If you have always associated Chandigarh with the Open Hand, you could well be shocked to know the UT administration is not quite sure if the legendary monument is indeed the symbol of City Beautiful.
For the past three months, a bulky file containing decades-old official documents is going around the offices of various top bureaucrats of the administration, pushing them to clear the air on the matter.
The confusion persists, even though there are claims that Chandigarh administration had adopted the Lion Capital (popularly termed Ashoka Pillar) as the UT's official emblem in communications to the union home ministry.
This, because not only does the Open Hand figure on the publications and stationery pertaining to the administration, but it is also regarded as the official emblem on the UT's website. The website states, "In the heart of the Capital Complex stands the giant metallic sculpture of the Open Hand, the official emblem of Chandigarh, signifying the city's credo of 'open to give and open to receive'."
THE OTHER SYMBOLS
But another symbol with a round outline and the Ashoka Pillar in its centre, and a background image of city skyline, is used as a symbol in various demi-official letters being issued by senior bureaucrats of the administration. This is the same symbol printed on the cover page of the official diary published by the administration for 2012-13.
However, the calendar of the same year published by the administration and the telephone directory published in 2011 carry the Open Hand.
There is another one doing the rounds, one with the Open Hand carrying a small image of the Ashok Chakra at its centre. Senior officials said this came in circulation around the golden jubilee celebrations of Chandigarh in 2002, and has stuck.
LEGAL POSITION, or THE LACK OF ANY
The 2004 report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on home affairs on the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Bill, 2004, mentioned that all the state governments and administrations of all union territories other than Chandigarh used the state emblem.
"In fact, the city's case is unique as it had already declared the adoption of the Ashoka Pillar as its emblem. This had been intimated to the ministry of home affairs in the '90s and then in 2005 too," a senior said.
But a press statement released by the UT in 2002 stated that Chandigarh "has incorporated the state emblem in the emblem adopted by it".
Another senior officer, of the home department, asserted, "It is crystal clear that we have adopted the Lion Capital as our emblem. The only issue is that the departments are not following the protocol strictly."
BEGINNING OF CONFUSION, NO END YET
BSP MP from Uttar Pradesh Ambeth Rajan raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha in March, saying, "Many states are using national emblem in their state emblems whereas a few states are not using it. Ours is a federal nation and there must be uniformity in using the national emblem such as using national flag."
Besides urging the Centre to issue a circular to all states to include the national emblem in their emblems, Rajan, even before raising the matter in Parliament, had sent letters to all states and UTs that hadn't incorporated the national emblem into their state emblem. The letter had reached the Chandigarh administration, which then started exploring the option of incorporating the national emblem into its emblem.
But still, such is the level of confusion that the administration is yet to clinch the issue.
Sources said the home secretary had sought opinion from the chief architect on the issue, but the latter expressed inability to give expert opinion.
Sumit Kaur, UT chief architect, told HT, "Our opinion was indeed sought, but the matter is not under our purview. Top officials will have to take the final call."
OLD HANDS, EXPERIENCED VOICES
"I am sure the Open Hand was never the emblem of Chandigarh; it was only the city's symbol," said MN Sharma, first Indian chief architect of Chandigarh. "I can vividly recall that an attempt was made in late 1966 or early 1967, around the time when Chandigarh became a union territory, to design an emblem. Government College of Art was assigned the job and some designs were also finalised by the local authorities, but they were never approved or used," he said.
"Till the late '70s, the popular symbol used was the one with a round outline, with Ashoka Pillar in its center and a silhouette of the assembly building in the background and the skyline. Later, the Open Hand was erected in the mid-'80s. I can't comment on the legal dimensions of the issue, but the use of Open Hand as a symbol started gaining popularity only after that," said Rajnish Wattas, former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture.