Sept 7, 2009. Four Muslims have been arrested for hoisting a green flag with crescent over a muslim shrine in Umreth town in Anand district today. Anand is some 75 km from Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar. Gujarat state police is one of the most infamous in the countrly, which regularly target minorities and human right activists.
Many Hindutva fanatics in India misguide public and security officials about green flag with crescent and moon as Pakistan national flag. Sangh parivar organizations regularly use such tactics to promote their narrow nationalism and to question patriotism of Indian muslims.
- << This picture shows Hindu extremists burning a Green colored flag thinking it as Pakistani national flag. In fact, the flag on the picture is of a registered political party in India, Indian Union Muslim League. Similar flags are hoisted at many muslim religious places in India. The official flag of Pakistan is divided into two unequal halves of white and green color.
The national flag of Pakistan is based on the original flag of the Muslim League, which itself drew inspiration from the flag of the Mughal Empire in India. Its fllag comprises a dark green field, representing the Muslim majority of Pakistan, with a vertical white stripe in the hoist, representing religious minorities. In its centre there is a white crescent moon.
According to police, a complaint has been filed against five persons including two ‘trustees’ and three workers of the muslim shrine for promoting enmity between different groups under IPC 153A. The flags were tied to a neem tree above a ‘dargah‘ ( Muslim tomb), police said. Four people including one trustee of the shrine have been arrested, while another trustee has not been arrested due to poor health, the police said.
In many parts of the world, Muslims hoist a Green flag with crescent as their religous symbol. The crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world by Ottoman empire. Many of its variations is still in use by different Muslim countries, e.g., Algeria, Azerbaijan, Comoros, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Uzbekistan, and Western Sahara.
In a similar case on June 2009, Karnataka Police have arrested 14 Muslims for allegedly hoisting a green flag at a place of muslim tomb of Cheeluru on the Shimoga-Honnali Road, about 30 km from Shimoga. Karnataka is another state currently ruled by Hindu extremist party, BJP.
In October 2008, Hindu militants alleged that Pakistani flag hoisting in areas of Udalguri, dominated by Assamese Muslims. Rumours and their public propoganda finally lead to communal riots and deaths of around 40 people. Green flag hoisting in houses and masjids with crescent and star is still a traditional Eid celebration in that part of Assam. In all these cases, victims were poor illiterate Muslims who don’t even know how Pakistani flag looks like. But whenever Hindutva fascist regimes have got an opportunity, they use it for decade long litigation and illegal detention of poor Muslims.
With the support of some media persons, hindu extremists are engaged in wider misinformation campaign against Muslim minorities in various parts of India. On Aug 17 2002, Times of India reported a similar story from Bisola village of Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh. The TOI story was based on “intelligence sources,” a term being frequently used in the anti-Muslim campaign. A similar story appeared in another right wing news paper, The Pioneer published from Delhi (19 Aug 2002). The story lead to arrest of three muslim teachers and the victims under gone intensive interrogation at Inchauli police station. Two days later they were released without a case being filed against them. In fact, the fake story of pakistan flag was reported to police by a hindu extremist leader who lost the local elections due to Muslim alliance with dalits. Such unity is a great source of distress for the Sangh Parivar, which is always creating such situations and misinforming media about it.
With the help of a section of police, Narendra Modi’s government engineered the riots in Gujarat resulting in the death of 2000 Muslims and injuring hundreds of thousands more in 2002. The justice to the victims is being denied because the BJP controlled governments in Gujarat and at the Center concealed the evidence, precluding a citizen’s ability to seek redress in the courts of law.
What’s In A Flag? By Sarmila Bose
This year around Independence Day public notices from the government of India instructed the populace on the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of the national flag. Following litigation by a citizen, Indians are at last allowed to display their national flag, a common occurrence in the United States, but the world’s largest democracy clearly has no confidence in what its people might actually do with this national symbol.
The flag cannot be draped over anything, for example – except coffins of soldiers, I suppose. It cannot be worn as clothing – maybe this warning is due to the incident in which a female Indian designer wore the national flag as a skimpy dress. That was valiant of her, as the flag is so over-burdened with symbolism that it is difficult to make a tasteful dress out of it. I mean, what on earth does one do with the ‘Ashok chakra’! Yet white sarees with saffron and green borders have been around for years and no one objected. American and British flags are routinely worn on clothing. Would the guardians of proper patriotic conduct object to the increasingly common practice of the national flag being painted on the faces of its citizens? Or a patriotically positioned tattoo?
If so much is made to ride on the ‘right’ symbols of patriotism, inevitably, the ‘wrong’ symbols cannot be far behind. Terrorist outrage in Mumbai has been followed by the swift arrest of the alleged culprits and the death in a police ‘encounter’ of the alleged mastermind. It reminds one of an earlier incident when Indian security forces shot dead two dreaded militants allegedly involved in an attack on the American Center in Calcutta in which several policemen were killed. Both the dead men were described as Pakistani – dreaded and dead militants in India are presumed to be Pakistani these days, unless proven otherwise later, if anyone bothers to do that.
