Sunday 23rd, September 2018
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How many flags do we need?

Published On : 27 Jul 2017

By Mathew C. Ninan

The Government of Karnataka is contemplating a state flag for itself. Though there was a yellow and red flag designed by the writer Na Ramamoorthy in circulation, it was at best only the unofficial flag of the state. No past government thought it was necessary to give it the elevated status as a state flag.

Now the ruling dispensation suddenly realized that we need to assert our regional identity with a state flag of our own. They say that it will be flown just below the national flag as a matter of deference. How funny it would be to have two flags flying together will have to be considered. Is it done anywhere? No state except J & K has been given the permission to have a state flag of its own so far. Obviously this move has created a lot of disquiet among the general public in whose minds the tri-colour has pride of place, evoking the purest of emotions.

Regionalism is more dangerous than nationalism. Nationalism itself has become a controversial idea, because it is an exclusivist ideology, bordering on xenophobia. We live in a world where barriers and walls are breaking down. We are talking about a global village and a cosmopolitan culture. We are envisaging a global citizenship. In such a scenario, the concept of a state flag is a perfect anachronism in the eyes of a large section of people.

26 European countries have no borders now. A single visa will enable us to travel through most of Europe. It’s named Schengen visa because the agreement was signed in a town with that name in Luxembourg. There are no check-posts among them. Similarly the European Union has as many as 28 countries as members who have a common market, and function as a single entity for trade, commerce etc. This is how the world moves today.

Contrast this with our endless disputes between states, about borders and river water sharing. How can we think of divisions and differences when the world moves towards unity and unification? Don’t we have to take a leaf out of the above countries?

Recently when Namma Metro started its long-awaited joyous opening, there was an unfortunate development. Some language zealots painted all Hindi signboards black. Suddenly they decided that Hindi should have no place in Karnataka. Some state leaders also lent support to this agitation and openly campaigned against Hindi. Are these acceptable in a federal system?

Love of one’s own language is a noble sentiment only when it is not accompanied by a hatred for another language. The moment it co-exists with hatred for another language, it becomes fanaticism. This is true of religion, culture, traditions, and food- habits and so on. It is often said that ‘from fanaticism to barbarism is only one step’.
One flag, one nation

Let us not forget that one single flag proclaims our unity, while more than one flag dilutes the concept of oneness and unity. The unity and integrity of the nation state should remain our supreme concern.

I believe that the national flag and national anthem have to be unique and common to the whole country. Nothing else shall be allowed to shadow or stymie them for whatever reason. The pre-eminence and sanctity of these national symbols shall never be trivialized in any manner.

Symbols should serve a noble purpose. They should not pander to a narrow chauvinistic mentality. Even ‘patriotism’ can have a negative connotation if it’s accompanied by mindless hatred towards other nations. Love of one’s country is a wonderful emotion, but it becomes a dangerous obsession when it is followed by an irrational hatred towards another country.

Enough blood has been shed for reasons like religion, caste, community, language, culture, belief systems and the like. Diversity should only enhance the quality of life, and not diminish it. Diversity is one of the many blessings of our country – be it religion, language, culture or anything. That’s why Jawaharlal Nehru always spoke about ‘unity in diversity’ as India’s most potent legacy.

Swami Vivekananda said, “We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another”. How true!

In the Discovery of India, Nehru wrote about the people of India thus: “Yet something has bound them together and binds them still. India is a geographical and economic entity, a cultural unity amidst diversity, a bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads.”

We must zealously guard our secular fabric, and the beautiful tapestry of different languages and religions and cultures which is our heritage, and we must protect and preserve it forever. The Indian nationhood shall reign supreme, and nothing shall be done to weaken or violate its unity and integrity.

(The writer is Director, Little Rock Indian School, Brahmavar, Udupi)

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