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."[1]  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 heritage.[2]  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.[3]  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.     

             [1]  BJP Constitution and Rules (1987 ed.), p.4.

             [2]  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).

             [3]  The story is told by K.R. Malkani: The Politics of Ayodhya and Hindu-Muslim Relations (Har-Anand Publ., Delhi 1993), p.175-179.

 

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