The recent Parliament debate on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill and the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill 2023 reignited the debate on the concept of “one flag, one prime minister, one Constitution” for India. While Union Home Minister Amit Shah firmly advocated for this principle, asserting that it’s not a mere slogan but the foundation of Indian unity, Shashi Tharoor’s counterpoint highlighted the complexities of applying this concept universally.

Shah’s emphasis on unity resonates with the sentiment of many who believe that a diverse country like India requires a strong unifying force. Abrogation of Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was presented as a step towards achieving this uniformity, bringing the region under the same national framework as other states.

However, Tharoor’s argument raises valid questions about the feasibility of enforcing a singular identity on a country as diverse as India. He cited the example of the USA, where each state has its own flag and constitution, demonstrating that unity can exist even with a degree of diversity. This challenges the notion that a single, monolithic identity is essential for national unity.

The debate also brought to light the issues of social justice and equality, particularly concerning the rights of backward classes. While Shah highlighted the government’s efforts to provide justice and rights to these communities, past injustices and the need for continued action remain crucial considerations.

Moving forward, the question remains: is the concept of “one flag, one prime minister, one Constitution” a realistic and desirable goal for India? While it undoubtedly serves as a unifying ideal, enforcing it rigidly can ignore the richness of India’s diversity and potentially lead to homogenization. This challenges the notion that a single, monolithic identity is essential for national unity.

The debate becomes more nuanced when considering the legal landscape surrounding state flags. The Indian Constitution itself does not explicitly mention the use of state flags. However, a landmark case in 1994, S. R. Bommai v. Union of India, shed light on the issue. In this case, the Supreme Court of India declared:

That, there is no prohibition in the Constitution for states to have their own flags. That, however, a state flag should not dishonor the national flag in any way. This means it should not resemble the national flag or be flown higher than it. That, the design and use of state flags are subject to regulations and guidelines issued by the central government.

Despite this ruling, no state in India currently has an officially recognized flag. This is because the central government has not yet enacted any regulations or guidelines for the creation and use of state flags.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir used to have its own flag, but it lost its official status after the abolition of Article 370 in 2019. There have been proposals and discussions about allowing states to have their own flags, but no concrete action has been taken so far. Some states use unofficial flags unofficially at cultural events or other occasions.

It remains to be seen whether the central government will eventually establish regulations for state flags. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in the S. R. Bommai case established the principle that states do have the right to have their own flags, provided they comply with certain conditions.

Therefore, the question of “one flag, one prime minister, one constitution” is not as straightforward as it may seem. While the concept has merit in promoting national unity, it is important to acknowledge the complexities of India’s diverse landscape and legal framework. Finding the right balance between national unity and respecting regional identities is the key to end this debate.

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