Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has accused the government of forcing people entitled to free food at government ration shops to buy the flag for supplies on August 15 Independence Day celebrations.
India celebrates 75 years of independence from the Raj on Tuesday, and the streets of the country’s cities are full of flags for sale.
But Gandhi said that in some cases, patriotism is forced on people, referring to a widely circulated video of a shopkeeper in Haryana state berating a customer who had bought free grain and refusing to buy a flag.
“This is a government order from above,” says the shopkeeper. “I was told by my boss not to ration those who refuse to buy the flag.”
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rules at the national level as well as at the state level in Haryana.
Gandhi said that nationalism can never be sold. “With the tricolor, the BJP government is attacking the self-esteem of our country’s poor,” he wrote on Facebook.
Other critics of the Narendra Modi government, including students, shopkeepers, housing associations and companies, were pressured by supporters of the government to hoist the flag.
Analyst Parsa Ventakeshwar Rao Jr. said, “Since Modi’s party has taken patriotism as part of its ideology, it misses no opportunity to associate itself with the celebration of patriotism. What is not said is that this patriotism is Hindu patriotism.
It is customary to hoist the national flag from public buildings on Independence Day. Some people also display outside their homes.
But this year he started a campaign called Modi. Har Ghar Tiranga (“A flag in every house”) which became the main center of the festival.
The government’s target is to have at least 200m flags displayed by Monday and Home Minister Amit Shah has urged people to change their social media profiles to flags.
In some Delhi slums, residents’ charities have decided to force the flag to be hoisted. As some residents in the WhatsApp group did not want to follow Modi’s wishes, it should be left to personal choice, the president of the association said, “It has nothing to do with personal choice.” It is the glory and honor of the country.”
The next day, 80 flags were spotted in the neighborhood and he changed the group’s WhatsApp profile picture to a flag.
In Modi’s home town of Gujarat, textile traders held a 5-km long flag march in Surat.
Traditionally, strict rules govern the fabric of the tricolor and where and how it is displayed, but this year the government has simplified the rules to make it easier to display.