Did Vice President Hamid Ansari really insult the Indian flag on Republic Day?

The world of Twitter was abuzz today sharing a photo from the Republic Day celebrations that showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, and President Pranab Mukherjee saluting the Indian national flag on the occasion of Republic Day celebrations at Rajpath.

However, there were two dignitaries in the same picture who were not saluting the flag – the Chief Guest and President of USA Barack Obama, and the Vice President of India Hamid Ansari:

Republic Day salutes
The photo that triggered the controversy

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This immediately led to many Twitter users questioning the decision of Hamid Ansari of not saluting the flag, because Barack Obama was well within his rights not to do so, for he is not an Indian citizen.

Some users concluded that Ansari might have deliberately done so because saluting a national flag is against strict interpretation of Islamic teachings, which argues for Ummah – one common nation of Muslims – and doesn’t support the modern concept of nation-states.

These users argued that the Vice President of India believed in such strict interpretation, because on earlier occasions he had refused to take “aarti” during Dussehra celebrations and refused to sing Vande Mataram.

However, OpIndia.com couldn’t verify either of these claims beyond the realm of doubt. We couldn’t find any news item in the mainstream media (MSM) that confirms these incidents.

One could rightly argue that MSM deliberately didn’t report such incidents to “protect the idea of secularism”. OpIndia.com believes that MSM could as well do that, however, there are enough reasons to believe that these claims could be unfounded.

For example, look at the following picture of Dussehra celebrations from 2008. It is taken from the official PIB website and it clearly shows Hamid Ansari performing aarti during Ramleela:

Dussehra Aarti by Hamid Ansari
Hamid Ansari performing ‘Aarti’ during the Dussehra celebrations on October 09, 2008.

We don’t know why Hamid Ansari would suddenly change his views and become a radical Muslim a couple of years later. It can’t be ruled out, but there has to be something that suggests that this is a possibility. We couldn’t find anything that suggests so.

Similarly the claim about him refusing to sing Vande Mataram is also not backed by strong evidence. Though the website IndiaFacts quotes him saying so, it doesn’t provide the date, details, or the context of the statement.

In absence of those details, we are again forced to look at other pieces of information. We would like our readers to recall the infamous decision of Hamid Ansari, when he suddenly announced adjournment of Rajya Sabha during the Lokpal debate – a decision that remains a blot on his duties as Chairman of the Upper House of the Parliament.

On that night, Ansari had signaled to play Vande Mataram after announcing adjournment of the house. He is seen standing up for the song in the video clips that were broadcast on all major TV news networks.

OpIndia.com readers can see one such clip below. Ansari is seen standing for Vande Mataram at 1.40 minutes and afterwards in the clip:

Again, we will need strong evidence on why Ansari would have become a radical Muslim recently and start believing that nationalism as a concept was anti-Islamic – something many radical Muslims believe in.

Since we can’t accuse Ansari of being a radical Muslim with enough credible evidences, we have to give him the benefit of doubt in the case of not saluting the Indian flag during the Republic Day celebrations today.

Please note that it is not compulsory for a civilian to salute the flag. Section VI of the Flag Code of India clearly states the following:

All persons present should face the Flag and stand at attention. Those present in uniform should render the appropriate salute.

Since the Vice President was not in uniform, even the law didn’t require him to salute. The President, by virtue of him being the Commander in Chief, is required to salute. The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister are not required to salute by any law or protocol due to absence of any ‘uniform’, but in this case, it could be their personal choice and deemed appropriate.

We at OpIndia.com believe that this is a needless controversy involving the Vice President, which unfortunately even dragged in his religious beliefs. In fact, one of our tweets was also guilty of not giving this benefit of doubt to the Vice President, which we immediately rectified:

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