Ground Reports

Humans of Tiranga

By Shahinda Syed, 13 Aug 2022

Tricolour Unfurled at Central Delhi

The stage is poised for the forthcoming Independence Day celebrations on August 15th, and the entire nation is revelling in the preparations and chests are pounding with pride for the day when the flag will be unfurled on the historic Red Fort.

A Naked Toddler Covering his Head with the Flag

Of course, the day is a source of pride and honour for the country because it commemorates the country’s independence from colonial rule – the breaking of bonds with the British past.

Waving Tricolour at Janpath, New Delhi

Houses, buildings, roads, lanes, mandirs and majids, educational institutions, and various other institutions are all lit up and decorated for the big day. However, if the coin is flipped, the other side witnesses a massive discussion and public discourse on the tricolour itself.

An Autowala Displaying the Flag

Since the BJP-led government’s ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign, which mandated that every household display the national flag; television news, primetime shows, and social media platforms have been awash with discussion. Many parliamentarians, opposition parties, local netas, news anchors, and twitteratis raced to express their opinions on the subject.

Waiting on the Edge for the Hoisting of Flag

India’s Flag Code of 2002 states that any member of the public, private, or educational institute is permitted to hoist the National Flag on all days and events, ceremonial or otherwise, compatible with the dignity and honour of the Tricolour.

A Dairy Shop and the Flag at Purani Delhi

However, major amendments were made to the flag code in July 2022, the Centre authorised the National Flag to be hoisted both during the day and at night if it is displayed in the open or on the property of a member of the public. Originally, the Tricolour could only be displayed between dawn and sundown.

Woman Waits Outside the Shop at New Friends Colony

In another controversial amendment of December 2021, the Centre permitted National Flags made of hand-spun, hand-woven, or machine-manufactured cotton, polyester, wool, silk, or khadi to be used which was prohibited earlier.

Joy in the Eyes

The changes announced in December 2021 to enable the use of machine-made and polyster flags drew criticism from the Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, which claims that the Centre has allowed the influx of Chinese-made Indian flags by authorising the import of polyester flags. The plan was also met with strong opposition from Khadi weavers and activists, who organised a nationwide demonstration.

A Seller Waits for the Customer Beside the Flag

The debate over the tricolour continues.

Men in Uniform Proudly Showing the Flag

Another debate erupted when the BJP-led government asked people to change their social media display pictures on the occasion of the upcoming ‘Azadi Ka Mahautsav’ Celebrations on Independence Day to tricolour, whereas the Congress-led opposition quickly objected by displaying pictures of Nehru’s Flag on social media, asserting that it was the authentic flag.

Resting by the flag

However, if you stroll through the lives of ordinary people, you will notice how significant the tricolour is in their life.

Man with the Flag and a Nap

One would understand, beyond disputes and controversies, or even the vested interests of leaders, what position it holds in the lives of ordinary people.

A Smile for the Flag

For some, it represents pride and honour; for others, it represents their internal longing for freedom; for others, it represents hope for a better tomorrow; and yet for others, it represents freedom of expression.

Little Girl Poses with the Flags

Moreover, a walk through the lanes, markets, bazaars, lush green areas of roads in Delhi, or even the old hustle bustle laden gullies of Old Delhi reveals the unfurled flag on top of every building, on every big and small shop, from pan sellers, rickshaw pullers, autowalas, to posh hotels and restaurants.

Two Brothers Who Sell Flags at Connaught Place

The tricolour adorns every crevice and corner of the city and the entire country.

Man Drinks Tea at Connought Place

 For some, it is more than symbolic; it is a means of earning bread or a one-day meal.

A Kid Wearing Tricolour Bangles at Jama Masjid

Small children clutching flags, old women selling the tricolour, and guys holding enormous flags while bargaining with people over the price all indicate that the flag is considerably more important in the life of ordinary people.

A Glimpse of the Flag

 So, whose flag is this?

Hoisting the Flag on his Scooter

Tea seller’s or autowala’s; rickshaw-puller’s or CEOs’? People waiting outside Red Fort trying to grab a picture with the tricolour, theirs?

Head Held High

Or the old woman who sells vegetables and fruits on the footpath or corporate workers who walk past her, is it theirs?

Flag Seller at Central Delhi

Or the labourers working in the sewage and keeping the cities and towns clean or the soldiers who serve the country at borders?

Glitter and Glamour

Martyrs who gave their lives for the country, small children on the streets selling roses, film and sports stars, authors in exile, journalists in jails, writers,  politicians or statesmen, theirs?

A Man Displaying his Flag at Red Fort

People of all walks of life; of all castes and faith, of all colours and ethnicities, of all genders, is it theirs?