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Saffron flag a 'unifying' factor? 'CJI view isn't different from what RSS ideologue held'

By Shamsul Islam* 

DY Chandrachud when took charge as the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in November 2022 (to relinquish office in November 2024) there were claims from those who call themselves liberals that he would defend the democratic-secular polity of India manifested. They thought that, with Chandrachud as chief justice, it would be wrong to say that as SC was an appendage of the RSS-BJP government headed by PM Modi. He was called a liberal judge committed to democratic-secular polity.
Apparently, many over-looked the fact that he is believed to have been the justice who authored the Ayodhya judgment given on November 9, 2019. Indeed, it is not a judgment which can be said to be based on legal and constitutional proprieties. It was a political decision to placate the majoritarian agenda catered aggressively by Modi and RSS.
Now, Justice Chandrachud after performing pooja at Hindu temples of Dwarikadhish and Somnath with his family in Gujarat on January, has in stated:
“I was inspired this morning by the dhwaja [flag] at Dwarikadhish ji, very similar to the dhwaja, which I saw at Jagannath Puri. But look at this universality of the tradition in our nation, which binds all of us together. This dhwaja has a special meaning for us. And that meaning which the dhwaja gives us is – there is some unifying force above all of us, as lawyers, as judges, as citizens. And that unifying force is our humanity, which is governed by the rule of law and by the Constitution of India.”
One wonders whether the reference to temples flying saffron/ yellow flags as “unifying force” should actually be applied to the national flag, the tricolour. There is reason to ask: is it in any way different from what prominent RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar who while addressing a Gurupurnima gathering in Nagpur on July 14, 1946, stated:
“It was the saffron flag which in totality represented Bhartiya [Indian] culture. It was the embodiment of God. We firmly believe that in the end the whole nation will bow before this saffron flag.” [Golwalkar, MS, “Shri Guruji Samagar Darshan” (collected corks of Golwalkar in Hindi), Bhartiya Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, nd., volume 1, p. 98.]
Dislike for the tricolour led the RSS to declare the tricolour as ‘evil’ on the eve of Independence
Golwalkar while denouncing the choice of tricolour as national flag in an essay entitled ‘Drifting and Drifting’ in the book “Bunch of Thoughts” wrote:
“Our leaders have set up a new flag for our country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating….Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds?” [Golwalkar, MS, “Bunch of Thoughts”, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1996, pp 237-238.]
This dislike for the tricolour led the RSS to declare the tricolour as ‘evil’ on the eve of Independence. The RSS' English mouthpiece “Organizer” demeaning the choice of the national flag (14 August 1947) wrote:
"The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the tricolour but it never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country."
The RSS borrowed this hatred for the tricolour from VD Savarkar who declared:
“The Charkha-Flag [then Tricolour used to have charkha or spinning wheel in the middle which was later replaced by Ashok Chakra] in particular may very well represent a Khadi-Bhandar, but the Charkha can never symbolise and represent the spirit of the proud and ancient nation like the Hindus.” [Bhide, AS (ed), “Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President’s Diary of his Propagandist Tours Interviews from December 1937 to October 1941”, na, Bombay, 1940, pp. 469– 473]
Given this framework, one wonders what made the CJI, who is duty-bound to safeguard the democratic-secular polity of India with tricolour as its unique symbol, to call the saffron/ yellow flags flying high on the two Gujarat temples as “unifying force is our humanity, which is governed by the rule of law and by the Constitution of India”.
*Formerly with Delhi University, click here for some of Prof Islam's writings and video interviews/debates. Facebook: X: @shamsforjustice. Blog:



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