By Rukma Singh
In a record-breaking attempt, an estimated 37,000 people took part in a yoga session at Rajpath on the morning of June 21 to mark the International Yoga Day.
Among these thousands of people was the supreme encourager of the practice in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who said, “Who would have thought that Rajpath would become Yoga Path,” as he joined the record mass demonstration on the first International Yoga Day.
Narendra Modi is characteristically an outlandish man. Be it his Republic Day attire that was emblazoned with his name, or his ubiquitous ‘Nehru’ jackets that he has made his own, Modi remains a cult figure when it comes to attires of leaders world over.
However, a seemingly somber outfit that our Prime Minister donned today, to mark the International Yoga Day may land him in hot water. Modi was dressed in all-white attire and wore a tricolour scarf.
With the recent controversy including complaints against Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan for covering their bodies with the national flag in an ‘insulting’ manner, Modi’s seemingly patriotic attire might not go down too well with the Janata.
Many argue that the two are entirely different. While the Bachchans used the entire flag to ‘cover’ themselves, Modi just used it as a piece of clothing to wear around his neck.
The question is, how are the two different?
According to the prevention of insults to national honor Act, 1971: ‘Whoever in any public place or in any other place within public view burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise shows disrespect to or brings into contempt the Indian National Flag — or any part thereof, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both’.
The Act was amended by the NDA government in 2003 and now has an added explanation which reads: ‘The disrespect to the Indian National Flag means and includes using the Indian National Flag as a portion of costume or uniform of any description or embroidering or printing it onto cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or any dress material’.
Thus, for the constitution, there happen to be no demarcations between the two situations. In 2005, BCCI banned India’s boys in blue from sporting the Tricolour on clothing and equipment as it meant showing disrespect to the national flag.
Amidst the thousands practising Yoga despite the rains, all that meets the eye is how Modi managed to bring so many people together to indulge in what he feels should be mandatory. Also, the fact that the UN announced an International Day of Yoga last year after PM Modi’s appeal at the General Assembly adds to his achievement.
What remains to be seen is whether anyone tries to look beyond the obvious and question the unnoticed mark of patriotism around his neck that isn’t permissible by the Constitution.
If Modi’s wearing the Tricolour is justified because he is the Prime Minister and not just another celebrity ‘misusing’ it, then what becomes greatly evident is the hypocritical mindsets of people. The fact that he is the leader is but an added responsibility for him to have kept in mind our legalities.
But will Modi’s apparent good ‘intent’ and support base overpower a constitutional provision?