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  India   All India  04 Aug 2017  To flag or not to flag is the big question

To flag or not to flag is the big question

Published : Aug 4, 2017, 2:11 am IST
Updated : Aug 4, 2017, 2:11 am IST

As to the constitution not coming in the way of having one’s own state flag, one can only riposte by saying that this is at best a flimsy argument.

Shashi Tharoor
 Shashi Tharoor

As if we don’t have enough debates raging on myriad subjects every evening on our television screens, the hapless viewer is now faced with the prospect of having to watch our worthy politicos and journos flailing their arms on the subject of flags. Yes, flags. Those things made of cloth that we run up the flagpole on Independence Day and Republic Day, images of which we paint on our faces during international cricket matches when the Indian team is playing, particularly when it is against Pakistan.

The Indian tricolour, the Union Jack, the Stars and Stripes, the green flag with the white star and crescent which our friendly neighbour flaunts, and many more from all over the world - they are intended to instill national pride and give us all a sense of identity. Of course, when we think of the national flag, we also think of the national anthem which we invariably sing, hand on chest, somewhat unctuously, if sometimes tunelessly. Inevitably a collective lump forms in our throats, our eyes moist with unshed tears, while eyeing the fluttering flag and singing the anthem.


Speaking for myself, I am usually reduced to tears at how badly most of us tend to sing the anthem. Rabindranath Tagore will turn in his grave if he heard the college students next to where I live maul his composition every morning.

All of this begs the obvious question. Why on earth do we now need a state flag? One is informed by those who make it their life’s mission to mug up these things, that there is nothing in the constitution to prevent a state from having its own flag. Karnataka’s Chief Minister has taken the lead in embarking on a project to design and unfurl his state’s new flag, without let or hindrance.

The articulate and eloquent Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor has lost no time in supporting his party-ruled Karnataka’ s bold and colourful initiative. I would have thought the debonair Tharoor had his hands full with problems of his own to deal with, without getting embroiled on a subject over which the common citizen displays scant interest.


As to the constitution not coming in the way of having one’s own state flag, one can only riposte by saying that this is at best a flimsy argument. The point is, the multitudes of this country, with all the pulls and sways they are subject to on a daily basis, should focus on a single national identity whenever they are called upon to do so. The introduction of sub-identities and state flags will only result in confounding the confusion.

What next? If a state flag is to be introduced, composing a state anthem will be the next logical step. The state government will then inevitably proceed to enact laws to enforce the display of state flags, alongside the national flag (hopefully), wherever and whenever it is mandatory to do so.


To take an extreme hypothesis, one can visualise a situation where at an international cricket match in Bengaluru, say India playing England, the state law may demand that after the playing of ‘Jana Gana Mana’, the state anthem will also have to be played post which the British ‘God Save the Queen’ will be duly rendered. By the time all this happens, you will be lucky to get a timely start to the game. Similar imbroglios can be expected at cinema halls and a variety of other state-sponsored functions. The mind boggles. The idea may be well-intentioned, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Now what happens if every state in India decides to follow suit, and take a leaf out of Karnataka’s book? Chaos will rein and school and college students will have to spend more of their homework time coming to grips with learning state anthems in languages that are literally foreign to them. Do we really need all this?


Should this be a priority, when we are not even able to drive properly on our streets, no proper pavements to walk on, open garbage and sewers that greet us everywhere, streets that flood up after a 10 minute downpour, when we are threatened with dengue fever every monsoon, when the food served on our trains has been officially declared to be unfit for human consumption, women are unable to walk freely after dusk for fear of being molested, when clean drinking water is still unavailable to most citizens, when the humongous process involved in buying property, bribing your way past a phalanx of petty officialdom to get your legally purchased land or apartment registered, and then being told several months later that you bought a dud (caveat emptor notwithstanding) - when none of these everyday issues is being dealt with, where is the great hurry to waste everyone’s time debating on the need for a new flag?


To flag or not to flag. That is the question. The answer is obvious to most right thinking citizens, but clearly the powers that be need much more convincing.

(The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket and good humour)

Tags: shashi tharoor, independence day