On 21st July 2014, Master Chef Australia Season 6, episode 56 ‘Dual Challenge’ displayed the Indian flag upside down. I was sure it was an honest mistake but felt offended being an Indian to see the ‘Tiranga’ upside down. After all in India, such display is a sign of defeat and brings back memories from the freedom struggle. I kept calm and decided to write to the producers of the show about this. I wrote to the production house ‘Shine Australia’ as follows:
Masterchef Australia Season 6 episode ‘dual challenge’ from 22/7/14 displayed the Indian flag upside down. Kindly find attached a screen shot of the flag from this episode.
I’m a big fan of the show just like many Indians in both Australia and India. However, I was shocked and offended as the Indian flag appeared upside down.
I understand that without a doubt it was an honest mistake. However, this honest mistake occurred over a very sensitive matter. We Indians are very sensitive towards our flag. To us it is a symbol of national identity and remembrance of the hardships faced in the independence struggle. It’s our culture to love our flag and safeguard its dignity.
Your show is popular in India. When the judges visited India, they were surrounded by fans at the airport. Such shows are a very good medium to foster healthy relations between India and Australia and hence such careless mistakes should be avoided.
As much as I believe that it was an unintentional mistake, I’m sure acknowledgment of this error in the next episodes would be seen a welcoming gesture by all Indians.
The reply I received from the team was:
Thank you for your email below. We are glad to hear that you are a big fan of Masterchef. The flag being positioned upside down was an unintentional oversight during production. We unreservedly apologise for any offence caused.
I was instantly happy and relieved after this reply. After all, this is all that I wanted. There were official tweets by the show about the incident as well. My domestic mates also commented that such stupid mistakes shouldn’t occur and all it takes is to google and make sure the flags are displayed correctly. However, what worried me were a few outrageous and furious comments by Indians on social media and the strong defensive statements some locals had towards the extreme accusations.
I didn’t want another 2009 to occur with a disharmony in both the communities. Such mistakes happen and all we Indians need is an apology or an acknowledgement of the error. However, we end up fighting and arguing if Australians and Indians fail to acknowledge that every country has their own set of rules towards the national flag and varying levels of sensitiveness towards their public and private display. Display and use of Indian Flag is governed by Flag Code of India 2002 wherein improper (intentional) misuse and display are punishable by Law and may invite a jail term in India. Doesn’t mean such instances should go unnoticed and it doesn’t mean such errors are a deliberate attempt to insult a particular nation. Sentiments should be expressed only after careful consideration whether the incident was intentional or unintentional.
Few years ago, my father pointed out that the RMIT University had displayed the Australian flag upside down. He wrote to them and received no reply. It is common-sense to pay attention to such things. It seems it wasn’t a big deal to them. Surely RMIT did not want to insult Australia on purpose! Similarly, the Commonwealth games official video showing kids holding the Indian flag upside down seemed reckless. Why would someone want to humiliate an upcoming regional economic powerhouse on an international platform?
In Australia we see thongs, bandanas and swimwear with the Australian flag. This shows the national pride and love for their country Australians have. Indians on the other hand refrain from merchandising the flag and may get offended if someone even points their feet in the direction where the flag is. No one is right or wrong here, it all comes down to understanding the level of sensitiveness in each country towards the national flag and understanding what is acceptable and unacceptable with the law as well as culturally.
Having said this, Australians need to acknowledge and understand what Indians feel towards the Indian flag and Indians need to stop feeling they are being humiliated or disrespected on purpose. India has loads of domestic issues to focus on and Australia has to deal with the perils of the new government budget too.
Peaceful co-existence is possible when people try to remain rational, do not react based on provocations and try to understand the culture of the parties involved. Fanatic reactions will take us nowhere. In fact we usually underestimate the mental trauma the people involved in the incidents face. All they commit is an innocent mistake in most cases, but the backlash they receive from people by emails, social media and in person are overwhelming.
Although I feel the kids in the commonwealth games video should have been careful or their choreographer should have been careful with the display of the flag. I also feel sorry for them because they are surely going to carry this burden all their lives as being the “ones who held the flag upside down’’ and face hateful comments from fanatics around the world.
By Eshan Arya