A recent ‘Newshour’ non-debate on Times Now on whether or not an order emanating from the Ministry of Human Resources Development to erect 207 feet high steel flagpoles and giant tricolour flags in Central Universities across India featured a wonderful intervention by Sambit Patra, BJP spokesman and digital magician extraordinaire.
In order to score a point during this shouting match, which consisted of Arnab Goswami and the Artillery Shell called General (Retired) G.D. Bakshi haranguing ‘Students, Professors and other Anti-Nationals’, Mr. Patra flourished an image on his tablet. The image was of six soldiers hoisting an Indian flag. Sambit Patra said that the image was of “Indian jawans, Indian soldiers dying, but holding up the tricolour, at the border”.
I did not know that India now has frontiers on islands like Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean.
Now it is no secret that Sambit Patra, like most nationalists, has greater faith in photoshop than in history.
Recently, he had also shown digitally manipulated footage, and photoshopped images, to accuse JNU students of terrorist and anti-national activity. The Delhi Police had made a dossier of similarly ‘improved’ materials to show how intensely it has been investigating its case. The best kind of reality, for nationalists, and their pet policemen, is improved, enhanced reality.
The problem is, some of us have photographic memories. And when we see an image, we cannot forget it easily. Like this one.
This is the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph titled ‘Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima’ , it was taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945 on Mount Suribachi in the island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean, in the days leading up to the battle of Okinawa during the final months of World War II.
It has had many reincarnations, including after the Kargil War, when it was used as propaganda material for the Indian Army, which, as we know is better known for buying defective weapons, substandard equipment and non-existent coffins for dead soldiers than it is for archival photographic research. This is how the Himalayas rise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in defense of Akhand Bharat.
Even the clumsy attempt to hack arrested JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar’s Facebook page features the same image.
But let us come back to the picture, an unfortunate fragment of the actual historical record.
In the case of Rosenthal’s Iwo Jima picture we even know the names of the people in the picture – they are – 5 US Marine Corps men, Harlon Block, Franklin Sourly and Michael Strank, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hamilton Hayes and Navy Hospital Corpsman John Bradley. Block, Sourly and Strank died in action over the next few days at Iwo Jima. Gagnon, Hayes and Bradley survived, and became minor celebrities after the war.
Sambit Patra said that the six soldiers on his tablet were Indians holding up the Indian flag. He did not know that he had actually stumbled upon a fraction of truth. Not about the flag, but about one of the men. One of the men, Ira Hamilton Hayes, Marine, who died as a depressed alcoholic after the war was an ‘Indian’ – a Native American of the Pima ‘Indian’ tribe, from the Gila River Reservation, Phoenix Valley, Arizona.
Ira Hayes was drafted into the war, like many other Native Americans. For him, again like for many Native-Americans, African-Americans, and for impoverished working class white people and Jewish immigrants, the war represented an escape from poverty and the life of humiliation that most marginalized communities faced. Like many veterans, of the World Wars, of the Korean, Vietnam, Afghan and Iraq wars, Ira Hayes was hero for a moment, and then discarded into the garbage bin of history.
Like many Indian Indian soldiers who die defending the abstraction of the flag and the nation, Ira Hayes too fought for a nation that thought of him as dispensable. He died poor, alone, depressed, alcoholic. Like many Indian soldiers do. Because actually, all that invocation of ‘martyred’ soldiers by men in suits in television suits is pure bullshit, and not even their flags are big enough to wipe the stain left by their lies. The rhetoric of the ‘defense of the nation’ is the means by which one of the world’s biggest war machines is maintained, by which corrupt arms deals propel ruthless thugs to power and which send young men to their deaths, either by bullets, or by avalanches, defending territories and antagonizing people in places where no Indian soldier has real reason to be
This is why you have Naga soldiers fighting in Kashmir, and the Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry fighting in Nagaland. They are just cannon fodder for the indifferent masters of a forgetful nation, more satisfied with photoshopped histories than the actual stories of men and women who they send to die.
