Tiranga Abhiyan: A revolution that changed our national holidays to national festivals
For decades, I-day and R-day were boring sarkari events reserved for VIPs. Not any more. Let us savour the bond created by the Tiranga Abhiyan.
Not very long ago I would hear my neighbours and relatives in the extended family plan for short trips in January and August to make the most of the Republic Day and Independence Day breaks. The idea was to first check if any of these days coincided with the weekend. If not, one could always club a casual leave or two. For those who were unable to travel, it was a day to spend with the family and chill. Perhaps prepare a special dish too. So these national holidays were essentially just that. A holiday.
Check the GK books of any of the children in the house and you realise this is how 15th August and 26th January are identified as in our textbooks: National Holidays. While these holidays will continue, something changed this year. The attitude of common citizens towards these 'holidays'. Look around and you will agree with me.
From the cart pulled by the humble rag picker to the hand-pulled carts of fruit vendors and motorcycles of milkmen, all vehicles had a Tiranga fluttering with the breeze. There was a flag in every balcony, shop, tea-paan khoka and petrol pump. For a few days our mornings echoed with Jai Hind and Bharat Mata ki Jai as smartly dressed men, women and children criss-crossed the streets holding Tiranga marches, bike rallies and Prabhat Pheris.
To be sure these programmes have been held every year but never at this scale nor were they so widely attended. We weren't around to witness the excitement felt by our older generation on 15th August, 1947. In our lifetime, no Independence Day celebration felt as 'happening' as this one. Not even on the occasion of Golden Jubilee in 1997. Though a long calendar of events marked the 50th year of independence.
The response to the call for 'Har Ghar Tiranga' and 'Tiranga Abhiyan' by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was so overwhelming that it forced even the most cryptic ones to shed their reluctance for once and join in.
But it is not just about the number of events held in capitals and district headquarters. It is the voluntary participation and the enthusiasm of common Indians who joined in that has made the difference. No one would have been penalised for staying away from the festivities. Yet the grand scale at which young and old citizens gathered in housing colonies, mohalla corners, parks and common places to organise a whole range of activities has created a unique sense of oneness. It is an emotional bond which overpowers all distinctions of caste, creed, religion, language and region.
It was one Tiranga which fluttered in the wind from the remote school in Kashmir to the mountain ranges of Arunachal and the coastal village in Kerala. And not in some Collectorate or Raj Bhawan. It was the Tiranga on humble rooftops, bicycle handles and fishermen's boats.
For seven long decades, the most significant days of our democratic life have been identified with customary events, presided over and attended only by VIPs, boring speeches repeating the same lines every year after year. We were told by elders in the family that this wasn't the case in the first few years following independence. There was enthusiasm and a sense of participation. But officialdom ensured that these programmes became so 'sarkari' in nature that common people felt more and more uninterested.
Unsurprisingly then, the days which should have generated maximum energy and passion for the nation turned into a customary ritual for the authorities and a welcome holiday for the common citizen. The 'Tiranga Abhiyan' is the common Indian's effort to reclaim her national festival and participate wholeheartedly. It is an attempt to showcase that it is the citizen who is at the core of our republic and not some VIP.
Of course, there are the naysayers who are more worried about some violation of established norms or the other than the spirit of the whole thing. Some even termed it a wastage of public money. But then what is the fun of democracy without some naysayers? While nobody can condone any indignity towards our beloved Tricolour or any of the national symbols, this end of exclusivity of I-day and R-day events is something that was long overdue.
But on the risk of sounding clichéd, it is better late than never. Let us savour the sense of unity and oneness that the 'Tiranga Abhiyan' has fostered in the country and let us ensure that the most important days in our national calendar do not go back to becoming exclusive 'sarkari' rituals once more. Jai Hind!
(Smita Mishra writes on politics and current affairs)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.