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Gujarat chief minister "declines" to accept Dalits' largest-ever National Flag, emissary says: "We don't have facility"

The tractor carrying the National Flag
By Rajiv Shah
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani has declined to accept the largest-ever National Flag, prepared by Dalit students and teachers of the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), the Dalit empowerment centre, founded by top rights activist Martin Macwan in 1999 to train girls and boys from marginalized communities in technical skills.
A Rupani emissary, who met Dalit rights activists from 26 Gujarat districts on behalf of the chief minister in Gandhinagar, gave in writing that the state government “does not have the requisite facility” to keep a 125 feet long, 83.3 feet wide National Flag all the way from DSK, about 50 km away.
“Once such a facility is created, we would approach you and take the National Flag”, the hand-written letter, a copy of which has been forwarded to Counterview, said. The length of the National Flag represents the 125th anniversary of top Dalit icon and father of the country’s constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar.
The large-sized supda, in which one-line
memorandum to CM was placed
Sources in the state government said, since Rupani “did not have the time to receive the National Flag, he directed the district collector, Gandhinagar, to meet the Dalit activists.” The activists had come in a vehicles rally from DSK, situated off Sanand town in Ahmedabad district. The National Flag was brought in a tractor.
When contacted, Macwan told Counterview, “First we were conveyed that only five persons would be allowed to meet the district collector, deputed by the chief minister. When we insisted that the official should come down to us, as it was a question of giving respect the National Flag, they agreed with our suggestion to allow us to carry the National Flag in tractor to the district collector’s office and meet one representative each from 26 districts.”
He added, “When the 26 Dalit representatives met the collector, they were told that they did not have the facility to keep such a big National Flag. When they insisted to give this in writing, a district collectorate official, mamlatdar, Gandhinagar, gave us in writing that, once they had the necessary facility, they approach us.”
The big National Flag, created at DSK
Angry Dalit representatives, who had come from Gujarat’s rural areas, reacted sharply, wondering how it could be that the state government does not have the facility to keep India’s largest national flag, when they could spend Rs 3,000 crore to build the world’s tallest 182 metre high statue of Sardar Patel at Narmada dam. “The argument is specious”, said one.
The National Flag, which has been brought back to DSK, was prepared by Dalits students and teachers after spending 25 days. It is made of khadi, which is generally woven by the Vankar sub-caste of Dalits. Its designing, colouring and sewing was done by students, mainly girls, with the help of teachers.
Govt reply on left side
The Ashok Chakra is interpreted by Macwan as symbolizing social equality. Equality is one of the 12 basic principles of Lord Buddha, and the spokes in the Ashok Chakra represent exactly that. “By offering the National Flag to the chief minister, we wanted to remind him about his constitutional duty to annihilate caste”, he said.
Even as declining to accept he National Flag, the chief minister’s emissary accepted from the Dalit activists a large-sized supda (winnowing basket), which carried a one-line memorandum, asking Rupani to name one Gujarat village untouchability free on the Independence day, August 15. “We will hand it over to the chief minister”, the Dalits were told.

Comments

Gagan Sethi, chair, Janvikas said…
I am aghast that the Government of Gujarat does not have space for preserving the National Flag. I am ready to rent at a space in any of my institutions at the nominal rate of 25 paisa per month for safeguarding the National Flag and maintaining its dignity. Any political party willing to accept the offer is welcome to accept the flag.

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