The rulers of India, their associates, and the government of the day have suddenly developed an immense love for the Indian Tricolour. Under the “Har Ghar Tiranga (Tricolour at every home)” campaign, according to media reports, the Centre facilitated the hoisting of the Tricolour in 24 crore homes across the country from August 13-15 as a part of celebrations of the 75th year of India’s Independence.
But here is a caveat that cannot be wished away. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), since its inception in 1925, has been opposed to the Tricolour as the Indian national flag. In order to be familiar with the boundless dislike that the Hindutva fraternity has had towards the national flag, one has just to access the archives of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha led by V.D. Savarkar.
The RSS hated anything which symbolised the united struggle of the Indian people against British rule. The case of the Tricolour is the most pertinent one. In December 1929, the Congress, at its Lahore session, called upon the people to observe January 26, every following year, as Independence Day by displaying and saluting the Tricolour (it was the flag of the national movement at that time with the charkha in the middle). K.B. Hedgewar, as Sarsanghchalak and founder-supremo of the RSS, instead issued a circular on January 21, 1930 to all RSS shakhas to worship the bhagwa jhanda (saffron flag) as the national flag.
Violating the national consensus, the circular asked all in charge of the Shakhas to hold a meeting of their respective swayamsevaks at 6 p.m. on Sunday, January 26, 1930, at the respective sanghasthans (places where shakhas are held) and offer “salutation to the National Flag, i.e., the Bhagwa Dhawaj. (Palkar, NH (ed.), Dr. Hedgewar: patr-roop Veyakti Darshan (Hindi translation of Hedgewar’s letters), Archana Prakashan, Indore, 1981, p.18.)
It must be noted that this circular has never been withdrawn.
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M.S. Golwalkar, one of the most prominent ideologues of the RSS and top leaders while addressing a Gurupurnima gathering at the headquarters of the RSS in Nagpur on July 14, 1946, stated: “It was the saffron flag which in totality represented Bhartiya [Indian] culture. It was the embodiment of God. We firmly believe that in the end the whole nation will bow before this saffron flag.” (Golwalkar, MS, Shri Guruji Samagr Darshan, vol.1, Bhartiye Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, nd [no date], p.98.)
On the eve of Independence when the ramparts of Red Fort were being readied for the hoisting of the Tricolour by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the common man was marching with the Tricolour in every part of India and hoisting the National Flag on house tops. But, shockingly, the English organ of the RSS, Organiser, in its issue dated August 14, 1947, denigrated [the ‘mystery behind the bhagwa dhawaj’] the National Flag with the following words: “The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it will never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”
So, according to the RSS, the Indian National Flag was never to be respected by Hindus. It was injurious for the country.
The Organiser, in an editorial (‘The Nation’s Flag’ July 17, 1947), reacting to the news that the committee of the Constituent Assembly of India on the National Flag had decided in favour of the Tricolour as the National Flag, wrote: “We do not at all agree that the Flag ‘should be acceptable to all parties and communities in India’. This is sheer nonsense. The Flag represents the nation and there is only one nation in Hindusthan, the Hindu Nation… We cannot possibly choose a flag with a view to satisfy the desires and wishes of all the communities…We cannot order the choice of a flag as we order a tailor to make a shirt or coat for us…”
So, this was the view on the design of the Tricolour which represented the three colours symbolising freedom, equality and fraternity.
Even after Independence, it was the RSS which refused to accept the Tricolour as the National Flag. Golwalkar, while denouncing the choice of the Tricolour as the National Flag, in an essay entitled ‘Drifting and Drifting’ in the book, Bunch of Thoughts (collection of writings/speeches of Golwalkar), wrote: “Our leaders have set up a new flag for our country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating….Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds?” (Golwalkar, M.S., Bunch of Thoughts, Sahitya Sindhu Prakashan, Bangalore, 1966, pp.237-38.)
Savarkar too refused to accept the Tricolour as the national flag. Demanding its boycott, he declared in a statement on September 22, 1941: “So far as the flag question is concerned, the Hindus know no flag representing Hindudom as a whole than the ‘Kundalini Kripanankit’ Mahasabha flag with the ‘Om and the Swastik’ the most ancient symbols of the Hindu race and policy coming down from age to age and honoured throughout Hindusthan… Therefore, any place or function where this Pan-Hindu flag is not honoured should be boycotted by the Hindusanghatanists [members of the Hindu Mahasabha] at any rate…The Charkha-Flag in particular may very well represent a Khadi-Bhandar, but the Charkha can never symbolise and represent the spirit of the proud and ancient nation like the Hindus.” (Bhide, A.S. (ed.), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President’s Diary of his Propagandist Tours Interviews from December 1937 to October 1941, na, Bombay pp. 469, 473.)
The campaign by the government of the day, i.e., “Har Ghar Tiranga”, could have had credibility had the Bharatiya Janata Party government been able to convince the RSS to discard its agenda of denigrating the Tricolour and its project of replacing the Tricolour with a saffron flag. It may be noted here that the saffron flag is part of a larger project of diluting the democratic-secular polity of India.
Shamsul Islam taught political science at the University of Delhi. The source material of this article is from RSS and Hindu Mahasabha publications