Savarkar’s objection was directed at the charkha (spinning wheel) and not the Tricolor flag. At that time, the flag of the Congress party contained the three colors and the charkha. There can be no qualms about a political party having a charkha on its flag. Savarkar was never a member of the Congress party. So, there was no question of him opposing the charkha on the Congress party’s flag. However, when discussions took place on the flag containing the charkha should be accepted as the national flag of India, then Savarkar began opposing it. He cited his reasons for opposing the charkha on national flag as under:
‘It is appropriate to have the metaphorical signs indicating the common or specific goals or qualities or the tradition or pride of the particular nation in the symbol of its national flag. But does charkha indicate any of these?’ (Samagra Savarkar Vadmay (SSV)- Vol 3, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha Publication, 1963-65, Page 731) ‘Charkha cannot be a symbol of sacrifice since the desire to wear clothing itself is the first step towards materialism. This is what Milton said about Eve.’ (Savarkar, S.S. alias Balarao. Ratnagiri Parva, Veer Savarkar Publication, Mumbai, 1972, Page 182) ‘Instead of this (charkha), it would be better to use sickle and hammer similar to the Red Flag (of Communists). It would well represent the farmers and workers who are the very backbone of our nation. Even better is the Chakra (the wheel). The symbol of the nation, Yadnya chakra, the Sansar chakra, suggesting a very broad and highly achievable, and supreme instrument indicating speed and progressiveness, the chakra, should be inscribed onto the flag. Or…’ (SSV- Vol 3, Page 733) ‘But, if the Kundalini cannot be inscribed on the national flag, then till that time, the signs of the moon and [the] sun, which adorn national pride and are perfectly viable under the circumstances, should be inscribed on the national Hindi flag. In these symbols, national truths, mental goals, religious harmony and practicality are far more numerous than in any other.’ (Shraddhanand, dated 16 August 1928)
Savarkar never objected to the sun-moon, sickle-hammer symbols on the flag as they indicated the common or specific goals or qualities, the tradition or pride of the nation. Savarkar was not so stubborn as to oppose the charkha merely because it was dear to Gandhi. The only thing he wanted to say was that the charkha symbol didn’t reflect any meaningful indication of national spirit. He was aware of the importance of the charkha, in making thread and khadi. Indeed, he inaugurated many Khadi Bhandars (ie. shops) during his stay in Ratnagiri. However, he disagreed with the notion that the charkha would boost morale and bring Swaraj for the nation. He believed that national truth, mental goals, religious harmony and practicality should be the criteria for selecting the symbol.
At that time, India, not being a free nation, didn’t have a flag of its own. The Congress flag was that of a particular political party. So there was nothing wrong in suggesting a separate flag for the nation, one that would be different from that of the Congress party. That didn’t mean it was direct opposition to the present Tricolour flag. And even if it was, that was still fine since the process of finalizing the national flag was still ongoing. If a person opposed the Tricolour flag after 15 August 1947, the day when the Tricolour was adopted as the national flag of India, then it would be appropriate to say that he was opposing the national flag. Before 15 August 1947, i.e., before Independence and while the finalizing of the flag was still in progress and the flag was still evolving, anybody was free to suggest his choice of design and color for the flag. Accordingly, Savarkar sent a telegram to the Flag Committee on 7 July 1947, stating: ‘The flag of Hindusthan should be saffron only. A flag without a saffron strip can never be acceptable to the Hindu heart. Using the Congress flag for the national flag can be acceptable only if Charkha is replaced by a Chakra or any other symbol indicating progressiveness and power. I urge all the Hindu organisations and leaders to put forward this demand.’ (Savarkar, V.D., Aitihasik Nivedane, Veer Savarkar Publication, Mumbai, 1982, Page 177) Copies of this telegram were sent to Constitution Committee Chairman and Flag Committee Chairman Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Drafting Committee Chairman and Constitution Committee’s Flag Committee Members Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Dr. Khare.
On 15 August 1947, Savarkar proudly hoisted both the Tricolor flag and the saffron flag atop his house and offered his salute. Had Savarkar been opposed to the Tricolor flag, why would he hoist it at his house and pay his respects to it? He clearly told his followers: ‘It is only appropriate that we get acceptance for the Kundalini- and Kripan-bearing saffron flag as the flag of the nation by [a] democratic way and then proudly hoist it as our national flag. Till the time this happens, it is our duty to proudly hoist this Tricolor flag as a symbol of [the] new state which is our divided Bharat, and at the same time, we hoist the saffron flag as a symbol of Akhand Bharat.’ (Keer, Dhananjay. Marathi translation: D P Khambete. Swatyantraveer Savarkar, Popular Publication, Mumbai, Third Edition, 2009, Page 405) This also shows Savarkar’s commitment towards democracy.
It would be apt to know Mahatma Gandhi’s thoughts in this context. In the prayer meeting of 24 July 1947, Gandhi said, ‘The new flag does not render the old flag redundant. Even after the king is dead, the kingdom remains and old coins are not discarded for new ones. When the new coins are issued, old coins do not suffer any depreciation of value; therefore, so long as there is even one old flag in stock at the Gandhi Ashram, the two flags will have the same value.’ (The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi- Vol 96, Electronic Book Publishing Division, Government of India, New Delhi, 1999, Page 128)
On 6 August 1947, replying to a question relating to India’s flag, Gandhi said, ‘I must say that if the flag of the Indian Union will not contain the emblem of the charkha, I will refuse to salute that flag. You know the National Flag of India was first thought of by me and I cannot conceive of India’s national flag without the emblem of the charkha.’ (ibid, Page 196)
Similarly, on 27 July 1947, with respect to the national flag, he said (published in Harijan Bandhu, dated 3 August 1947), ‘The improved flag has no need of khadi. We do not want to disfigure with khadi the shop windows of our towns. The poor in the villages may by all means wear khadi. We shall not treat it as an offence. Old women in their huts may spin away on the charkha. In this new age, this should be considered a favour. I will refuse to salute the flag that is modified on the above lines, however artistic it may appear.’ (ibid, Page 152)
Just as Gandhi insisted on Khadi and the Charkha, similarly, Savarkar opposed the Charkha and insisted on saffron. In any case, whether Savarkar or Gandhi, both of them had registered their protest, suggestions, advice, requests and opinions before 15 August 1947. After India got independence on 15 August 1947, both of them accepted the the tri-coloured flag with the Ashok chakra inscribed on it, and they never expressed any dissatisfaction or unhappiness about it. On the contrary, both of them held the Tricolor flag in high regard and paid their respects to it.
When he got a complete release from his internment in Ratnagiri on 10 May 1937, many organisations, parties and people felicitated him. On 15 May 1937, the Congress Committee of Ratnagiri invited Savarkar at the District Council and hoisted the flag at his hands. While speaking on this occasion, in his very first political speech after complete release, this is what Savarkar said: ‘If you ask me how a staunch Hindu like me is holding this national flag today, the only reply to this is—because it is a national flag. All religions, sects and communities should stand in unison under this flag. He who has communal or religious thoughts beneath this flag is a sinner. As we have it in our family, a person is free to do whatever he wants outside the house. However, inside the house, he has to be committed to the family. Likewise, there are no qualms about me being a Hindu elsewhere… However, beneath this flag, we should be one and fight for the freedom of our nation till our last breath.’ (Ratnagiri Parva, Page 393-394) It should be noted that the flag hoisted by Savarkar was the Congress party’s tricolour flag with the charkha on it.