By Nachiket Kondhalkar
The Karnataka government has constituted a nine-member committee to study the legalities of having its own flag. When asked about the Constitutional and legal position of the State having its own flag, former Advocate-General of Karnataka Ravivarma Kumar said,“There is no prohibition in the Constitution for the State to have its own flag. But, the manner in which the State flag is hoisted should not dishonour the national flag. It always has to be below the national flag. So the State flag is not unauthorised,” he said.
Why is there a need for a flag?
Jammu and Kashmir is the only state that currently has its own state flag under Article 370. The red and yellow Karnataka flag has been unofficially used as a part of State Formation Day celebrations in Government and private events.
In 2012, the then BJP led state government did not accept the Karnataka High Courts suggestion to declare the Kannada flag as the official State flag. The official reason was that the separate flag would go against the “unity and the integrity of the country.”
When the issue was raised in the assembly, then Kannada and culture minister Govind M Karjol had said: “The Flag Code does not allow flags for states. If states have their flags, they could diminish the importance of the national flag. Besides, this could lead to narrow-minded regional feelings.”
The move for a separate flag coincides with the recent wave of Pro-Kannada movement. This relies on the alleged imposition of Hindi on the state. The movement kicked off when Hindi public signs were ‘mysteriously’ masked by tape in two popular Metro stations in Bengaluru. This movement has only sped up since.
A nation in a state?
The potential of a state having its own flag promotes the idea of a “State nation” in a nation. This is different from the idea of a Nation state. The United Nations Development Program uses the term State nation to promote a greater participation of people. It also allows the government be more accountable to the people.
In Nation states, like France, the idea of a national identity overruling all other identities was used as a basis for the unification of the nation. This meant that schools in France had the same syllabus and language. Regional differences were sidelined and the nationalist feeling was prioritised. This resulted in the nation being more unified but at the cost of diversity. The minorities had the option of either joining the national agenda or risk violent persecution.
The decentralisation of power is one of the fundamental pillars of democracy. The establishment of State nations lets state governments work with a diverse population. The State nation allows a regional identity coexisting along a national identity. India has used this model to great effect. The vast number of languages and cultures have survived and thrived. It is the State governments that protect the state from being forced to conform to the national agenda.
The federal and Parliamentary system keeps the regional nationalism in check. This prevents the rise of cultural seclusion or breaking away from the nation. Karnataka getting its own flag might seem like a political move, but it is also a demonstration of a more modern form of democracy.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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