NEW DELHI: A controversy erupted Friday on social media, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi autographed an alleged Indian flag that was to be presented to US President Barack Obama by celebrity chef Vikas Khanna.
Reports suggested the Ministry of External Affairs had taken the flag back from the chef after it came to light that writing anything on it was a violation of the Indian Flag Code.
Government spokesman Frank Noronha, however, denied that the PM had signed the flag and said it had not been confiscated either. Noronha, Director General (Media and Communication), Press Information Bureau, said the piece of cloth was a work of handicraft prepared by the physically-challenged daughter of the chef, and the Prime Minister had autographed it on compassionate basis after Khanna and his family made a request.
“The piece of cloth does not have white colour nor the wheel....It has been prepared by Khanna’s daughter with her toe and the Prime Minister was compassionate,” he clarified and termed as “absolutely false” reports that it had been confiscated. Khanna had prepared the menu for the Prime Minister’s dinner with Fortune 500 CEOs on Thursday night. The Prime Minister told the chef that he had done him proud. The chef later displayed the piece of cloth and tweeted that it was “Make in India insignia with Ashoka Chakra gears hand painted by Smile Foundation Children. Not the national flag.”
According to the Indian Flag Code-2002, putting any kind of inscription or lettering upon the Indian national flag is construed as disrespect to the flag.
Despite the clarifications, reactions in the virtual world came thick and fast. The opposition Congress too grabbed the opportunity to score a few points. The party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, “However high you may be, the national flag is above you, you should understand this.” Asked if the Prime Minister’s action was an offence under the IPC, he said, “we are not petty like the BJP. We respect the office of the Prime Minister.”
At the same time, he said the Prime Minister must look within and take ‘corrective action’ as respect for the national flag is the responsibility of 125 crore people and more so, of the Prime Minister. His party colleague Manish Tewari tweeted, “Has PM read Para 2.1 sub para 6& Para 3.28 of Flag Code 2002 that states lettering on National Flag is misuse.3 yrs jail under PINH Act 2003.”