They also often carry diaries on their persons, which give details of their dastardly deeds. And they tend to carry mobile phones, those must-have accessories of modern life, seemingly inseparable from murderous extremists as well. These reveal incriminating calls to mysterious puppeteers across the border. At least such is the breathless reportage every time such an incident occurs, and they do seem to occur with disquieting frequency.
It makes one wonder if extremist frenzy makes dreaded militants lose sight of the most elementary steps to cover their tracks, or whether being a terrorist zealot goes hand in hand in the first place with being ‘analytically challenged’. In the American Center case, according to the authorities one of the dreaded and dead Pakistanis confessed his own name a
nd address, his companion’s name and address and admitted to conducting the attack before succumbing to his grievous injuries.
The very next day a man was arrested in Calcutta and charged with being a key conspirator in the American Center attack. All manner of incriminating evidence was allegedly found in his home and in the apartment used by the militants. Media reports said the findings included photos of Osama bin Laden. Of course, by then it would have been difficult to find any household that was completely free of the image of Osama in some form. However, worse was to come.
A week later a second search of the suspect’s home allegedly yielded – horror of horrors – a Pakistani flag, which was ‘seized’ by the police. It appeared to have been overlooked in the earlier ‘search and seizure’. In the trial now in progress of all the apprehended suspects including this hoarder of incriminating ‘anti-national’ symbols, the ‘seized’ Pakistani flag has duly made its appearance as part of the evidence produced by the prosecution. At that point in the proceedings the accused protested from the dock that he had had no such thing in his possession. He charges the police with planting the flag in order to paint him a ‘traitor’ in the eyes of the public.
Be that as it may, the inclusion of an allegedly Pakistani flag found in a private home in India as evidence in a terrorism case poses an awkward dilemma for this writer. For if the police turned up at my house they would find a Pakistani flag there too! They would not have to ‘search’ for it really, as the Pakistani flag is prominently displayed on the mantelpiece in the living room! There it is among all the other South Asian flags, the stars and stripes, the Union Jack, the Irish tricolour and a clutch of other national flags diligently acquired from the United Nations. I had certainly had no idea that the possession of a neighbouring country’s flag might constitute a cognisable offence in India!
To make matters worse, my children are fans of ‘Junoon’. They are particularly keen on a catchy tune called ‘Jazba-e-junoon’ and have been known to dance riotously to blaring renditions of ‘Pakistan hai hamara, Pakistan hai tumhara, kabhi na bhulo’. This item, I found later, is missing in the ‘Junoon’ albums available in India. One concerned relative did suggest to me that I might want to keep the volume down, in case the neighbours shopped us and the children got hauled off under POTA. Mercifully the children have moved on to a folksong called ‘Pocha-kaka’ – ‘Rotten Uncle’ – in the East Bengali dialect by the Bengali band ‘Bhoomi’, about a man who would not come home from the river until he had caught a fish.
To return to the ‘offending’ Pakistani flag – I wonder what would happen if a person accused of terrorist offences in India were found to be in possession of the British flag, or the Japanese one, or how about the Saudi flag (along with those pictures of Osama). Does onehave to keep one’s voice down to sing the beautiful song by Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ – ‘My golden Bengal’ – in the Bengali folk style called ‘baul’, because it is now the national anthem of Bangladesh? What about the flags of all the other countries of the world? Clearly none is estimated to have the impact of the Pakistani one. Is it an offence to possess an Indian flag in Pakistan? India seems to be riven in contradictions regarding all symbols Pakistani. Indians appear to love Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen.
An Indian lady of my acquaintance who harbours profound prejudice against Muslims in general and Pakistanis in particulartold her husband on her wedding night that her ideal man was Imran Khan – a common occurrence I suspect for Indian men foolish enough to ask! I pointed out that Imran Khan was both Muslim and Pakistani, but the lady waved me away. Clearly Imran Khan was Imran Khan! Nor is he the only Pakistani cricketer with subcontinental appeal.
A few months back I was sitting in Dubai airport, exhausted, waiting for the connection to Lahore at an unearthly hour, when a tall man with a most spectacular torso came and sat down right opposite me. Glancing up I recognised the familiar face of Wasim Akram. I must confess that my travel-weariness vanished in an instant and I was able to get through the last leg of the journey in a refreshed state of mind! No wonder that while Wasim Akram cannot play cricket in India, his smiling image can be plastered all over Indian billboards in advertisements.
Still, in a ‘borderless world’ full of resurgent militant nationalism, narrow-minded little ‘patriot acts’ seem to be sprouting all over the place. Flags, emblems, colours, melodies; will they all be divided up and loaded with meanings in black and white, or will they be swept away by the cross-border currents of global citizenship? If the alleged possession of a Pakistani flag in India can be endowed with the connotation of treacherous villainy, what might be the infinite ways of falling afoul of the official
guidelines on the Indian tricolour?
Sarmila Bose is Assistant Editor, Ananda Bazar Patrika, India & Visiting Scholar, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University