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Multiple allegiances

A citizen must be equally loyal to their state as to the Indian Union. These identities are complementary, not conflicting

 Garga Chatterjee |  2018-03-14 16:28:35.0

Multiple allegiances

A flag symbolises identity. A flag symbolises power and jurisdiction. A flag symbolises the collective aspirations of a people. And, in any normal human assemblage, identities are multiple, power and jurisdiction are often layered and divided, and the collective aspirations of a people are also distributed along these multiple identities. These multiple identities are not about a part and whole but are about different aspects of one's identity, of various forms of belonging. This is especially true in an essentially multi-national federal polity like the Indian Union whose linguistic states and the identities contained therein predate the formation of the Union. Thus, one is at the same time a Kannadiga and a citizen of the Indian Union and the promise of the Republic inaugurated on January 26, 1950, was precisely to create conditions such that these two identities are never in conflict with one another. However, when homogenising forces try to flatten the diverse peoples of the Indian Union, people who are not rootless do not simply succumb to the steam-roller and they hold aloft their banner of resistance. That can take many forms. One of them is a flag. What Kannadigas always knew has now been declared to all other citizens of the Indian Union. Karnataka has its own flag.

On March 8, the state government of Karnataka officially approved the Karnataka state flag. Karnataka premier Siddaramaiah himself unveiled it, with the Chairperson of the Kannada Development Authority flanking him. The design was arrived at after extensive discussion with various stakeholders including Kannada organisations and renowned intellectuals of the state. A few months ago, the government correctly sought public input for such an important matter as the flag of a state belongs to the people and not the government of the day. There are a few discordant voices that have taken exception to the design of the flag and insisted that the widely used yellow-red flag was good enough. The present flag is a close variant of that flag itself, with yellow on top, red at the bottom with the addition of a white band in the middle which has the official Karnataka state symbol inscribed in it, including the lion crest of Ashoka. Premier Siddaramaiah highlighted what the newly unveiled design symbolises – "Yellow represents wealth and celebration, white represents peace and stability, and red represents valour and pride." Originally, the yellow and red also represent Arrishna (turmeric) and Kumkuma (vermilion), thus symbolising auspiciousness and well-being.
To anyone who thinks that the Karnataka state flag or any other state flag represents some threat to the unity and integrity of the Indian Union, I would invite them to remember the motto of "Unity in Diversity" in letter and spirit. The Constitution of India does not prohibit state flags. It is not illegal. It does prohibit secession. That is illegal. Something cannot be both legal and illegal at the same time. In fact, centralising homogenising tendencies that are being propagated by the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan ideological forces are the biggest threat to the unity and integrity of the Indian Union. The result of the Urdu-Muslim-Pakistan ideology being imposed on East Bengal is there for all to see. Thus, one has to learn from stable federations that exist in the world. Some examples are the United States of America, Japan, Canada, Australia, France, Hungary, Italy, Indonesia, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, the Russian Federation, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE and many others. In South Asia, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka's provinces have their own official flag. If anything, as far as unions made of state/province/canton/sub-units go, the absence of state official flags for every state of the Indian Union is actually an exception and not the rule.
The Karnataka state flag is not "superior" to the Indian Union flag. Each flag has its own purpose and scope. Just like the Union government has its own scope and the state government has its own scope. That is called federalism and the federal structure is an aspect of the unchangeable basic structure of the constitution. The Karnataka loyalty and identity of a Kannadiga living in Mysuru is not superior or inferior to anything. It speaks to a different aspect of his identity. The citizenship of the Indian Union and loyalty to the Constitution of India is also a part of his duty. They are not in conflict. Those who ask questions such as are you a Kannadiga first or an Indian Union citizen first are trying to create conflict and are the real enemies of unity and integrity and absolute enemies of diversity, equality, and dignity. While Jammu and Kashmir is the only other state with an official state flag, many states have official State anthems – Karnataka (Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate), Tamil Nadu (Tamiḻ Tāy Vālttu), Andhra Pradesh (Maa Telugu Talliki), Telangana (Jaya Jaya Hey Telangana Janani Jayakethanam), Assam (O Mur Apunar Desh), Odisha (Bande Utkala Janani), and Gujarat (Jai Jai Garavi Gujarat).
Has the presence of these state anthems ever decreased the prestige of the Indian Union's anthem? The flag is no different. All States of the Indian Union should have their own flag if they wish to. I congratulate the people of Karnataka on their official state flag. I wish my state West Bengal had its own flag too. I have a feeling that Karnataka won't be the last state to have it.
Garga Chatterjee

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