I read the wails of a (seemingly) secular columnist with a progressive frame of mind. He was apparently disturbed by this sudden surge of nationalism in this country. He went ahead and branded all Kanwariyas as uncouth religious fanatics, most of whom hassle and bully commuters on the roads. He explained how these uncouth fanatics wreak havoc on city roads and expertly hide behind the veil of religion. But that’s alright, the columnist seemed to have a bigger problem. The unruly Kanwariyas are carrying the national flag this time and this seems like a grand political propaganda to the writer of the piece under discussion. The argument being, Kanwariyas are Hindus and the Shraavan Kanwar Yatra is intrinsically a Hindu thing. Tricolour atop trucks ferrying Kanwariyas will alienate other communities.
Let me demolish the claims of the (seemingly) secular columnist:
The rule regarding hoisting and display of flag states:
There shall be no restriction on the display of the National Flag by members of general public, private organizations, educational institutions, etc. except to the extent provided in the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 and any other law enacted on the subject. Keeping in view the provisions of the aforementioned Acts:
- The Flag shall not be used for commercial purposes in violation of the Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950;
- The Flag shall not be dipped in salute to any person or thing;
- The Flag shall not be flown at half mast except on occasions on which the Flag is flown at half-mast on public buildings in accordance with the instructions issued by the Government.
So as far as display of Indian Flag during Kanwariyas Yatra is concerned, it doesn’t violate any laws/rules. Nor does it disrespect the flag intentionally or unintentionally.
When a person waves the National flag he doesn’t automatically become the lone custodian of all nationalism in India. When a person waves the National Flag, it doesn’t mean that the ones without the flag are less Indians. When a person waves the National Flag, he doesn’t do it irk other races, creeds or communities because national flag shouldn’t logically hurt the sentiments of any other Indian. And all these theories hold true for groups as well.
If Muslims decide to wave the National Flag during their Taaziya Processions, nobody will mind it. In fact every single Hindu will appreciate the gesture. If Sikhs decide to wave the tricolour during Baisakhi celebrations, I am sure the effect will be even more magical. The history of Religion and Nationalism go back a long time. Ganesh Utsav in Maharastra would be the perfect case study to validate the religion and nationalism theory. Ganesh Utsav was as nationalistic as it was religious, but was it done to alienate Muslims or Sikhs or any other religious community? No.
It is after a very long time that a nationalist government is at the centre and yes, the nationalistic sentiments are at an all-time high. Modi’s delightfully passionate speeches, his address to the Indian diaspora across the world and the world’s appreciation of the rising stature of India have all contributed to this sudden surge of nationalistic sentiments. And it is not a bad thing. It is never a bad thing to feel proud about our nation. While I condemn self-righteousness and moral policing in the name of patriotism, I totally believe a little show of patriotic sentiments wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Now what’s the problem with the media when no one else seems to complain?
In fact there are some heartening stories doing round. With an aim to promote communal harmony and serve society, Sarfaraz Saifi of Ghaziabad has been organising a medical camp for Kanwarias in the city for the past eight years. In the team of more than 30 volunteers working at the camp, 24 members are from the Muslim community. The Muslim community in Haridwar, welcomed the Kanwar pilgrims by hosting a camp at Mohalla Kassaban Durgaghat on Tuesday. The camp was inaugurated by the District Magistrate of Haridwar. Citing Ganga Jamui Tehzeeb, the Muslim offered fruits and juice to the kanwariyas passing on the highway.
So when other religious communities are clearly not offended with Kanwariyas carrying flags, what makes the (seemingly) secular columnist fret so much? One reason could lack of other topics to write an article about and other, which I believe might be the real reason – Trying to create a rift in the society by demonizing the Hindus and their festivals. Yet Again.