universities of fly the flag is debatable? How can it become an issue –even a mild one? But that is precisely what was transpiring in front of my very eyes; that was what my memory also reminded me, with those posts and those updates. A simple google search completed the picture, and I was left in shock, and crying…
The arguments presented by the people objecting were strange; I would call them funny if the matter weren’t so emotionally charged. Liberalism, Intervention, Timing, Extremist Nationalism etc were the reasons trotted out. Some of these, on the face of it, sound perfectly reasonable; especially when viewed individually, and on their own; but the moment you place them in the context of the National Flag, our Tirangaa – it becomes another matter entirely. This is, frankly, a routine albeit laudable decision taken by the Government, one which really has no basis for argument.
This is about the National Flag, which is the symbol of our nation. It isn’t about anything small; The Flag is what represents India. Any which way you look at it, this is a big, big deal. The Flag is what The Army fights for, The Air Force fights for, The Navy fights for, the Sportsman representing India in international events takes pride in, the scientific achiever in conferences sits under, the diplomats sport on their embassies, the normal Indian loves and takes pride in. People have died trying to protect the flag, and what it symbolizes, and yet this is an issue in some minds?
THE OBJECTIONS TO THE DECISION
The questions raised center around Timing of the Decision, Politically expedient, Liberalism, Intervention, Autonomy of Universities, Extremist Nationalism. Take timing – how can any time be wrong to fly our Tricolor? Are we saying that it is wrong to fly the tricolor? Why on earth? Why should we not fly the flag – and in our own country? How can stoking nationalism and a feeling of pride in our nation be wrong at any point in time? That is a positive step, so how does it acquire negative connotations? The logic escapes me!
And how is it politically expedient? Is the Government peddling its own party? No! It is simply saying to Central Universities : Fly the National Flag! Ok, fine – this decision is coming in the middle of some protests in one, two or three universities, agreed and granted. So what? The decision to fly the Flag applies to all Universities, for starters. Next, The Flag represents India, and stokes a feeling of love and pride in our nation. So how can that be wrong? It might even be a great decision – given that at least I feel an immense satisfaction, calm and pride whenever I spot the flag!
Any Central University is an Indian entity, first of all. So the question of Autonomy or intervention is also moot. Autonomy does not mean that you do not fly the Flag! How is asking the University to Fly the Flag an issue of Autonomy? I heard one professor state the University Flag flies –but how can this relatively unimportant flag compare with the National Flag? Which flag is more important- and how can you object to the national Flag being given precedence over your own flag? As an ex-soldier observed, and I concur – are these not in Indian Territory, and Indian Institutions? How can anyone compare the National Flag with a local flag?
The even more amazing argument is Autonomy. Just how is the Flag, the Tirangaa, intervening in anyone’s autonomy of functioning? It is not intervening in your day-to-day functioning, or stopping you from your duties. As an Indian University, how can the National Flag intervene? It should be the opposite – it should stoke pride, and a desire to work and study harder for the sake of the nation! That is actually strengthening the duties and tasks of Universities, who are responsible for delivering trained people for Indian Institutions and companies, taking forward the cause of the nation!
The saddest argument presented is Extreme Nationalism; how can flying the Flag be termed Extreme Nationalism? What is so damning about flying our Tricolor that some people term it Extreme? Absolutely nothing, that is what! The Flag is representative of All India and all its citizens, and is a powerful symbol of our nation and our pride. What is extreme in asking that it be flown? It is simply a powerful and symbolic reminder of our duties towards our nation!
THE UNIVERSITIES AND THE NATION
The Universities of India have regularly been producing two kinds of people – patriots who stay in India, join the Armed Forces, The Police, The IAS, Universities and Schools, Hospitals, Other Services, Private Companies in India, open their business in India, and contribute in myriad ways to the development of our holy motherland. They work hard, combat various problems and imperfections that our land is famous for – but stay, struggle, live, love, and contribute here.
These same Universities also produce a steady stream of people who leave India, go abroad, and even surrender their citizenship. These people forget India – to say nothing of The Tirangaa, and prefer to contribute to other nations, other economies, and other flags than our own. This is a hard reality, and is an inescapable fact. Thus, in a small way, flying the National Flag on the Universities – even if it converts one student to stay, it will have been well worth the effort. Ek Se Ek Jude Ek Zanjeer Bane is what I say.There have also been protests that, as per some Media reports, have some objectionable content. In that light, any even small step that can reinforce nationalist feelings in howsoever small a way should be welcome – and the National Flag is by no means a small step!
People from these same universities who stay in India indulge in various acts that harm India in many ways, like Corruption, and many other social and other evils; as well as other, more grievous but thankfully minor incidents or one-off incidents that have occurred. There is a strong and crying need for a surge in nationalist sentiment so that the Agenda of development can be carried forward, and where better to start that than the place that churns out the people who will carry forward the idea of India, who will eventually go on to lead India?
As a matter of fact, this should be introduced in as many places as feasible – upto school level, as it would serve as a powerful reminder as well as a education to the young growing up children, some or most of whom will want to know more about the Flag, once they see it more often. Sure, it is a small step – but it is the small, even tiny, but powerfully symbolic steps that have the most far-reaching and strong impact on a people, a society and a nation. And given our overt and obvious love for the Tirangaa, it is bound to kindle a slow change. Kudos to the BJP for thinking of this, and never mind any of the so-called objections…
This has, in many ways, been the most shocking and sad debate I have seen in my life. That The National Flag, for which people have died, for which countless young Indians have laid their lives without a second thought – should be a subject of such a sorry debate is mind-numbing, and totally unacceptable. I agree with those who say that this is not open to negotiation; that this is a long-overdue step that has been taken by a superb Government. Credit where credit is due.
It is surprising that some people find this decision of flying The National Flag at Universities objectionable, and is being politicized by some quarters. It is fine if these places of education produce people who forget the flag, the nation and move abroad? It is even a matter of pride with regard to how many people have gone abroad – but no, the call to simply fly the National Flag is met with objections from some quarters? This symbolic gesture is met with various inane objections and politicization! Why cant we just accept it as a routine, symbolic gesture rather than a political one?
We need a symbolic gesture, a symbol, a reminder as it were, of the idea of India in these trying times. Symbols are known to have a powerful presence and impact, and that is why, given the recent history, it is also good to have this small but potentially powerful step. Full marks to the Government for thinking of this. We need to drive in the idea of India deep into the minds and hearts of all the people- and where better than a University to start this? In conclusion, can only state: People have died for this very Tirangaa. Respect that at least, if nothing else.