HOIST THE COLOURS
Every year in February, March and December, there is one common sight you’ll find no matter where you are in the country. Here, there and pretty much everywhere, we see our national flag being put up on rooftops, lawns and out of balconies. The national flag is seen fixed to the bonnets of cars, sometimes draped down the side of a building. Most of us, if not all, see this as an expression of patriotism in general. But do we take a moment to consider whether we’re showing proper respect to our national flag? With all the genuine love and emotions that are attached to this, what if we are failing to preserve the status and honour of our national flag?
Our national flag is the symbol of an epic struggle. And that is one reason we are expected to maintain a very high standard as to how we treat it. As Bangladeshis we have grown up loving the colours red and green. We don these colours whenever an occasion presents itself. A fan of one of our national teams is often seen wearing the flag over his back, or maybe making a bandana out of it. Done with the most innocent intentions, these acts are blatant indiscretions when it comes to respecting the flag that matters the most.
There is a specific set of rules according to which the national flag of Bangladesh must be used. The first legislation in this regard was under “The Bangladesh National Anthem, Flag and Emblem Order, 1972”, declared by the President’s secretariat. It has since been revised up to 2005 and is now called “People’s Republic of Bangladesh Flag Rules, 1972”. A single look at this legal document will shock you, as you’ll discover how frequently and in how many ways we are disrespecting our national flag. Such law-breaking is being done in front of our eyes, by us too, and we simply fail to notice.
“The national flag is supposed to be rectangular in size in the proportion of length to width 10:6 bearing a red circle on the body of the green” — this is the first sentence of the third section of the legislation and it specifies what size our national flag must be. You’ll find flags six-stories long, draped down the side of a building. One could also easily come across an absurdly long piece of green cloth with a tiny red circle in the middle put up on a wall on the side of a road. For one thing, section 7(XVIII) of the legislation clearly suggests “The ‘Bangladesh Flag’ shall not be used as drapery of any sort whatsoever…” And any flag that doesn’t follow the specific ratio provided, doesn’t qualify as a national flag of Bangladesh. Our national flag must not fly lower than any other flag — at school assemblies or an international assembly.
The national flag holds a stature that compelled the lawmakers to specify on which days and where it should be hoisted. Only on the national holidays such as Independence Day, Victory Day and any other day according to a declaration by the government should the flag be hoisted at private and public premises all over the country. The days leading up to the holidays don’t, in fact, count. What many fail to do is follow the code of keeping the national flag half-mast on the days specified as such. On the 21st of February, many put up flags at their homes, forgetting the significance of the day. Section 4(II) specifies that the flag must be kept half-mast on 21st February and any other day as per declaration by the authorities.
In recent times, we’ve seen a trend of using the national flag on vehicles. During March and December, people tend to display the national colours on their cars. Section 6(IV) of the legislation states that the use of the national flags on private vehicles should be restricted to only a few of the national dignitaries. Even if the passionate citizen decided to have a say on this and fly the flag on his vehicle no matter what, section 7(II) says, “The ‘Flag’ shall never be draped over the hold, top side or back of a vehicle, railway train or boat.” This is something even our dignitaries should keep an eye out for. A flag is supposed to fly proud and free in the wind; sticking it to your car’s bonnet or down the side of a bus gives the national flag little opportunity to do so.
This is a free country and people have every right to ask how such restrictions on using the national flag could be logical. After all, isn’t the red and green for the people? Why is it that only the bigwigs get to use it, and why is it that people in general can’t throw caution to the wind in their ways of expressing love for their country? There’s an easy answer. Honour. Honour is generated from significance; the significance of a deed or an object is what earns it honour. We treat our national flag with the utmost honour because it deserves that, because it was earned through countless sacrifices. That is why we can’t have someone carelessly put it up on their roof and leave it there to get soaked in the rain and burned in the sun for months on end.
Can we not bring the flag to the stadium any more? Some will argue that emotions cannot be contained by law but we should also never abuse the excuse of emotion.
President’s Secretariat, Cabinet Division. (2005).People’s republic of Bangladesh flag rules, 1972 (revised up to july, 2005). Retrieved from Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh website: http://lib.pmo.gov.bd/legalms/pdf/national-flag-rules.pdf
MARCH 27, 2014