There is no flag that is big enough to cover these deaths – of soldiers, insurgents and civilians, not even the one that Smriti Irani wants every university to stitch and erect. The flag is wasted money, the hoarse obscene lies of those who wave that flag as a means to silence questions is wasted breath.
Meanwhile, I have a modest proposal for Sambit Patra, Smriti Irani, General G.D. Bakshi and other people with flagpole erection tendencies and allied disorders. Why don’t you all just photoshop 207 foot flagpoles and gigantic flags on to the pictures of central university campuses and then circulate them on social media. That way, you will have cured the crises in universities with a cheaply made Jugaadu image and have done your duty as Nationalists.
It will be a cost saving measure (especially as Ms. Irani says that her ministry has a real cash crunch, and can’t fund fellowships, research and normal life in Universities,). Besides, think of the money that your Party can make with people signing up for tenders to erect non existent flagpoles, stitch non existent flags. Think of the cuts and commissions that you could make on every contract. Now that is a made to order ‘Make in India’ dream.
And also meanwhile, listen to the Ballad of to the Ballad of Ira Hayes, the ‘Indian soldier’ at Iwo Jima in 1945. It might still make you see what I mean.
He was wined and speeched and honored,
Everybody shook his hand,
But he was just a Pima Indian,
No water, no home, no chance,
At home nobody cared what Ira’d done,
And when did the Indians dance.
Call him drunken Ira Hayes,
He won’t answer anymore,
Not the whiskey drinking Indian,
Or the marine that went to war.
Then Ira started drinking hard,
Jail was often his home,
They let him raise the flag and lower it
Like you’d throw a dog a bone.
He died drunk early one morning,
Alone in the land he fought to save,
Two inches of water and a lonely ditch,
Was a grave for Ira Hayes.
Call him drunken Ira Hayes,
He won’t answer anymore,
Not the whiskey drinking Indian,
Or the marine that went to war.
Yeah, call him drunken Ira Hayes,
But his land is just as dry,
And his ghost is lying thirsty,
In the ditch where Ira died.
From the ‘Ballad of Ira Hayes’, written by Peter la Farge, performed (separately) by Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson.
16 thoughts on “Sambit Patra Flying the Tricolour on Times Now, in JNU and on Iwo Jima – History Re-Imagined (Once Again) by the BJP”
I strongly oppose the way this article has been written. It is completely biased, full of hatred against the republic of India and vulgar too.
Truth hurts, does it
It is ‘Fasionalism’ to have a flag and walk around chanting manta ‘Bharat mataa ki jai’! But, truely, this is awesome for scores of students… The fact is, ‘lal bano! Gulami chodoo ! Aur boloo Vande Mataraam!!’
A very beautiful article.
Here is the link which has this pic back in 2007
ALL BJP RSS IDIOTS ARE PHOTOSHOP NATIONALISTS
RSS always Oppossed the National Flag of India
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh initially did not recognize the Tricolor as the National Flag of India. The RSS mouthpiece Organiser, in its issue dated 17 July 1947 demanded, in an editorial titled “National Flag” that the Bhagwa Dhwaj (Saffron Flag) be adopted as the National Flag of India. After the Tricolor was adopted as the National Flag of India by the Constituent Assembly of India on 22 July 1947, the RSS mouthpiece Organiser viciously attacked the Tricolor and denigrated its being chosen as the National Flag of India. The 14 August 1947 issue of the Organiser, in an article titled “Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhwaj”, stated
“The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolor but it never be respected and owned by Hindus.The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country”
RSS never participated in the Indian Independence Movement. Google and search to know the Truth.
How do a people, in the face of occupation, come together without symbols, the flag being one, to unite them?
Manufacturing lies, like the kind Sambit Patra specialises in, would be a the territory of a child’s fantasy, except that it is unquestioningly believed to be true by a growing number of people/trolls/sangh-sympathisers. And therein lies the danger.
