Kannada Flag Issue – 9 feb update

source - bangalore mirror


Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the perfect present for the test of our civilization.

– M.K. Gandhi

Why in News

  • Karnataka govt recently set up a panel
    • to explore if the state can have its own separate flag


Proponents argue that

  1. Preserve cultural identity
    • the flag will highlight the distinctiveness of kannada culture
      • Idea 1st proposed in 1938 by poet B.M. Srikantaiah in his “Kannada Bhavuta”
    • other examples of cultural pride (2017)
      • Jallikattu protests
      • Anti-Hindi protests
      • Darjeeling protests
    • Goi’s pro-Hindi tilt evidence
      • Passports to carry info in Hindi, besides in English
      • Preference to Hindi in regular communication in govt offices
      • Hindi signage in deep south (on highways)
  2. Unofficial “Kannada flag” since the 1960s
    • It is not used during national ceremonies
      • like Republic Day or Independence Day
    • but is hoisted across the state on 1 November every year
      • the birth anniversary of Karnataka
  3. The constitution
    • does not explicitly prohibit
      • any state from having a separate flag
    • protects cultural heterogeneity of the diverse indian peoples
      • a separate is just a means of achieving that end
  4. Laws regulating the hoisting of the national flag do not proscribe any State from hoisting its own flag.
    • Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950
      • Prohibits “use for any trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trademark of design, any name or emblem specified in the Schedule”.
    • Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971.
      • Prohibits insulting the national flag by burning it, mutilating it, defacing it, etc.
    • The Flag Code of India, 2002 authorises the flying other flags
      • But they should not be hoisted from the same masthead as the national flag or placed higher than it
  5. In India, States are linguistically demarcated.
    • This has generated aspirations for promoting their own languages and cultures. A flag serves this purpose better than any other symbol.
  6. A democratic right.
    • All the 50 States in the U.S. have separate and distinct flags, apart from the national flag.
    • Democracy and federalism are essential features of the Constitution and are part of its basic structure.
  7. No disrespect to the national flag
    • the state flag will fly lower than the national flag


Opponents contend that

  1. Position of the constitutent assembly
    • The emphasis of the founding fathers was on sustaining and encouraging
      those markers of diversity that were considered to be in sync with the concept of an organic unity,
  2. Unconstitutional
    • The constitution explicitly allows only J&K to have a separate flag.
    • Moreover, this would weaken the idea of fraternity, which is enshrined in the Constitution.
  3. Anti-national and seditious
    • the unity and integrity of the country will get compromised
      • as accepting this demand would set a bad precedent
    • the seed of secession
      • a separate flag may snowball into demand for secession
      • other states may follow suit
  4. Vested political interests
    • the ruling govt is trying to endear itself to the local population (State Assembly elections due in 2018)


Global Practices

  • Most countries that follow a federal system
    • allow regional flags
  • eg.
    • USA, Germany, Australia and Myanmar


Final Word

  • Perceived cultural-chauvinism by the majority group (eg. Hindi-speaking regions in India’s case)
    • spurs such retaliation by the minority communities
  • ‘Culture’ is a sensitive issue in politics
    • The centre must ensure enough room for expression of india’s incredible cultural diversity
  • Nationalism is the pinnacle of all identities and doesn’t compete with other identities eg family, society, state, etc.
    • Celebrating all the social loyalties of a person is a way of preparing her for the selflessness that nationalism can demand.
    • The challenge then is not to cut out other identities but to help create an hierarchy of loyalties that helps strengthen the Indian nation.




  1. India’s federal polity is increasingly feeling cultural strains. Comment.
  2. Critically examine the idea of a separate flag for different states in India.