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How The Union Jack Raises The Red Flag About Our 'Patriotism'

01/10/2015 8:13 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Sourish Mohan Mitra

Every year, around Independence Day and Republic Day, the patriot in us comes alive, with the media providing a steady transfusion of images and tales from the freedom struggle. TV channels show films that depict the atrocities perpetrated by the British. By the end of it all, pride in the Tricolour is matched only by rage at the Union Jack. The symbolism of tearing down the red, white and blue flag and raising the saffron, white and green one in its place seems more powerful than ever. No other moment signifies the triumph of India over her colonial oppressors more than this one. We focus our sense of national glory in that transcendent moment.

However, I notice a strange contradiction in our daily lives. While the Union Jack has no place in the structures of governance, it seems to be an abiding presence in our centres of commerce. Does it still rule our lives? I am not sure of the answer, but it certainly does seem to exert some influence on us.

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Curious about what I am referring to? Take a look at the photographs in this post. All of them are randomly clicked images from various shopping centres in India, including large multi-retail departmental stores, which pride on showcasing the latest trends.

These "latest trends" clearly show that we Indians have a penchant for our colonial past. Knowingly or unknowingly, whatever be the reason, we have not been able to become "free" of the idea of British supremacy in our minds and thoughts. It makes a mockery of our patriotism and our railing against the tyrannical Raj. Most of us are quite picky about what we wear, and we choose clothes that showcase our identity, or at least how we'd like to project ourselves. We pay good money for clothes that tick off all the right boxes for us. So, what does it show about us when we select and wear items of clothing that display the Union Jack so conspicuously?

On the one hand, we express our nationalistic beliefs and on the other, we have no qualms in showcasing the Union Jack on our bodies or in our stores. This contradiction is hard to digest.

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However much we wave the Tricolour and say Jai Hind during national holidays, at most other times of year we seem to be drawn towards identifying ourselves as descendents of our erstwhile rulers. Never mind the cruelty they inflicted on our forefathers or that they drained our national wealth and left us in a state of poverty and misery that we have still not been able to overcome. We continue to be fascinated by the symbol of our subjugation -- the Union Jack. Nothing has changed... only our physical environment...not our mindsets! We are still paying fealty to the British.

Our Flag Code makes the problem worse

There was quite an uproar recently when the Prime Minister wrote his signature on the Tricolour. It was a violation of the Flag Code of India, it was claimed. This code was initially drafted to ensure that our national flag is held in high respect and reverence, having suffered insult and ignominy in the pre-independence era. But I believe that this kind of rigidity on its use is helping to contribute to the Union Jack's continues dominance in the arena of retail, at least.

"On the one hand, we express our nationalistic beliefs and on the other, we have no qualms in showcasing the Union Jack on our bodies or in our stores."

In a country which has been free for nearly 70 years there ought to be more liberalised use of the national flag. We need to be able to display it freely. A true Indian will never disrespect the national flag, and there is no longer any need to impose such strict conditions.

Today, the Flag Code of India clearly does not allow using "the Indian National Flag as a portion of costume or uniform of any description or embroidering or printing it on cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or any dress material..." [Explanation 4(e), Section I, Part II]. With such restrictions in place, there is no way in which our clothing can display the flag. If this condition were to be removed, then perhaps our stores and we would freely be able to exhibit Tricolour clothes. Consequently, it is hoped, this would overshadow the blatant display of the Union Jack.

Our endeavour should be to make an honest attempt to live with the pride, honour and dignity of our hard fought freedom. The least we can do to uphold the respect for the bravery and sacrifices of our freedom fighters is to ensure that the Union Jack is not glaring displayed anywhere. This to me is a far greater insult to our national flag than any representation of it on a sweatshirt or headband. It's an insult that outweighs any of the display rules listed in the Flag Code. What we need today is true independence - in letter, spirit and display!

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