First published on: Jan 10, 2016
Photo credits: www.indiasamvad.co.in
The self-professed guardians of patriotism, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have done it again. At pains to imprint a peculiar version patriotism on Indian Muslims, an RSS outfit, the Muslim Rashtriya Manch has launched a nationwide campaign to get all madrassahs in the country to hoist the Indian tricolor this January 26; India’s Republic Day. India’s largest Muslim seminary, Darul Uloom has shot back a response, “Does the RSS hoist the flag at its headquarters in Nagpur?
But check its history, past and more recent. It has a schizophrenic relationship with both Indian nationalism and the Indian tricolor. Its bhagwa for the supremacist fanatics and the Tricolor for the ‘others’, read Muslims. Not so long back while on its familiar and sinister track of de-bunking composite Indian nationhood, on September 20, 2015, the RSS’ All India Prachar Pramukh, Manmohan Vaidya raised objections over the Tricolour of the Indian flag. According to Vaidya, the usage of different colours to represent different religions in India, was bound to evoke a communal thought. 
The first time that the RSS hoisted the Tricolor on its own headquarters was during the term of the first NDA I government in power in New Delhi, in 2002! Similar brow-beating tactics that the RSS is using now were used by sadhvi and RSS/VHP leader, Uma Bharati when, on August 15, 1994 she attempted to hoist the national flag at Idgah Maidan Hubli. Then again, in 2011, again the RSS and its front the BJP once again, its bid to whip up a frenzy against Muslims, announced that they planned to unfurl the Tricolour, the Indian national flag, in Srinagar on January 26, 2011.
As Shamsul Islam, the author, in this article re-published below points out, “It may not be out of context to know that BJP and its RSS mentors, so zealous about hoisting the Tricolour in Srinagar, have least respect for the Tricolour, as we will see from the following documentary evidence from the RSS archives.”
Organiser, the RSS English organ, in its third issue (July 17, 1947), disturbed by the Constituent Assembly's decision to select the Tricolour as the national flag, carried an editorial titled 'National Flag', demanding that the saffron flag be chosen instead. The same demand continued to be raised in editorials on the eve of independence (July 31 editorial titled 'Hindusthan' and August 14 editorial titled 'Whither'), simultaneously rejecting the whole concept of a composite nation. The August 14 issue also carried 'Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhawaj (saffron flag)', which, while demanding the hoisting of a saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the tricolour as the national flag in the following words: "The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the tricolour but it will never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country."
Even after Independence when the Tricolour became the National Flag, it was the RSS which refused to accept it as the National Flag.
Golwalkar, second chief of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the organisation till date, while addressing a gathering in Nagpur on July 14, 1946, stated that it was the saffron flag which in totality represented their great culture. It was the embodiment of God: "We firmly believe that in the end the whole nation will bow before this saffron flag."
Even after independence, when the Tricolour became the national flag, it was the RSS which refused to accept it. Golwalkar, while discussing the issue in an essay titled 'Drifting and Drifting' in the book Bunch of Thoughts, a collection of his writings, published by RSS and treated as a bible for its cadres, has the following to say: "Our leaders have set up a new flag for our country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating. Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds?"
Importantly, nowhere in the functioning of RSS is the Tricolour or national flag used even today. The RSS headquarters at Reshambaugh, Nagpur, does not fly it, nor do the RSS shakhas display it in their daily parades.
For RSS, it seems, the national flag is meant only to whip up frenzy against Muslims. In the 1991 'Ekta Yatra', it was Murli Manohar Joshi, another favourite in the RSS hierarchy, who went to unfurl the Tricolour at Lal Chowk of Srinagar, Kashmir. Uma Bharti carried a Tricolour when it was an Idgah that was being targeted by Hindutva. But when the Hindutva cadres went to demolish the Babri mosque in 1992, they did not carry the tricolour. They carried only saffron flags which were subsequently hoisted there.
The RSS is faced with a peculiar dilemma. For Hindus it has the saffron flag, and for Muslims, the Tricolour. This selective use of national symbols is bound to boomerang and further expose the Hindutva camp's real designs. But one thing is for sure: 'Muslim Bashing' remains the favourite pastime of the Hindutva gang. And communal polarisation - at all costs - their favourite short-term and long-term obsession. Even on the Republic Day.
Background (Shamsul Islam)
The RSS since its inception in 1925 hated anything, which symbolised the united struggle of the Indian people against British rule. The case of the Indian tricolour is the most pertinent one. It was in December 1929 that the Indian National Congress at its Lahore session adopted ‘Purna Swaraj’ or complete self-rule as the national goal and called upon the people to observe January 26, 1930 as Independence Day by displaying and honouring the Tricolour (the Tricolour was by consensus considered the flag of the national movement by this time). In response to this Hedgewar as Sarsanghchalak issued a circular to all the RSS shakhas to worship the bhagwa jhanda (saffron flag) as the national flag.
The RSS is faced with a peculiar dilemma. For Hindus it has the saffron flag, and for Muslims, the Tricolour. This selective use of national symbols is bound to boomerang and further expose the Hindutva camp's real designs.
Even after Independence when the Tricolour became the National Flag, it was the RSS which refused to accept it as the National Flag. Golwalkar while discussing the issue of the national flag in an essay entitled ‘Drifting and Drifting’ in the book Bunch of Thoughts, an RSS publication and collection of writings of Golwalkar, has the following to say: "Our leaders have set up a new flag for our country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating….Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds?"2
The English organ of the RSS, Organizer (dated August 14, 1947) carried a feature titled 'mystery behind the bhagwa dhawaj' (saffron flag) which while demanding hoisting of saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the Tri-colour as the National Flag in the following words: "The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country."
There is an interesting end note to this. Historical documents also show that the RSS showed anger at the national flag after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. So the duplicitous doublespeak is simple: its Tiranga for the ‘Others’ and bhagwa for itself as far as the RSS is concerned.
References1. MS Golwalkar, Shri Guruji Samagar Darshan (collected works of Golwalkar in Hindi), Bhartiya Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, nd, Volume I, p. 98.
Hereafter referred as SGSD.
2. MS Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1996, pp.237-238.