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Mainstream, VOL LX No 23, New Delhi, May 28, 2022

The Recent Amendment of Flag Code of India: A Sacrilege? | Siby K. Joseph

Friday 27 May 2022


by Siby K. Joseph

The National Flag of India has a special place in the hearts of every Indian. It was unique due to the Khadi fabric with which it was made and one could easily distinguish it from flags of other countries. It was a symbol of the historic struggle of freedom led under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and other great patriots of India. When Gandhi took the leadership of the country in 1920s, he called the British Government and it flag as Satanic which made us slaves in our own country. He felt the need to have a common flag to live and to die for all people following different religious traditions. He placed before the nation the ’flag of swaraj’ with a spinning wheel. When he reflected on the idea of “The National Flag ’’ in Young India in 1921, he made the spinning wheel and khaddar intertwined to it because he wanted India independent of foreign markets. According to Gandhi, three stripes of the flag represented all the communities and the charkha was the symbol of non-violence. Gandhi was ready to accept the wheel instead of Charkha for the flag of independent India. He wanted to continue the spirit of spinning and Khadi in the new flag. He even went to the extent of saying that he will refuse to salute the flag that is modified compromising the basic values however artistic it may appear. His dictum in this regard was “This tricolour flag with the wheel will certainly consist of hand-spun and hand woven khadi. Our country has called it khadi whether it is woven from hand-spun cotton or silk.”

 The new flag which Independent India adopted was a modified version of the Swaraj flag which was used during the freedom struggle under the banner of Indian National Congress from 1921. From the Constituent Assembly Debates held on 22 July, 1947 one will get an idea why it was modified. The explanation given in the debate was that “It will be seen that there is a slight variation from the one many of us have used during these past years. The colours are the same, a deep saffron, a white and a dark green. In the white previously there was the Charkha which symbolised the common man in India, which symbolised the masses of the people, which symbolised their industry and which came to us from the message which Mahatma Gandhi delivered. Now, this particular Charkha symbol has been slightly varied in this Flag, not taken away at all. Why then has this been varied? Normally speaking, the symbol on one side-of the Flag should be exactly the same as on the other side. Otherwise, there is a difficulty which goes against the rules.” Thus the charkha was replaced by the Ashoka Chakara representing the eternal wheel of law . According to the Flag Code of India 2002 until recently Khadi was the only fabric allowed for the preparation flag, and flying a flag made of any other material was punishable by law. Paragraph 1.2 of Part-I of the Flag Code of India, 2002 was read earlier as follows: “1.2 The National Flag of India shall be made of hand spun and hand woven wool/cotton/silk khadi bunting.”Also the Directorate General of Foreign Trade of Government of India, in a notification ( no.24 2015 /2020 ) dated 11th October 2019 prohibited the import of Indian National Flag not adhering to the specifications prescribed under Part — 1 section 1.2 of Flag Code of India 2002. The fag advisories of the Government of August 2021 also followed the same.However,on 30 December, 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (Public Section), Government of India issued an order announcing the amendment of Flag Code of India. It amended paragraph 1.2 of Part-I of the Flag Code of India, 2002 as follows: “1.2 The National Flag of India shall be made of hand spun and hand woven or machine made, cotton/polyester/wool/silk khadi bunting.”

The people at large came to know about it only in the month of March when a news item appeared in Economic Times stating that the government approved the manufacture and import of machine-made polyester national flags by amending the 2002 Flag Code of India. The news was aired in some media channels. Later the discussion on the matter was limited to social media. In the month of April, Dastkar Delhi took the initiative and launched an online petition protesting against the amendment. Laila Tyabji,Chairperson of Dastkar while launching the petition wrote “Our Flag is a metaphor for India and its diverse communities and people, linked by the Ashoka Chakra. Equally important is its base material. Khadi was the fabric of our Freedom Movement - spinning and weaving together the themes of Swadeshi, hand crafts, and earning for rural communities.Now the Government has amended the 1947/2002 Flag Codes, allowing the manufacturing and import of machine-made flags - made in polyester! What happened to Atma Nirbhar and Make in India??Let us all protest together with the legitimisation of polyester flags.”This online petition is gradually gaining momentum and the Hindu newspaper reported the matter and subsequently carried a new item about how khadi activists are upset and they consider it a “sacrilege”. Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha (KKGSS) at Bengeri in Hubballi, which runs the lone BIS-approved flag, wrote to the Prime Minister and Home Minister of India on this issue. It was the cover story of Sarvodaya Jagat, a bimonthly Hindi publication of Sarva Seva Sangh, Varanasi in the May issue. The issue was further highlighted by Media Swaraj, an online publication platform run by Ram Dutt Tripathi, formerly correspondent of BBC both in English and Hindi. Tripathi commented “Gandhi used Khadi as a strong weapon to fight British rule. It is part of our national heritage. It has the potential to give employment to millions of people. But the government seems to be determined to destroy this sector by its various decisions. The latest is to allow the use of imported machine made polyester fabric for the national flag.It is the duty of all citizens to protect our national heritage hence oppose the government decision. Let the government know that we don’t approve it.”

It is surprising that the government made this amendment when our nation is celebrating the 75 th anniversary of Indian independence. Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav was started officially on March 12, 2022 and it will continue till 15 August 2023. The Prime Minister of the country in his “Mann ki Baat” on July 25 made an appeal to buy Khadi products and equated it to "public service" and “service to the nation” Accordingly on August 25, 2021 Home Secretary, Government of India requested the concerned Ministries/ Departments for bulk purchase of National Flags from Khadi and Village Industries Commission only.  The basic question is that if the government is committed to the welfare of Khadi artisans engaged in the production of the National Flag, why did it amend the Flag Code of India paving for machine made polyester and its import. Our national flag is a heritage and it has sanctity. We should not use flags made of polyester and imported from other countries. The general feeling among concerned people about the amendment is that it leads to some sort of sacrilege of our flag.It is the duty of all patriotic Indians to ask the government to withdraw the decision to amend the flag code of India as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of 75 th anniversary of Indian independence.

(Author: Dr. Siby K. Joseph is a noted Gandhian Scholar and Director of Sri Jamnalal Bajaj Memorial Library Research Centre, Sevagram Ashram Pratishthan, Sevagram Wardha-442102 (Maharashtra) Email: directorjbmlrc[at]

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