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Karnataka demands state flag, sets up panel to study legal provisions

Karnataka has an unofficial red-and-yellow flag which is used for cultural events and as a symbol of Kannada pride.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2017 16:11 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times
Karnataka flag,Karnataka,Congress
A file phot of activists in Bengaluru waving the Karnataka flag as they block traffic on a connecting road during a statewide strike over water shortage. (AFP)

Karnataka has set up a nine-member panel to study legal provisions of having a state flag, officials said on Tuesday, in a move seen as a political gambit by the Congress government ahead of assembly polls next year.

The only state with a separate flag is Jammu and Kashmir which enjoys special powers under Article 370 of the Constitution. The Centre is also said to be toying with the idea of granting a separate flag to Nagaland under a treaty likely to be signed with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (I-M).

Karnataka has an unofficial red-and-yellow flag which is used for cultural events and as a symbol of Kannada pride.

The move by the Congress government in Karnataka comes amid rising public sentiments against the Centre’s alleged move to impose Hindi on the Kannada-speaking people of the state.

Officials said the official notification constituting the panel was issued on June 9.

The moves comes at the backdrop of representations made by writer Patil Puttappa and RTI activist Bheemappa Gadad, asking for such a flag.

Gadad, a resident of Belagavi district, said he felt a flag for the state was required because of the alleged disrespect shown to Karnataka by the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, which has called for the district to be integrated into Maharashtra.

“We need a flag for the state to show that this is Karnataka,” Gadad said. “Our intention is not to demean the national flag. In fact, the national flag is supreme, there is no questioning that,” Gadad said.

A defiant chief minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday defended his move.

“Is there any provision in the Constitution that prohibits a state from having a flag?” Siddaramaiah told reporters.

In 2012, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power in the state, the state government had opposed a similar move in an affidavit submitted to the Karnataka high court then, saying that separate flag would undermine the sanctity afforded to the national flag.

Experts HT spoke to, said there was no legal bar on a state flag.

“There is no provision either in the Constitution or in the Flag Code that prohibits a state from having a separate official flag,” said Alok Prasana Kumar, a Bengaluru-based lawyer, who has also practiced at the Supreme Court.

Kumar said a code for this flag similar to the National Code will require to be passed as a law.

“If such a code is planned then it will need the assent of the President. This is because the government will then have to consider the relation of this flag with the national flag.”

While Siddarmaiah denied any connection between the decision and the coming assembly elections, political analyst Narendar Pani said it was part of the widespread anger in the state against the Centre.

“There has always been an anti-Hindi sentiment here, which boiled over in 1983 during the Gokak agitation,” said Pani, a faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies.

The Gokak agitation of the 1980s was successful in giving primacy to the Kannada language in the state which had earlier followed a three-language formula that included Hindi and English.

“One must realise that this reaction is informed by various factors, including what is seen as injustice being meted out to the state over the Cauvery issue,” he added, referring to a decades-old water-sharing dispute with Tamil Nadu.

Pani said for the Congress, the coming elections would be led by Siddarmaiah and the leaders at the district level. “In that sense, the national leadership will have little say over these matters,” he added.

SG Siddarmaiah, chairman of the Kannada Development Authority and a member of the panel, said the committee was yet to meet.

“I have not even received a letter informing me that I am on the committee, so I am pretty certain that it hasn’t met,” Siddarmaiah added.

First Published: Jul 18, 2017 17:02 IST