4. The BJP flag
A "Hindu" or non-Hindu
party name would matter little if the policies behind it would be the right
ones, but as we shall demonstrate, the avoidance of a Hindu self‑designation
goes hand in hand with the avoidance of certain pressing Hindu concerns in
the party's policies. While we are discussing the party's
self‑presentation, we may add to our doubts about the chosen name, the
question of the party's flag. Many party workers are embarrassed with the
green-saffron flag, and I want to give a voice to their misgivings.
When the BJP was founded, a
new flag was devised: "two vertical colours, saffron and green, in the ratio
of 2:1, with the election symbol of the Party [lotus flower] in blue colour
in the middle of the saffron portion equal to half its size. The green
portion will be near the mast."
Why the green part? When questioned, more than one BJP spokesman will try
to conceal the simple truth, e.g. by arguing that this was the flag of the
unified Janata Party of 1977-79, of which the new BJP had claimed the
In reality, the Janata Party had its colours in vertical instead of
horizontal juxtaposition, and no lotus flower, so the BJP flag was
definitely a newly designed flag.
The Hindu Mahasabha flag was
and is saffron, adorned with several Hindu symbols. Shivaji's flag was
plain saffron and is still used by the Shiv Sena as well as by the RSS. The
old Jan Sangh flag was saffron, adorned only with a lamp. Whatever else may
be said of these organizations, they have pledged allegiance to Hinduism at
least at the level of visual symbolism. Of course, this colour does not
necessarily imply a bold commitment to Hinduism: when challenged by
secularists about this shameless expression of Hindu inspiration, Hindutva
spokesmen so inclined can always wriggle out by saying that the saffron flag
is just a conventional symbol, a historical remnant, in fact the original
pre-Independence Congress choice as the secular national flag, or some such
disclaimer. Yet, upon being constituted as a new party in 1980, the BJP
chose to betray even that merely symbolic link with Hinduism.
The BJP's flag, like the
Congress and Republic flags, is one‑third green. The green was added as the
symbol of Islam as a permanent declaration that the new party was
Muslim‑friendly. This is a more extreme case of Muslim appeasement than the
inclusion of green in the national flag.
Firstly, as a classical
tricolour scheme, the Indian flag, unlike the BJP flag, may be read as just
another instance of the traditional Indo‑European scheme of three qualities
(triguna) found in most tricolour flags: white as representing the
serene (sattvika) quality, saffron or red for the energetic (rājasika)
quality, and a dark colour for the material (tāmasika) quality. The
dark colour can vary between different Indo‑European cultures, and may be
black, brown, blue or even green; in which case, green has a natural
non‑communal symbol value in a Vedic cosmological scheme. This way, the
Congress/Republic flag at least satisfies certain patterns of universal
symbolism; by contrast, the imposition of a green part on the BJP flag
admits of no interpretation except as a kow-tow to Islam.
In a future post‑communal era,
the said triguna symbolism may become the official explanation of the
Republic flag's colour division, but its historical genesis was of course
communal: during the Hindu-Muslim bhai-bhai era of Congress
collaboration with the (intrinsically anti-national) Khilafat agitation,
Muslim militants and their Hindu sympathizers inside the Congress insisted
on including green, conventionally the emblematic colour of the desert
religion, Islam. The Congress Flag Committee (1931) proposed the plain
saffron flag (with blue charkha) as a historically rooted, truly national
flag for independent India.
Disregarding the Committee's advice, the Congress leadership opted once more
for the tricolour scheme which was commonly understood to signify a pledge
of allegiance to both Hinduism and Islam. But then, secondly, the Indian
National Congress had at least the excuse of being pressed by Muslim
communalist party members into adopting this communal colour scheme. The
BJP has no such excuse: the number of Muslims present when the flag was
designed, was negligeable, and these BJP Muslims (always paraded as truly
"nationalist Muslims") are not known to have pressed any demands on this.
Moreover, thirdly, the
Congress had to devise a national flag somehow representative of a nation
which it conceived as "composite" and "multi‑religious", not the symbol of a
party representing a single ideology. By contrast, the BJP merely had to
choose a party flag, representative only of its own political identity.
Entirely by its own choice, the BJP leadership chose to burden a party which
thrives on Hindu votes, with a symbol of subservience to the religion which
killed millions of Hindus, including hundreds of thousands within our own
lifetime. Many ordinary BJP and Sangh Parivar workers have expressed their
dismay about this imposition, and identify A.B. Vajpayee as the crucial
influence in giving the party flag a Muslim colour; though I would add that
after all, the majority of the party leadership must have voted to accept
their choice. The problem lies not with a few individuals; in different
degrees, it affects the BJP if not the Sangh cadre as a whole.
Like the flag, many policies
of the BJP are one-third Islamic. When Prime Minister V.P. Singh earmarked
5 million Rupees for the beautification of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, run by
Singh's ally Imam Bukhari, Organiser protested loudly against this
"blatant" case of "Muslim appeasement". But when Bhairon Singh Shekhawat
became BJP Chief Minister in Rajasthan (admittedly in coalition with the
more pro-Muslim Janata Dal), one of the first things he did was to grant 67
million Rupees for the beautification of the Ajmer mausoleum of Muinuddin
Chishti, a Sufi saint who preached against "idolatry" and who was buried on
the site of a demolished Hindu temple. Doubtlessly, the BJP did this to
prove its "secularism", though it is not clear what could be secular about
the monument of a Sufi fanatic, built with materials of destroyed Hindu
temples. Orthodox biographies of Muinuddin say in so many words that he
invited Mohammed Ghori for destroying the Chauhan Kingdom and establishing
Islam, and that he accepted as a gift from Allah the daughter of a Hindu
Prince who had been captured by Muslim raiders and presented to him. Reports
of the Archaeological Survey of India have found pieces of many Hindu idols
embedded in buildings all over the sprawling dargah.
The promised crackdown on illegal
immigrants from Bangladesh (not really communal, merely the implementation
of existing laws, but somehow vilified as communal) never materialized in
any of the BJP-ruled states. The only state where an attempt was made,
though without any substantial results, is Maharashtra, where it is left to
the Shiv Sena to claim the credit for this slightly tougher policy. The BJP
has a "Minority Cell", and its members are expected to be exemplary Muslims,
dutifully interrupting committee meetings for namaz.
Whether one applauds or
deplores it, the actual facts are that the BJP, like the pre-Independence
Congress, goes out of its way to put some token Muslims or Muslim symbols on
display. Whatever the BJP may say about "Muslim appeasement" by Congress,
its own record in this regard shows that it is equally subservient to the
chimera of Muslim-certified secularism.
BJP Constitution and Rules (1987 ed.), p.4.
This was the explanation given in 1990 by the RSS Baudhik Pramukh
(overseer for intellectual development) for Maharashtra to historian
Shrikant Talageri (personal communication, December 1995).
The story is told by K.R. Malkani: The Politics of Ayodhya and
Hindu-Muslim Relations (Har-Anand Publ., Delhi 1993), p.175-179.