A strong debate is taking place across the nation soon after the Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah set up a panel to have a separate ‘flag’ for the state of ‘Karnataka.’
On Tuesday, the Congress-led government in Karnataka set up a nine-member panel to explore how the Karnataka state can legally have its own ‘Separate’ flag. Further the government also asked the members to suggest a design. This news spread like a wildfire across the nation. Many political leaders criticised the move, not only the Opposition BJP questioned the move of Karnataka government but the Congress high-command also raised objections to the decision of the Karnataka government.
Several opposition leaders including former chief minister and Karnataka BJP president B S Yeddyurappa, Members of Parliament Shobha Karandlaje, Pratap Simha and others expressed that the move comes ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections in Karnataka and this was all a ‘Political gimmick’ to gain the attention Kannadigas. A group of people in social media expressed that the government move was taken to divert attention of some recent controversies under the state government rule.
But if one deeply looks into the demand for a separate state flag, various questions will start haunting us. Does Karnataka need a state flag when they have an existing flag (Red-Yellow)? Does any other state in the nation have an official state flag? Does the Constitution of India permit the state to have its own flag? Is the demand for an official state flag against concept of one nation?
The demand for a ‘separate’ state flag is not new to the state of Karnataka. There was a longstanding demand by Kannada activists for an official state flag, but now it has snowballed into a major controversy as a renewed assertion of Kannada identity with pro-Kannada activists staging a protest recently against the use of Hindi in Bengaluru’s Namma Metro.
Demand for official state flag
The demand for the official Karnataka Flag was brought in 2012 when the Bharatiya Janata Party was in power in the state, but the ‘National’ BJP had opposed a separate flag. The BJP government in Karnataka then had told the High Court of Karnataka that a state flag would be against the unity and integrity of the nation.
Again in 2014, vetaran journalist and Kannada activists Patil Puttappa and Bheemappa Gundappa made a demand for an official flag for Karnataka. Following this ‘three’ years later the Kannada and Culture Department of the state government notified the setting up of a nine-member committee to see the legal issues pertaining to the demand.
But the news hit the headlines of the ‘National’ media only on Tuesday and now has created a ‘controversy’ on part of the government of Karnataka. The flag of Kannada pride has triggered a row only because of the ‘bad-timing.’
The Karnataka Flag
Karnataka already has an unofficial state flag since the mid 1960s when pro-Kannada groups were agitating against the screening of non-Kannada films in the state. The red and yellow flag was created by Kannada writer and activist Ma Ramamurthy for a pro-Kannada party called the ‘Kannada Paksha.’
This unofficial flag is flown every year on ‘Kannada Rajyotsava’- Karnataka’s foundation day celebrations. Kannada activists and a few Kannadigas have also practically adopted the red and yellow flag as a symbol of state pride. But since it is not considered to be the ‘official’ state flag and a few Kannada activists opine that the flag needs a redesign, the state government has considered their request and has set-up the panel to look into it.
What CM Siddaramaiah says?
Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah, who is often sided with the pro-Kannada activists and known for reading more Kannada literature, has categorically said that this move was not at all taken with an eye on 2018 Assembly polls.
“We have constituted a committee to look at the issues and based on their recommendations we will take a decision. Karnataka already has an official state song (Anthem) and there is a feeling that there is nothing wrong in having a state flag. Having a state flag will not disrupt the unity and integrity of the country and will not reduce the stature of the national flag,” he added.
However he also mentioned the point that “The national flag will always fly higher than that of the state flag, there are no two ways about it. Most importantly, the Constitution of India does not ban such flags,” he said.
The Opposition in Karnataka and the central government stated that the move by the Congress government was all a political gimmick. The JD(S) in Karnataka said that the state government is creating this issue to divert attention of some recent controversies.
A spokesperson from the central government’s home ministry on Tuesday speaking to media has said that “We are one nation, one flag. Legally there is no provision either for providing or prohibiting a separate flag for any state.”
Pro-Kannada back CM Siddaramaiah
The pro-Kannada organisations and the activists have supported the move of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. President of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike Narayana Gowda said that the move of the state government is in support of the people of Karnataka.
Social Media users target ‘Kannadigas’
Following series of protests by Kannada activists against Hindi imposition in Bengaluru’s Namma Metro and in signboards, the Hindi speaking people in the country have started to target ‘Kannadigas’ and calling them ‘anti-nationals’ or ‘regionalists.’
Jammu and Kashmir has its own flag
The state of Jammu and Kashmir which has a special status under Article 370 of the Constitution is the only state in the country that is permitted to have its own flag.
Legal experts comment
Senior Supreme Court lawyer and Constitutional expert Pavani Parameswara Rao expressed that Karnataka can have its own flag as there is no restriction in the Indian Constitution.
“There is no restriction in the Constitution that a state shall not have its own separate flag while having a national flag. A state can have its own flag. I don’t see any provision anywhere, if they want to have state flag, there is nothing wrong in it,” he has said.
India is known for its diverse culture and various languages that the nation has. In the recent incident of Hindi imposition, the more the ‘Hindi’ language is imposed in the state, the more the Kannada nationalism gets strengthened to fight against the imposition.
Federalism is India’s greatest strength and this makes the country to run in a greater path. Strong states or provisioning to have state flags will not weaken the nation but in other way it will strengthen the nation.
On the ending note it is important to know that Kannadigas have embraced both, the ‘Proud Kannadiga’ and ‘Proud Indian’ identities without any conflict since ages.
By Karthik K K