In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that it was the fundamental right of every Indian to display the national flag in a ‘dignified’ manner. This was the culmination of a decade-long legal battle that secured for all of us the freedom to celebrate and revel in our national colours.
Americans love wearing their ‘stars and stripes’ literally on their sleeves. The Indian tricolour is of even more historical importance to us considering that never in India’s history prior to 1947 had India stood as a single united nation, ruled by its own people, its freedom epitomised by one national flag. Never before 1947 did the people of India have one flag that bound the whole nation in a liberating spirit of freedom.Apart from being evocative of great leaders and their epic struggle for our nationhood, the tiranga enshrines the very soul of our republic and the ideals of its Constitution: unity, sovereignty and secularism. Which is why for every Indian, the tricolour should transcend the plane of tokenism. It is a combination of hues that we like to see soaring up a tall mast to the tune of the national anthem and fluttering freely in the wind atop our buildings celebrating an identity we won with extraordinary courage and grit. As the Supreme Court had said in its judgement, "From time immemorial, people have laid down their lives to salute their own flag."
It is not clear what it is about a piece of cloth that has such an effect on our minds or why those colours inspire us to efforts usually beyond our capacity. But the fact is that the rising tricolour along a pole is what gives us goosebumps when an Abhinav Bindra or a Rajyavardhan Rathore steps up an Olympic podium. It is what makes great champions and brave soldiers cry with joy. It is what many of our leaders lived and died for. As the Supreme Court said, “The national flag indisputably stands for the whole nation, its ideals, aspirations, its hopes and achievements.”
In the end, the tiranga embraces the spirit of life itself, meant to be expressed not strangled by a legal noose. The three colours not only symbolise the essential values of life, but they are also a liberating metaphor for the fearless struggle of millions of people for self-determination against Britain — a struggle that ended with freedom and martyrdom.
Today, as India, the world’s largest democracy, breaks decisively out of an economic eclipse and creates a dominant place for itself in the global sun, it feels even better to wave the national flag with abandon.
So, go out and flaunt it. Wave it and fly it. And raise the Indian national flag everywhere and anytime you feel like with joy and pride. And a sense of respect.
In his book, Our National Flag, Lt Cdr K V Singh writes: “The national flag stands for the whole nation, for its honour and glory.” When it goes up “the heart of a true citizen is filled with pride.” To which former President of India R Venkataraman added, “Our flag is both a benediction and beckoning. It contains the blessings of all those great souls who brought us freedom. But it also beckons us to fulfill their vision of a just and united India.”
On this Independence Day, we can all feel blessed by our fundamental right to raise our flag as high as we want, without fear. We found our voice in 1947. Now is the time for us to proudly display the supreme symbol of our nationhood and like Jawaharlal Nehru said on August 14, 1947, “to keep our tryst with destiny” and reaffirm our “pledge of dedication to the service of India and to the still larger cause of humanity”.
(Naveen Jindal is a Member of Parliament. He led the legal battle for the right of all citizens of India to display the national flag on any occasion)