Two years after official flag for Karnataka was mooted, here's where proposal stands

On Karnataka Rajyotsava, TNM explains what happened to the 2018 proposal of an official flag for Karnataka, and the history behind it.
Former CM Siddaramaiah launching the flag in 2018
Former CM Siddaramaiah launching the flag in 2018
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On November 1, Karnataka Rajyotsava (Karnataka Formation Day) is celebrated every year and Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa hoisted the bicoloured ‘Kannada flag’ at Bengaluru's Kanteerava Stadium, alongside the Indian flag, this year too. While the red and yellow flag has been the de facto state flag, largely used across Karnataka while celebrating its language and culture, the proposal sent by a previous Karnataka government to award official status to a version of the Kannada flag is still pending and has been put on the backburner now.

Amidst the pandemic, like for other major festivals, the state government has banned mass gatherings for Karnataka Rajyotsava as well. Most years, the day is celebrated with much pomp and splendour with pro-Kannada organisations and fan clubs of Kannada cinema stars too hoisting the Karnataka flag, playing patriotic Kannada songs and singing the Kannada anthem — Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate

Proposal for official status

The demand for a state flag is not new in Karnataka. While the bicoloured one has been used since the 1960s, in 1998, the then Kannada Development Authority (KDA) first proposed giving it an official status. But that did not proceed any further.

Ironically, it was the BJP government under Yediyurappa in 2009 that removed restrictions on hoisting the flag on government buildings. Three years later, another BJP CM of the state, Sadananda Gowda, made it compulsory for state government offices and educational institutions to hoist the Karnataka flag on November 1.

In 2017, then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah constituted a panel of nine experts to ‘study the legality and judicial implications of the formal adoption of a flag for the state’. The panel was chaired by GS Siddaramaya, Principal Secretary of the Department of Kannada and Culture and other members included scholars, historians and writers.

The panel submitted a report on the basis of which a team of designers came up with another version of the state flag, with similarities to the national tri-coloured one, with the emblem of Karnataka too incorporated. The design was unveiled by Siddaramaiah on March 8, 2018.

The state government sent a proposal to the Union government requesting for the approved design of the Karnataka flag to be included in the schedule of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1950.

The move was met with criticism, mostly in national media and from BJP and BJP-aligned political leaders. Since the proposal was sent just before the 2018 Assembly elections, it was dubbed a political gimmick to pander to parochial sentiments and detractors even called it a secessionist move.

Where it stands today

After the elections, consecutive governments, headed by HD Kumaraswamy and then BS Yediyurappa did not pursue the proposal with the Union government, which had kept it pending. In August 2019, the Yediyurappa government decided to drop the proposal formally.

Kannada & Culture Minister CT Ravi was quoted as saying, “The flag committee has said there will be only one flag. The Constitution committee headed by Dr BR Ambedkar directed that we have only one flag — the tricolour. So, there’s only one constitutional flag across India. There may be cultural flags. Karnataka also has a cultural flag. But we are one nation, so we will only think about unity.”

What does the Constitution say

“There is no chance of the idea of India getting damaged by states having a separate flag. Even in countries like Australia and Germany, this (separate flags for states) is followed. Those who are opposing it in the name of nationalism are very weak in their understanding of India,” says Arun Javagal from Banavasi Balaga, a pro-Kannada organisation.

While the former state of Jammu and Kashmir has been the only state in the country to have  a separate flag, the Indian Constitution has not categorically prohibited other states from having a separate state flag. It, however, stipulates that the national flag must always fly higher than the state flag.

In countries like the United States and Germany, states are allowed to have their own flags. In India too, all states have their own insignia and several states, including Karnataka, have their own anthems. So a separate flag, many argue, is just an extension of the same logic to reinforce the state’s autonomy and federalism. 

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