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Published in the 1-15 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Tiranga for Muslims, saffron for Hindus! 

By Shamsul Islam

Tiranga Yatra of a prominent swayamsevak sadhvi Uma Bharti who claims to have sacrificed her chief ministership for the sake of the National Flag; the Tiranga, ended at the historic Jalianwala Bagh on September 25. Astonishingly, the RSS, which kept mum about the massacre of a gathering of nationalist Indians belonging to all religions since its inception in 1925 to the Independence Day of the country on August 15, 1947, had the cheek to chose it as the final destination of its much hyped Yatra. However, Jalianwala Bagh programme provided the RSS/BJP leadership to present a united face even if serious bickering amongst the top leaders had been making headlines regularly. Surprisingly, a fact which was overlooked by the media was that she was never sent to jail for raising the Tri-colour but for causing law and order problems in Hubli, Karnataka, which resulted in the communal clashes causing huge loss of life and property. Moreover, an important question remains unanswered even today that why even after withdrawal of the case and her release from the jail her party did not find it appropriate to restore Bhopal’s throne to her and why she embarked on a “Tiranga Yatra’. The political scene is rattling with high-pitched rhetoric. Swayamsevaks of the RSS loaned to BJP are furious and have also joined the Tiranga Yatra supposedly to expose the Congress leadership for not letting Indians hoist the National Flag in their own country. Tiranga is the new RSS/BJP mantra. The latest issues of the RSS organs both in English and Hindi splash photographs of Uma Bharti carrying Tiranga. However, the RSS archives tell a different story. It is interesting to see the RSS and swayamsevaks loaned to BJP agitating and sacrificing for the Tricolour given their continuous denial and disapproval of the Tiranga as the National Flag.

Importantly, nowhere in the functioning of the RSS is the Tricolour or National Flag used even today. The RSS headquarters at Reshambaugh, Nagpur does not fly it nor the RSS shakhas display it in daily parades. It seems the National Flag is meant only to whip up a frenzy against Muslims. In 1991(Ekta Yatra) it was Murli Manohar Joshi, another favourite in the RSS hierarchy, who went to unfurl the Tricolour at Lal Chowk of Srinagar, Kashmir. Uma Bharti carried a Tri-colour because it was an Idgah which was being targeted by Hindutva. On the other hand, it is important to note that the Hindutva cadres who went to demolish Babri mosque in 1992 did not carry the Tricolour. 

Since its inception in 1925, the RSS abhorred every symbol of the Indian people's united struggle against British rule. The case of the Tricolour is the most glaring one. In December 1929, Congress at its Lahore session adopted 'Purna Swaraj' or complete self-rule as the national goal and called upon the people to observe January 26, 1930 as Independence Day by displaying and honouring the Tricolour (the Tricolour was by consensus considered the flag of the national movement by this time). In opposition to this, Dr. Hedgewar, as the chief of the organization, issued a circular to all the RSS shakhas to offer "salutation to the National Flag i.e. Bhagwa Dhawaj (saffron flag)". Interestingly, Muslim League too decided to oppose this Congress call by directing all its units to unfurl green flag of it instead of the Tricolour.

Organiser, the RSS organ in its third issue (July 17, 1947) disturbed by the national leadership's decision to select the Tricolour as the National Flag, carried an editorial titled 'National Flag', demanding that the saffron flag be chosen instead. The same demand continued to be raised in editorials on the eve of Independence of India (July 31 editorial titled 'Hindusthan' and August 14 editorial titled 'Whither') simultaneously rejecting the whole concept of a composite nation. The August 14 issue also carried 'Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhawaj' which while demanding hoisting of saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the Tri-colour as the National Flag: "The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it 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." 
Golwalkar, second chief of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the organization till date, while addressing a gathering in Nagpur on July 14, 1946, stated that it was the saffron flag which in totality represented their great culture. It was the embodiment of God: "We firmly believe that in the end the whole nation will bow before this saffron flag". Even after independence when the Tricolour became the National Flag, it was the RSS which refused to accept it as the National Flag. Golwalkar, while discussing the issue of the National Flag in an essay entitled 'Drifting and Drifting' in the book Bunch of Thoughts, an RSS publication and collection of writings of Golwalkar (treated as Bible for the RSS cadres), has the following to say: "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?"

Importantly, nowhere in the functioning of the RSS is the Tricolour or National Flag used even today. The RSS headquarters at Reshambaugh, Nagpur does not fly it nor the RSS shakhas display it in daily parades. It seems the National Flag is meant only to whip up a frenzy against Muslims. In 1991(Ekta Yatra) it was Murli Manohar Joshi, another favourite in the RSS hierarchy, who went to unfurl the Tricolour at Lal Chowk of Srinagar, Kashmir. Uma Bharti carried a Tri-colour because it was an Idgah which was being targeted by Hindutva. On the other hand, it is important to note that the Hindutva cadres who went to demolish Babri mosque in 1992 did not carry the Tricolour. They carried only saffron flags which were subsequently hoisted there. The RSS is faced with a peculiar dilemma. For Hindus it has saffron flag and for Muslims Tricolour. This selective use of the national symbols is bound to boomerang and further expose the Hindutva camp's real designs. But one thing is sure that ‘Muslim Bashing’ remains the favourite pastime of the Hindutva gang.

Shamsul Islam, reader in the Department of Political Science of Delhi University’s Satyawati College, may be contacted at notointolerance@hotmail.com «

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