The article is an insight how the BJP-RSS-VHP’s media cell overworked at Ashoka Hotel and created campaigns to amass votes at the cost of Today’s Common Man’s livelihood. They will whitewash this with new joomlas. I believe they are never short of it.
Dear Shuddhabrata, I understand and accept the fact that identities of nations are constructed through deliberate effort by political leaders. However, I wish to disagree with your idea that the Indian Defence Forces is only a war machine maintained to procure defective weaponry. Yes, martyrdom does not add any economic value to the society. But, can you imagine what would happen to India if the soldiers (cannon fodder in your perspective) do not guard the borders day and night? Would you rather prefer that we have many more Pathankots and Mumbais, and allow militants trained abroad a free reign? Allow the whole of Northeast India to break away and form small independent countries? Allow Kashmir to be an independent country (and then become free vantage point for militants trained abroad)? Aren’t the soldiers still the first to hit the ground in times of natural calamities? Yes, we should fight to rid the Army establishment of corruption. But, to consider it as only an entity for politicians to pursue corruption, is oversimplification and blind idealism. Devotion to a nation doesn’t grow organically. The tricolor flag, national anthem, and national song have been repeatedly used to engender the idea of patriotism in Indians. And I don’t think it needs to be regretted, because without these symbols, this nation would have already been fragmented into numerous unviable micro-states. Is that what you would wish to achieve?
Painful but true….but no prizes for guessing WHO WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND any of the words above….”muh khologe to pakistan jaoge” or at least will be asked to….
Dear nationalists (like Pawan Pandey),
I come from a family which was involved in the freedom struggle. I am quite a nationalist myself. But. Is this the India you are proud of?
Consider the following.
1.First they arrest a student for sedition, no less, on the basis of a doctored video and Patra goes from channel to channel holding up the fake video as evidence. 2. The channels don’t bother to examine the video, not even the English channel that shouts down any panellist with a view different from the anchor’s–not even if he’s trying to invoke Rabindranath Tagore–but incite hate against dissenters on the basis of the fake “evidence”. 3. When the JU professor tries, very feebly, to tell the anchor about Tagore’s nuanced understanding of nationalism, some saffronite quote Gowalkar (who else)!!! Poor Tagore! To be equated with Gowalkar! 4. When confronted with the truth by the channel that broke the story, Patra has a strange half-smile and accuses it of providing escape routes for anti-nationalists! No surprise, shock or denial. Which hints at a horrifyfing possibility: that the people using that video KNEW it had been doctored. 5. Then lawyers assault the student whose only fault was to shout slogans against Brahmanbad, Manubad, feudalism, capitalism and, of course, saffronbad and remain unrepentant, threatening dire consequences for such dissenters.Dear nationalists (like Pawan Pandey) please READ TAGORE. I fear if you read his Chaar Adhyay and Ghare Baire you will doubt his faith in nationalism. 6. Can the poor villagers in the Maoist belt who are exploited by the powerful, harassed by govt agencies, treated as traitors feel proud as Indians? What about the farmers who ended their lives in Maharashtra even under BJP rule? And the Dalits, who continue to be marginalised? Isn’t it a coincidence that the proud Indians are mostly middle class people living in cities?
Dear nationalists, the India of my dreams should accord a place of honour to every Indian and every opinion and not a country that follows the fascist ideology of one leader, one party, one voice, one religion, no divergence.
The role that Sambit Patra and friends play in these loud “debates” is aptly described by my mother – “Gajaron mein guthli phenkete hein (they toss mango pits into carrots that are being prepared for food)”. Their arguments are unfounded and their evidence is often nonexistent or, as in this case, fake. As far as flag raisings and doctoring of the images go, the replacement of the American flag by the Indian flag is only a recent chapter in the long history of this iconic image. Soon after its publication, it was debated that the image was obtained from a staged event. Pictures, even those that are fake and flashed for a few seconds on TV, are powerful tools for raising hysteria against the opponents. Only thing is that this time they have put their hand in the wrong beehive.