As the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) geared up for India's 75 years of Independence with its 'Har Ghar Tiranga,' the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the party's ideological lifeblood – is inviting the Opposition's wrath.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a clarion call to social media users to change their display pictures to that of the Tricolour. However, even as display pictures for Modi's Twitter handle, and that of the BJP, were changed, the official handles of the RSS and its chief Mohan Bhagwat didn't follow suit.
This non-compliance has led to Opposition leaders pointing out at the RSS' troubled history with the national flag.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on 3 August said that "those running the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign have been members of that anti-national organisation which did not hoist the tricolour for 52 years."
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh added that the PM's message "seems to not have reached his family. Those who did not hoist the flag at their headquarters in Nagpur for 52 years, will they obey the Prime Minister?”
AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi, said, "The RSS has rejected independent India and the Indian flag."
Meanwhile, the RSS and the BJP retorted that the "Independence Day celebrations should not be politicised" and "every fibre of the RSS is full of patriotism."
Amid the ongoing row controversy, here's a glimpse of the RSS' relationship with the tricolour over the years.
Why Did the RSS Not Hoist the Tricolour for 52 Years?
In 1947, the RSS had endorsed the view that the Tricolour was "injurious" to India. "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," an article in the RSS' mouthpiece Organiser had stated on 14 August 1947.
In the early years of Independence, the RSS headquarters in Nagpur hoisted the flag twice – first on 15 August 1947 and then on 26 January 1950.
After a gap of nearly five decades, the right-wing organisation unfurled the Tricolour on 26 January 2002.
While some defended the move saying that India's Flag Code before 2002 barred private organisations from hoisting the Tricolour on any day of the year, the Flag Code Manual from said years debunked these claims.
At least two documents, retrieved by Alt News, stated that the national flag could be displayed without restrictions anywhere on days of national importance.
"The undersigned is directed to say that according to the Flag Code India, normally the National Flag is to be flown only on important public buildings, but on national days there is no such restriction," a Ministry of Home Affairs notification dated 15 June 1971 read.
Another 1982 protocol manual said that the display of the National Flag would be unrestricted on Republic Day, Independence Day, Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday, and any other day of "national rejoicing."
Interestingly, on 26 January 2001, the RSS had filed a complaint against three activists from the Rashtrapremi Yuwa Dal for "forcibly hoisting the tricolour" at the RSS Smruti Bhavan in Nagpur.
Sunil Kathle, the in-charge of the premises, had first tried to stop them from entering and later tried to prevent them from hoisting the flag.
The three were set free in 2013 due to lack of evidence.
If Not the Tricolour, Then What?
Over the years, the RSS members repeatedly dismissed the Tricolour, while expressing a clear preference for the Bhagwa Dhwaj (saffron flag) as the national flag.
"The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the tricolour but it (will) never be respected and owned by Hindus," an article in the Organiser titled 'Mystery Behind the Bhagwa Dhwaj,' said.
Meanwhile, in 2018, RSS’ All India Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya, at a seminar on secularism in Chennai, contended that saffron should have been the only colour in the national flag as other colours represented communalism, The Indian Express reported. Even RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhatt in March 2022 had said that "tricolour will be replaced with saffron flag very soon."