Explained: What happened in the Constituent Assembly 75 years ago when the national flag was adopted?

Three quarters of a century ago, on this day, July 22, 1947, the Constituent Assembly of India adopted the national flag. It was a landmark day in our history, and on Friday Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in the “reminder[ing] the courage and monumental efforts of all who dreamed of a flag for free India when we were fighting colonial rule”.

“We reiterate our commitment to fulfilling their vision and building the India of their dreams,” the PM said on Twitter, along with photos of the first flag unfurled by Jawaharlal Nehru, relevant pages from the Constituent Assembly debates and an inherited copy of the “Shahid Garjana”, “Jhanda Ooncha Rahe Hamara”.

What happened in the Constituent Assembly on July 22, 1947?

According to the official record of the proceedings, the Constituent Assembly met in the Constituent Hall in New Delhi at 10 a.m., under the chairmanship of Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The Constituent Assembly had been meeting since December 9, 1946, and then discussed various topics.

The President announced that the first item on the agenda was “a motion by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru regarding the flag”. Afterwards, Nehru rose to propose the following resolution: “Be it resolved that the national flag of India shall be the horizontal tricolor of deep saffron (Kesari), white and dark green in equal proportions. In the center of the white stripe, there will be a wheel in navy blue to represent the Charkha.The design of the wheel will be that of the wheel (Chakra) which appears on the abacus of the Sarnath lion capital of Asoka.

“The diameter of the wheel should approximately match the width of the white stripe.

“The ratio of the width to the length of the flag should normally be 2:3.”

At the end of the day, the minutes read: “The motion was carried, the whole Assembly being standing.

What did Nehru say in his speech proposing the resolution?

Nehru began by referring to “the glow and warmth I feel right now”, and “the concentrated history that we have all passed through over the past quarter century”. He said he and others in the House remembered “admiring that flag not just with pride and enthusiasm, but with a tingle in our veins; also how when we were down at times… the sight of this flag gave us the courage to carry on”. He paid tribute to the freedom fighters “who passed by, clung to this flag, some of them to the death and handed it over while sinking, others to wave it” .

He warned that “we have enormous problems to face in the present and in the future”, but said, to applause, that “this moment represents a triumph and a victorious conclusion to all our struggles”. “It is not nothing that this great and powerful empire which represented imperialist domination in this country has decided to end its life here. That was the goal we were aiming for… We have reached that goal or we will reach it very soon. there is no doubt. »

Nehru went on to talk about India’s historical ability to deal with its problems: “Look at any country in the world. Where is the country today, including the great and the great powers, that is not plagued by terrible problems, that is not in some way, politically and economically, in search of freedom that, in a way or another, escapes his grasp? India’s problems in a larger context do not look terrible. Problems are nothing new to us. We have faced many unpleasant things in the past. We didn’t hold back. We will face all the other unpleasant things that we face in the present or may face in the future and we will not waver and we will not waver and we will not give up.

He spoke of the need to liberate the country and the world from “famine, hunger, lack of clothing, lack of necessities of life and lack of opportunities for growth for every human being, man, woman and child in the country,” and said, “We’re aiming for that.”

Nehru holds a flag which has been adopted as the national flag of India. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

And what did he say about the flag that India was about to adopt?

The flag defined by the resolution, Nehru said, “has been adopted, not by formal resolution, but by popular acclaim and usage, adopted much more by the sacrifice that has surrounded it over the past few decades” , and that the Constituent Assembly was “in a sense merely ratifying this popular adoption”.

He clarified that the flag should not be thought of in community terms and that when the flag was designed there was no community significance attached to it. “We thought of a flag design that is beautiful, because the symbol of a nation must be beautiful to look at. We thought of a flag which, in its combination and in its separate parts, would represent in one way or another the spirit of the nation, the tradition of the nation, this mixed spirit and tradition that has developed over thousands of years in India. So we designed this flag,” he said.

Although the flag is different in some respects from the one used earlier, its “colors are the same”, Nehru said, “a deep saffron, white and dark green”. The Charkha, which symbolized the common man in India, had been “slightly varied” – the practical reason being that “the symbol on one side of the flag should be exactly the same as the other side” and, “the Charkha , as it appeared previously on this Flag, had the wheel on one side and the spindle on the other… [and on] on the other side…the spindle comes the other way and the wheel comes this way”.

The first national flag of India. (Photo: knowindia.gov.in)

It was therefore decided to keep the wheel and not the rest of the Charkha, and for this the famous wheel which appears at the top of the column of Asoka was chosen. “This wheel,” Nehru said, “is a symbol of India’s ancient culture; it is a symbol of the many things that India has stood for through the ages”. The association with Asoka was significant not only because “Asoka’s name [is] one of the most magnificent names not only in the history of India but in the history of the world”, but also because “at this time of strife, strife and intolerance, our minds should return to what India stood for in ancient times and what it stood for… through the ages,” Nehru said.

He also mentioned India’s remarkable cultural continuity, its reception of new ideas and influences and its great internationalist spirit. “India’s greatest periods are when she reached out to others in distant lands, sent her ambassadorial emissaries, commercial agents and merchants to those countries and received ambassadors and emissaries from abroad” , Nehru said. And in this context, the Asokan period stood out, he said.

“This flag…is not…a flag of Empire, a flag of imperialism, a flag of domination over any body, but a flag of freedom not only for ourselves, but a symbol of freedom for all who can see it,” Nehru said. “…Wherever he goes…it will bring a message, I hope, of freedom to these people, a message of camaraderie, a message that India wants to be friends with all the countries of the world and India wants to help all those who seek freedom…”

Were there any objections to Nehru’s proposed resolution?

Two amendments had been prepared, but none of them were finally proposed. Several Constituent Assembly members including Seth Govind Das, VI Muniswami Pillai, Chaudhri Khaliquzzaman, S Radhakrishnan, Saiyid Mohammad Saadulla, Frank R Anthony, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafar, Dr Joseph Alban D’Souza, Jai Narain Vyas and Sarojini Naidu have paid glowing tributes to the flag and supported the resolution.

HV Kamath from Central and Berar Provinces said that he had originally prepared an amendment requesting that “within the chakra in the center of the white band, the swastika, the ancient Indian symbol of Shantam, Shivam, Sundaram, be registered”.

This, he said, would convey “the message of peace, … a dynamic peace that passes all understanding, the peace of which the great Valmiki sang,” and the swastika, “with Ashoka’s Dharma Chakra , would rightly symbolize our ancient culture, that is to say the exoteric and esoteric aspects of our culture”.

However, Kamath said, he had not seen the design of the flag at the time, and having done so later, he realized it would be “difficult” and “cumbersome” to incorporate. the swastika in the chakra.

Dr PS Deshmukh, also from Central and Berar Provinces, said he would have preferred to keep the tricolor ‘absolutely intact with the Charkha retained as it is’ but ‘considering that the House would prefer to stick to the flag that has been proposed”, he does not wish to move the amendment.

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