Why RSS is not displaying its love for the national flag that it does not feel

RSS failed to hoist the national flag at its HQ till 2002. It hasn't heeded PM’s call to pin Tricolour to their social media profiles. It clearly does not want to display a love that it doesn't feel

Why RSS is not displaying its love for the national flag that it does not feel

Sujata Anandan

Textile mills in Surat are working overtime to produce machine-made national flags to fulfil the demand for flags on the 75th anniversary of Independence. This is the first time when the Government has allowed a departure from the hand-stitched flags from Khadi. But by changing the Flag Code at the last moment, the BJP and the RSS have betrayed Khadi and village industries and let down the women who painstakingly stitched our national flag till now. Machine-made polyester flags can be mass produced and sold cheap but it will help only the mill owners close to the Government. It has less to do with patriotism and more to do with commercialisation.

The real significance of the national flag and the passion that freedom fighters felt for it was brought home to me by a freedom fighter called Chenappa Veersangappa Varad, who served as a bodyguard of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru before independence.

On a Republic Day, he had stormed into our hostel with a police constable in tow for violating the flag code. Our hostel warden, an Anglo-Indian lady, was always very particular about the national flag. It might have been a holiday for the rest of the citizens but girls under her charge had to wake up early, dress in white cotton to salute the flag before the sun was too high up in the sky.

A sleepy-eyed resident that year had tied the flag upside down and when it was hoisted, the green went up and the saffron came down. No one noticed. We were all at a special Republic Day lunch in the hostel when outraged male voices drew us out to the reception area.

Our warden was terrified and anguished as Varad raged at her for disrespecting the national flag and outlined all the punishments that went with it, including jail. The lady wrung her hands and apologised profusely, admitting that she had not noticed the flag was upside down.

The constable realised it was a genuine mistake and gently asked us to correct it immediately. He ushered the unpacified Varad out, telling him there would be no case against us. We were very careful after that but my curiosity led me again to Varad during the Congress centenary year in 1985.

As a Seva Dal worker and Nehru’s bodyguard, he had been put in charge of Indira Gandhi when Nehru went to jail just before her first child was to be born. Her husband Feroze Gandhi was already imprisoned and Nehru had left her in the care of his sister Krishna Huthee Singh in Bombay. But when the time came, Mrs Singh and her family were out and it was Varad who rushed Indira to hospital. When Rajiv Gandhi was born, the nurse placed the baby in Varad’s arms.

I have only Varad’s claims to go by but he did claim that he made sure that when Rajiv opened his eyes, he first saw a tiranga Varad had fashioned; so that he would later learn why his father and grandfather weren’t around to welcome him into this world.

After independence Varad ceased to be Nehru’s bodyguard but dedicated himself to the national flag, prowling the streets on Independence and Republic Days (like he was doing on the day he stormed our hostel) and making sure that the tricolour met all the norms of the flag code, wasn’t soiled or dirty, was not torn or come unstitched, had not been dragged through water, was flown at the correct height, etc.

He lived out of one trunk in the balcony of a friend and later in a government hospital when he had nowhere to go. His trunk had only one set of clothes but was full of memorabilia like photos of himself with Nehru and Gandhi, newspapers of that era and, most importantly, a tricolour -one of the many flags that were smuggled into the August Kranti Maidan in Mumbai on August 9, 1942 when Mahatma Gandhi gave the ‘ Quit India’ call.

Since all the prominent leaders were arrested the previous day, it was Dadabhoy Naoroji’s daughters who hoisted the tiranga at the August Kranti Maidan – he claimed - and not Aruna Asaf Ali, as is widely beieved. Aruna was one of the many women gathered near the flag post to outwit the British police and get the flag (they all carried many hidden in their clothes) up and fluttering.

To my eternal regret Varad died in that government hospital while I was studying abroad and by the time I returned, no one knew what had happened to his trunk and that flag. I would have liked to preserve the memorabilia.

This is just one story about one man’s devotion to the tiranga but there must be many more across the country. That is why it enrages me no end that the RSS should have no respect for the national tricolour - after all it hoisted the tiranga at its headquarters only in 2002 after three boys belonging to the Rashtrapremi Yuva Dal forced their way into the RSS headquarters in 2001. brought down its saffron flag, replacing it with the tiranga. The RSS lodged an FIR against them but a judge in Nagpur squashed all the charges against the boys and the next year the RSS made sure it had the tricolour up on Republic Day.

But earlier the RSS had dismissed the tiranga as evil because it had three stripes – quite failing to answer how that could be when the Hindu pantheon was headed by the triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu Mahesh, that the trident, the trishul was Lord Shiva’s favoured weapon. The letter ‘Om’ in Sanskrit is in the shape of the figure three (written like that in Devnagri as well) and that the three worlds of Bhur, Bhuva and Svaha are part of the Gayatri mantra and call upon ascetics to control the three determinants of character - thoughts, words and deeds, in the three vehicles of body, mind and action.

So, when this argument of ‘Three’ being the number of the devil (the devil is a Christian, not a Hindu concept) failed to cut ice, the RSS accused freedom fighters of being taken in by the French commitment to equality, Justice and fraternity in formulating our national flag. Which was really a compliment to our freedom fighters and founding fathers. Eventually the three principles even got enshrined in our Constitution.

Finally, the RSS alleged that Congress had designed a flag to represent the various religions in the country: saffron for Hindu, green for Muslim and white for all other religions. Which again would not be a bad thing if it were true.

But the saffron actually represents peace, the green fertility since India is an agricultural country and the white is for purity in thoughts, words and deeds; body, mind and action.

No wonder the RSS didn’t fly the tricolour for nearly half a century because they were never too peace-loving nor pure in intent or character.

While the Congress is now needling the RSS for not changing their profile picture to the tiranga, the RSS at least is not being hypocritical by pretending to a love for the nation that it does not feel.

Rahul Gandhi is right – the RSS is not quite a patriotic organisation and let no one be fooled by it.

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