Don’t black out – Indian Express

The Indian Express : Fri Jan 27 2012, 03:12 hrs


All our required veneration for flags turns into equally irrational apoplexy and worse when a little black flag is waved. Congress workers expectedly went into a frenetic fuss when Rahul Gandhi was shown black flags at Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh last week. Since such protests should not be repeated in the other poll state, Punjab, the police decided to take some unprecedented pre-emptive measures: they stopped even those who were wearing black from entering a venue in Ferozepur where Rahul was scheduled to address a rally on Wednesday. In case you thought black was in and that charcoal pullover rather becoming, you had to take it off and leave it at the entrance. Along with black shawls, cardigans and shirts. The inconvenience, in this cold weather or otherwise, was no excuse before the determined fashion police of Ferozepur.

Black flag, the absent flag, is the old symbol of buccaneering pirates, but more importantly of anarchists — and the persisting opposition to it is a residual reaction to the violent lawlessness it once represented. Canadian anarchist historian George Woodcock who even eulogised the black pennant in a verse — “when I die let the black rag fly” — marked its entry on the streets of Paris: it was waved in a demonstration by the unemployed in 1883. It crossed the Atlantic and appeared at the Haymarket massacre in Chicago and then spread, carrying nihilism in its wings.

But now a black flag is not necessarily rooted in such extreme ideologies — in fact, shorn of its historical context, it is often only a means to protest — but the reaction to it disproportionately carries the old vehemence. Next time, at least, can we let the people keep their clothes on?




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