By Rakshith S Ponnathpur
"Every monarch in history has become a king ascending thrones, while he became the greatest king descending one", said Kuvempu, one of the greatest literary giants of modern India, of the last of the great Mysuru kings –Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar.
Jayachamarajendra heartily agreed to the wishes of his people and joined India, instead of continuing as the loved king of his independent Mysore state – at the time one of the prosperous kingdoms not just in India or Asia, but in the whole world. Mysuru hence became the first princely state to sign the Instrument of Accession and join the Indian union, gladly accepting Indian sovereignty.
Yesterday was Jayachamarajendra’s 98th birth anniversary. And we had a group of talking heads – with modest knowledge of what he, his predecessors, his state and her people have always felt and feel about India – sitting in studios and accusing Kannadigas of undermining the stature of India and her flag. And suspecting our patriotism and allegiance to this great Indian nation because we proposed to formally adopt a flag celebrating Karnataka’s identity.
What a humiliating gift they gave to our Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar on his birth anniversary!
To the English news channels that think they know all about India, and claim the exclusive right to influence and even coerce people into conforming to their views, let me burst your bubble. India is not the exclusive property of any one group of Indians. This Indian land has been ours too. We have as much stake here as anyone else, and do not need lectures on how to love our Indian nation.
This land has been ruled by many a Kannada king and empire for hundreds of years. It has been inhabited by many a Kannadiga for thousands of years. It is decorated with inscriptions, sculptures, temples and architecture by kings, historians and sculptors. And it is blessed with art, language, culture and tradition that have been influencing and getting influenced by all of Karnataka’s neighbors, all for hundreds and thousands of years.
We have been singing 'Glory to our lovely mother Kannada, the daughter of her equally lovely mother India' as our state anthem for decades.
What we will refuse to do, every now and then, is listen to any dictations that arise from unnecessary supremacist expectations. What we will never refuse to do, is love this great land.
There are two different aspects to this issue. The first is the political aspect. The other is the aspect of constitutional validity and the spirit of identity. It is perfectly reasonable for people to question the timing and intent behind Siddaramaiah's move to make the state flag official. It is understandable if people suspect political motivations behind this move and accuse him of using non-partisan symbols adored and accepted by crores of Kannadigas, to gain political mileage.
No one can have problems with people questioning the Government over its timing and intention. Fighting over actions to earn such brownie points is acceptable, and a part and parcel of politics. If only this had happened, none of us would have minded.
However, people have been going all out against the very concept of existence of our yellow and red, and against the official validation of the flag that has been the spirit of Karnataka for more than five decades. They have been calling the flag an insult to the national Tricolour and accusing it of inspiring and instigating separatist and secessionist sentiments among Kannadigas.
Even political parties that have themselves accepted and used the yellow and red for years, ex-Chief Ministers who have themselves hoisted the flag on many Rajyothsava Days (state formation days), people who have themselves worn the yellow and red proudly as a symbol of their identity, are now beginning to say that the flag will bring down the stature of national Tricolour.
But we the people of Karnataka have already accepted our flag and have been celebrating it for decades now. Not even a single soul has used our flag as a proxy for or a replacement to the Tricolour.
We get the same goosebumps when “Jana Gana Mana” accompanies the hoisting of the Tricolour. We get the same goosebumps when “Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate” accompanies the hoisting of our yellow and red. While the yellow and red has been a symbol of our Kannada identity, the Tricolour has been a symbol of our Indian nationality.
We have always believed in celebrating both. We have never believed in replacing one for the other. Our Kannada identity can never take the place of Indian nationality, nor vice versa. They are never conflicting in our minds. The yellow and red flying alongside the tricolor will only double the love and respect we have for India.
Every state in the USA, in Germany and in many countries of the world has its own flag. Have these symbols of sub-national stature hurt the American or German nationalist spirit? Not at all! They have in fact encouraged these sub-national entities to aspire and strive towards excellence and outdo one another in helping America and Germany become global superpowers.
Americans aren't afraid of US state flags disrespecting the national flag. The fiercely nationalistic Germans aren't either. Why this paranoia and insecurity among Indians, then?
The state flag issue is, above all, a question mark on the strength of federalism in India. We shouldn't forget that our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself was fiercely outspoken about Gujarati Asmita and a major proponent of federalism as Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Did Gujarati Asmita ever stand against the greater Bharatiya Asmita? Or was it running synergically parallel in synchrony with it? Every sensible person will vouch for the latter.
The same holds true for Kannadiga Asmita. For Tamil Asmita. For Marathi Asmita. They will only run synergically parallel and in synchrony with the greater Bharatiya Asmita.
The yellow and red will symbolize our Kannadiga Asmita. Like the national tricolor symbolises our Bharatiya Asmita. Allow them to run synergically in parallel. Don't let one run over the other!
Note: The author is a contributor and the views expressed are personal.