Did Mahatma Gandhi Refuse To Salute The Tricolour?

Although Mahatma Gandhi led the non-violent independence movement, he didn’t join the government, even though he was the tallest leader of the Congress party. Just like he kept his distance from the government, he had also maintained a distance from the symbol of newly independent India, the flag of the nation.

On July 22, 1947, the design for the tricolour was unanimously accepted by the constituent assembly which comprised eminent personalities such as Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu, C. Rajagopalachari, K. M. Munshi and B. R. Ambedkar. When the tricolour with the Ashok Chakra at the centre was approved, Mahatma Gandhi was not pleased. In one of the letters written by Gandhi, the ‘Father of the Nation’ expressed his objection with the flag adopted by the Constituent Assembly. He was unhappy with the design due to two reasons, the absence of the Union Jack, and replacing the Charkha with the Ashok Chakra.

In a statement made in Lahore on 6 August 1947, Gandhi said, “I must say that, if the flag of the Indian Union will not embody the emblem of the Charkha, I will refuse to salute that flag. You know the National Flag of India was first thought of by me, and I cannot conceive of India’s National Flag without the emblem of the Charkha”.

Like Mountbatten, Mahatma Gandhi too had supported the inclusion of the Union Jack in the canton of the Indian tricolour. The proposal of the flag presented by Mountbatten included the flag of the Congress but with a Union Jack in the canton. Gandhiji contended that though the British had inflicted many atrocities on Indians, it was not done by their flag. The relevant sections from Mahatma Gandhi’s letter said: “But what is wrong with having the Union Jack in a corner of our flag? If harm has been done to us by the British, it has not been done by their flag and we must also take note of the virtues of the British. They are voluntarily withdrawing from India, leaving power in our hands”.

Mountbatten’s Flag


He further added, “We are having Lord Mountbatten as our chief gate-keeper. So long he has been the servant of the British King. Now, he is to be our servant. If while we employed him as our servant, we also had the Union Jack in a corner of our flag, there would be no betrayal of India in this.”

Gandhi further added in his letter that he was pained to see Congress leaders not extending the “generosity and friendship” to the British.

Nehru had tried to convince him saying that the design change was not significant, the Chakra in the new National Flag symbolised Gandhi’s Charkha too, it even represented the Sudarshan Chakra. However, Gandhi rejected the argument saying “some describe the wheel-mark as Sudarshan Chakra, but I know what Sudarshan Chakra means.” He later wrote in his magazine Harijan Bandhu, “Nothing would have been lost if our councillors had never thought of interfering with the design of the original flag.”

(The views expressed in this article are those  the writer and do not necessarily reflect that you of the website)

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