Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 17 August 2022

When was the National Flag adopted?

Source: By The Indian Express

Three quarters of a century ago on this day, 22 July, in 1947, the Constituent Assembly of India adopted the National Flag. It was a red-letter day in our history, and on 22 July 2022, Prime Minister led the nation in “recall[ing] the monumental courage and efforts of all those who dreamt of a flag for free India when we were fighting colonial rule”.

“We reiterate our commitment to fulfil their vision and build the India of their dreams,” the Prime Minister posted on Twitter, along with pictures of the first Flag unfurled by Jawaharlal Nehru, relevant pages from the Constituent Assembly debates, and a legacy copy of the ‘Shahid Garjana’, “Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Hamara”.

What happened in the Constituent Assembly on 22 July 1947?

According to the official record of the proceedings, the Constituent Assembly met in the Constituent Hall in New Delhi at 10 o’clock, with Dr Rajendra Prasad in the Chair. The Constituent Assembly had been meeting since 9 December 1946, and had by then discussed a range of subjects.

The Chair announced that the first item on the agenda was “a Motion by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru about the Flag”. Thereafter, Nehru rose to move the following Resolution: “Resolved that the National Flag of India shall be horizontal tricolour of deep Saffron (Kesari), white and dark green in equal proportion. In the centre of the white band, there shall be a Wheel in navy blue to represent the Charkha. The design of the Wheel shall be that of the Wheel (Chakra) which appears on the abacus of the Sarnath Lion Capital of Asoka. The diameter of the Wheel shall approximate to the width of the white band. The ratio of the width to the length of the Flag shall ordinarily be 2:3. At the end of the day, the record says, “The motion was adopted, the whole Assembly standing.”

What did Nehru say in his speech while moving the Resolution?

Nehru began by referring to the “glow and warmth which I feel at the present moment”, and the “concentrated history through which all of us have passed during the last quarter of a century”. He said that he and others in the House remembered having “looked up to this Flag not only with pride and enthusiasm but with a tingling in our veins; also how when we were sometimes down and out…the sight of this Flag gave us courage to go on”. He paid homage to the freedom fighters “who have passed, held on to this Flag, some amongst them even unto death and handed it over as they sank, to others to hold it aloft”.

He cautioned that “we have tremendous problems to face in the present and in the future”, but declared, to applause, that “this moment does represent a triumph and a victorious conclusion of all our struggles”. “It is no small thing that that great and mighty empire which has represented imperialist domination in this country has decided to end its days here. That was the objective we aimed at… We have attained that objective or shall attain it very soon. Of that there is no doubt.”

Nehru went on to speak of India’s historical ability to stare down its problems: “Look at any country in the wide world. Where is the country today, including the great and big powers, which is not full of terrible problems, which is not in some way, politically and economically, striving for freedom which somehow or other eludes its grasp? The problems of India in the wider context do not appear to be terrible. The problems are not anything new to us. We have faced many disagreeable things in the past. We have not held back. We shall face all the other disagreeable things that face us in the present or may do so in the future and we shall not flinch and we shall not falter and we shall not quit.”

He spoke of the need to free the country and the world of “starvation, hunger, lack of clothinglack of necessaries of life and lack of opportunity of growth for every single human being, man, woman and child in the country”, and declared that “We aim at that.”

And what did he say about the Flag that India was about to adopt?

The Flag defined by the Resolution, Nehru said, “was adopted, not by a formal resolution, but by popular acclaim and usage, adopted much more by the sacrifice that surrounded it in the past few decades”, and that the Constituent Assembly was “in a sense only ratifying that popular adoption”.

He clarified that the Flag must not be thought of in communal terms, and that when the Flag was devised, there was no communal significance attached to it. “We thought of a design for a Flag which was beautiful, because the symbol of a nation must be beautiful to look at. We thought of a Flag which in its combination and in its separate parts would somehow represent the spirit of the nation, the tradition of the nation, that mixed spirit and tradition which has grown up through thousands of years in India. So, we devised this Flag,” he said.

Although the Flag was different in some respects from the one used earlier, its “colours are the same”, Nehru said, “a deep saffron, a white and a dark green”. The Charkha, which symbolised the common man in India, had been “slightly varied” — the practical reason being that “the symbol on one side of the Flag should be exactly the same as on the other side” and, “the Charkha, as it appeared previously on this Flag, had the wheel on one side and the spindle on the other… [and on] the other side…the spindle comes the other way and the wheel comes this way”.

It was thus decided to keep the wheel and not the rest of the Charkha, and for that purpose the famous wheel that appears atop the column of Asoka was chosen. “That wheel”, Nehru said, “is a symbol of India’s ancient culture; it is a symbol of the many things that India had stood for through the ages”. The association with Asoka was important not just because “the name of Asoka [is] one of the most magnificent names not only in India’s history but in world history”, but also because “at this moment of strife, conflict and intolerance, our minds should go back towards what India stood for in the ancient days and what it has stood for…throughout the ages”, Nehru said.

He also mentioned India’s remarkable cultural continuity, its reception of new ideas and influences, and its great internationalist spirit. “India’s greatest periods are those when she stretched her hands to others in far off countries, sent her emissaries ambassadors, her trade agents and merchants to these countries and received ambassadors and emissaries from abroad,” Nehru said. And in this context, the Asokan period stood out, he said.

This Flag…is not…a Flag of Empire, a Flag of Imperialism, a Flag of domination over any body, but a Flag of freedom not only for ourselves, but a symbol of freedom to all people who may see it,” Nehru said. “…Wherever it may go…it will bring a message, I hope, of freedom to those people, a message of comradeship, a message that India wants to be friends with every country of the world and India wants to help any people who seek freedom…”

Were there any objections to the Resolution Nehru moved?

Two amendments had been prepared, but neither of them was ultimately moved. Several members of the Constituent Assembly, including Seth Govind Das, V I Muniswami Pillai, Chaudhri Khaliquzzaman, S Radhakrishnan, Saiyid Mohammad Saadulla, Frank R Anthony, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafar, Dr Joseph Alban D’Souza, Jai Narain Vyas, and Sarojini Naidu paid glowing tributes to the Flag and supported the Resolution.

H V Kamath of the Central Provinces and Berar said that he had originally prepared an amendment asking that “inside the Chakra in the centre of the white band, the swastika, the ancient Indian symbol of Shantam, Shivam, Sundaram, be inscribed”.

This, he said, would convey “the message of peace,…a dynamic peace that passeth all understanding, the peace of which the great Valmiki has sung”, and the Swastika would, “along with the Dharma Chakra of Ashoka fittingly symbolise our ancient culture, that is to say, the exoteric and esoteric aspects of our culture”.

However, Kamath said, he had not seen the design of the Flag at the time, and having subsequently done so, he realised that it would be “hard” and “cumbersome” to incorporate the Swastika into the Chakra.

Dr P S Deshmukh, also of the Central Provinces and Berar, said that he would have preferred to retain the tricolour “absolutely intact with the Charkha retained as it is”, but “in view of the fact that the House would rather stick to the Flag that has been proposed”, he would not like to move the amendment.