Respecting the flag

Respecting the flag

What’s wrong in hoisting J&K State flag alongside the tri-colour?

India adopted constitution on January 26, 1950 and it is considered as a Red Letter day in the history of India. I respect Constitution of India and we must respect it fully along with Article 370 which gives Jammu & Kashmir State a separate Constitution. 

If we have separate constitution and flag why we never unfurl our state flag on the occasion particularly Republic Day and Independence Day alongside with the National Flag?  Call it discrimination with state flag or disrespect to it but I have a question.

Should we not make it mandatory to hoist the state flag alongside with the national flag in Jammu & Kashmir?. Is this flag something illegal and unconstitutional? Then why no respect being given to it on special occasions?  

Tricolour is National Flag and it deserves every respect. We had already Flag Code of India, 2002, Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 which ensure respect to National Flag and hoisting this flag on important occasions is genuine but if J&K people are having Constitutional State Flag why we should not respect our flag on important occasions? 

Let me quote Section 144 of the Constitution of the Jammu & Kashmir State which describes the flag as "The Flag of the State shall be rectangular in shape and red in colour with three equidistant white vertical strips of equal width next to the staff and a white plough in the middle with the handle facing the stripes. The ratio of the Flag to its width shall be 3:2.". 

We see this flag on the building of Secretariat alongside National Flag. We also see it on the official cars of the high state functionaries but we never see it unfurling and giving respect to it on the important occasions.    

In past National Conference wanted to ensure honour to this flag and even Peoples’ Democratic Party had also shown seriousness for honouring the state flag but on ground both the parties only keep the issue alive and do nothing.

Their leaders still took salute on the March pasts and still unfurl only National Flag ignoring to give respect to State Flag also. 

 In February 2007, in a significant development, government supported the bill moved by National Conference seeking one year imprisonment for a person who dishonors the State flag.

The government at the same time opposed the bill moved by Panthers Party seeking only one flag for the State. The bill to amend Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Insult to the State Honor Act 1979 was moved by the National Conference legislator Mir Saifullah.

The bill says any person entitled to display and exhibit flag of the State who fails to display and exhibit the flag with due honor shall be punished with imprisonment for one year and fine.  Even Mir Saifullah was of the view that the flag of the State represents people of the State and deserves due honor and respect and insult to the flag is insult of the State.  During the tenure, then Law Minister Tariq Hamid Qarra had responded positively that government will not oppose the bill. The bill was later approved for consideration with voice vote. 

In the same session of Assembly, Government opposed a bill to amend constitution of Jammu and Kashmir moved by Panthers Party member and former Education Minister Harsh Dev Singh who had proposed an amendment through private member’s bill number 9 of 2007. 

It is also a fact that Article 25 of J&K Constitution creates office of Head of State as Governor, Article 35 provides for council of ministers with Chief Minister as head and Article 42 provides for appointment of advocate general and contrary to J&K constitution under which constitutional authorities have been created and are functioning, the constitutional authority have to use the State flag in order to demonstrate the sanctity of the flag and Republic character of Jammu and Kashmir.

When some right wing ideology people though that J&K State constitution is getting some importance, they started raising issue of 2 flags in J&K. In July 2014, an MP Tarun Vijay insisted that the one-flag system was needed to maintain the unity and integrity of the country and demanded government to abolish the two-flag system in Jammu and Kashmir. This statement was rejected by National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party in Jammu & Kashmir and even in November 2014, then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah while addressing a public meeting at Sumbal and Kangan of Kashmir stated that BJP talks about winning the hearts of people of the state but the fact remains that the party has never accepted our flag, our special status, our identity and our political sentiments.  

In between the opponents and supporters of hoisting flag, there are also some intellectuals in India who have different view point on the flags.

Let me quote Indian booker-prize winner author, Arundhati Roy “Flags are bits of coloured cloth that governments use first to, shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”

My mind simply says that if J&K Flag is constitutional, it deserve due respect and it must be saluted on all important occasions.

(The author is a freelance journalist of Doda District and can be contacted at malikshaheen@gmail.com)