Celebrations are underway in India, as the country is set to mark 75 years of its independence, owing to which the central government has organised various programs. These celebrations are part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ initiative, which includes the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign.
Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to put the tricolour as a profile picture on their social media accounts, from August 2 to 15. This has sparked yet another debate, as many members of the Opposition parties have taken a jibe at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the move. On the other hand, the BJP has urged the opposing parties to not politicise the campaign. “We will also call upon Congress and other political parties and leaders to leave politics and put their efforts so that (the) country can move forward in a positive way,” said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, in a press conference held to make this appeal.
“There are no hard feelings for anyone, no accusations and no fight. I would like to keep this topic with love because everyone has equal rights on the national flag. We are now close to celebrating August 15, and there is a festive atmosphere in the country,” he added. Patra also said that although August 15 comes every year, this time it will be celebrated with “double enthusiasm” as the country is completing 75 years of its independence.
PM Modi has also indicated disappointment over political comments that have countered the celebrations related to the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. “It was (the) Prime Minister’s call to hoist the tricolour in 20 crore homes. For this everyone should have a holy hand, and as the PM has said time and time again… national policy is above politics. This tricolour is not of any party, this tricolour belongs to the nation. The tricolour is to be hoisted in every house, it cannot be the line of any party, it is the line of the new nation,” said Patra.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, as part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations, the cultural ministry organised a ‘Tiranga Bike Rally’ in New Delhi, from the Red Fort to Vijay Chowk, to pay tribute to all freedom fighters, and highlight the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign. The rally was flagged off by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, and several MPs and union ministers were seen participating. The BJP also criticised the MPs of opposition parties for their absence from the event.
BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said in a tweet: “(The) Culture Ministry organised a ‘Tiranga bike rally’ from the Red Fort to Parliament for the MPs of all parties this morning. Could see only BJP-NDA MPs. As per media- Cong/TMC/AAP/SP missing? Does Tiranga belong to a party or nation? From Rashtrapati to Tiranga why such apman?”
“The ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ is not a political programme, it is a government programme. That’s why today when the bike rally took place in Delhi, this call was made by the Ministry of State for Elementary Affairs and Culture, a ministry of the Government of India,” said Patra at the press conference. He added that the idea was for all to do a ‘Tiranga Bike Rally’ together in Delhi, and that it was flagged off by the VP and Rajya Sabha chairman because it was a “politically neutral programme”.
This came a day after PM Modi and several other BJP leaders changed their profile pictures to the national flag on social media platforms. Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, however, changed their display pictures and posted a picture of India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru with the tricolour, across various social media accounts apart from the party’s official handle on Twitter. “Our tiranga is the pride of our country, the tiranga is in the heart of every Indian,” said Rahul Gandhi in a tweet.
“The tricolor is in our hearts, it is in our veins as blood. On December 31, 1929, Pandit Nehru while hoisting the tricolor on the banks of river Ravi said, ‘Now the tricolor has been hoisted, it should not be bowed’,” said the party’s official handle on Twitter, in Hindi, after changing the profile picture. “Let us all make this tricolor our identity, which gives the message of undivided unity of the country. Jai Hind,” it added.
Subsequently, on Wednesday, the BJP also called out the Congress on their “dynastic politics”. Sambit Patra said, “They have displayed the picture of their leader who was the country’s first prime minister. The tricolour belongs to the poorest of the poor and to 135 crore Indians.” Taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi, Patra continued, “Anyone can hold the tricolour and put it in their DP (display picture). His (Gandhi’s) family has been in politics from the beginning. I feel Rahul Gandhi should give others a chance. It will be very good if his party workers display their picture with the tricolour.” He further pointed out, “At least the tricolour is coming up.”
Meanwhile, taking a shot at the RSS and its chief Mohan Bhagwat, the Congress’ media head Pawan Khera, and other party leaders, took to Twitter to share screenshots of the former’s Twitter handles, saying that they have not changed their profile pictures to the tricolour. “People of the Sangh, at least now adopt the tricolour,” said Khera in a tweet.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also pointed out how the RSS has not hoisted the national flag at their headquarters in Nagpur for 52 years, questioning, “Will they follow (the) Prime Minister’s message?” Taking a dig at the PM, he further said, “We are putting the DP of our leader Nehru with the tricolour in his hands. But the Prime Minister’s message does not seem to have reached his family…”
Notably, amid this back and forth, Rahul Gandhi visited a flag manufacturing unit in Karnataka’s Hubli district on Wednesday. “Visited the National Flag making unit at Hubballi, along with Shri @RahulGandhi & @INCKarnataka leaders to extend solidarity to Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha’s protest against Central Govt’s decision to amend flag code & allow the use of machine-made polyester flags,” said Congress MP KC Venugopal, in a tweet. Reportedly, the Congress leader visited the unit, which was the only one authorised to manufacture and supply the Indian national flag.
On August 3, Gandhi also said that history stands witness that the leader of the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign was a part of that “deshdrohi” (anti-national) organisation which hasn’t hoisted the tricolour in 52 years. “They could not stop the Congress at the time of the freedom struggle. They won’t be able to party now,” said Rahul Gandhi in a tweet, in Hindi.
The RSS has responded to the criticism over not displaying the tricolour on their social media accounts. “Such things should not be politicised. The RSS has already extended its support to ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ and ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ programmes. The Sangh had in July appealed for full support and participation of the people and swayamsevaks in the programmes to be organised by the government, private bodies and the Sangh-related organisations,” said Sunil Ambekar, RSS Akhil Bhartiya Prachar Pramukh. Attacking the Congress, he added, “The party which is raising such questions is responsible for the division of the country.”
“Rahul is a leader, who in the country and abroad, spreads poisonous and hate-filled statements. While the country is celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ in which every organisation is participating across religion and caste, he is abusing the RSS to hide his hatred. This has become his fashion statement. I pray that he speaks words that (bind) everyone,” said senior RSS functionary Indresh Kumar.
The Congress is not the only party which was a part of this exchange. All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi, earlier today, also took a shot at the RSS. “@PMOIndia said #RSS was his “foundation” & “inspiration to live for (the) nation”. He’s asking us to put tiranga DPs & take out rallies, but RSS had rejected independent India & (tricolour). RSS mouthpiece Organiser, reflecting its views demanded that bhagwa flag be national flag,” he said in a tweet. Owaisi also went on to claim that the RSS was “bitter”, as they played no role in the freedom movement.
This comes a day after Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (JKPDP) president Mehbooba Mufti stirred a major controversy by changing her profile picture to the tricolour, along with the now void flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Reportedly, the picture was taken when PM Modi was addressing a rally back in November 2015, when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the chief minister.
She also tweeted, “For us our state flag was irreversibly linked to the Indian flag. It was snatched thus breaking away the link. You may have robbed us of our flag but cant erase it from our collective conscience.” Notably, the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign is supposedly a success as there are many parts of Kashmir Valley where people have willingly and enthusiastically hoisted the flags at various buildings, homes, hotels and so on.
Furthermore, public places like Lal Chowk in Srinagar, and Kokila Chowk in Kishtwar, have also hoisted the national flag. The Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police and the Indian Army have also reportedly joined the campaign, by hoisting the tricolour at their posts and offices. In Pulwama, students are actively participating in rallies, essay writing, painting, and singing competitions as part of the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign.