Prime Minister Narendra Modi today unveiled a new ensign of the Indian Navy during the commissioning of the country’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. The new ensign or flag has not only heralded a new beginning for the Indian Navy but it also did away the country’s colonial past.
In the words of Prime Minister “Indian Naval flags which carried a sign of slavery has been replaced with the a new one inspired by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj”.
The statement from PMO said “befitting the rich Indian maritime heritage,”
To understand why these words were uttered one has to understand the significance and the evolution of the India’s naval ensign.
The Indian Navy’s origins date back to the British Raj. The naval service was renamed Royal Indian Navy with its headquarters at Bombay (now Mumbai).
Even after Independence the Indian defence forces continued with the British colonial flags and badges and it was only on Jan 26, 1950 that the first changes were made. The prefix ‘Royal’ was dropped and it was renamed as the Indian Navy and the flag was “Indianised”. The Union Jack of the United Kingdom on the top left corner was replaced by the Tricolour.
Since then there has been three attempts to alter the Ensign which bore the red Cross of St. George – a symbol of slavery and colonisation.
In 2001, the BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee taking heed of a decision taken by a retired Vice Admiral Vivian Barboza, removed the Cross of St. George. The ensign then bore the Indian Tricolour in the canton and the naval crest in the middle.
However, in 2004, as the BJP government collapses and the UPA government comes to power, the ensign was again changed back to the red Cross of St. George and the symbol of slavery returned. Apparently there were complaints that the new flag was indistinguishable because the blue of the navy crest merged with the skies and the sea. But strangely in the ensuing ten years of UPA government no changes took place. The only other change was the addition of the Lion capital of Ashoka in the middle on the the Cross of St. George.
As BJP returns to power the Navy Ensign gets a small Indian touch. The Nishaan was updated to include the national motto “Satyameva Jayate” in the Devanagari script.
The new Navy Ensign does away with the St. George Cross and it’s colonial past. The Navy said “The Tricolour is placed on the upper canton (top left) of the flag, and on the right a blue octagonal shape that encompasses the national emblem sits atop an anchor, which depicts steadfastness. The octagonal shape has been designed to represent eight directions, symbolising the multi-directional reach and multi-dimensional operational capability of the Indian Navy, while the twin golden borders surrounding it are said to draw inspiration from Chhatrapati Shivaji.”
Prime Minister mentioned from the ramparts of the Red Fort that we must strive to remove every vestige of colonialism in us and outside of us. He has walked the talk by repealing almost 1,500 old and obsolete laws and recently unveiling unveiled a hologram statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at India Gate replacing the once standing statue of King George V.
India now joins the small list some other Commonwealth countries namely Australia, New Zealand and Canada that did away with the Cross of St. George, the patron saint of England, as part of their naval ensigns.