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The Aam Aadmi party will install gigantic national flags all over Delhi. Former Congressman Naveen Jindal previously installed a giant flag in the capital at Connaught Place. BJP is second to none when it comes to oversized flags and statues. He built a 600 foot statue of Sardar Patel in Gujarat. And an upcoming statue of Shivaji, the Shiv Sena project, in Mumbai is expected to eclipse even this towering structure.

When intended to commemorate specific ideas or icons, the dimensions of shattering, as conventional wisdom goes, are best suited to impress. The British-built central view was meant to overwhelm the “natives” with its top-down disposition. The parks and monuments of Mayawati are in part intended to mark the point of Dalit identity. Across the world, monumental excesses are common, from emperors to democracies, from communists to military juntas. The ladder is often meant to overwhelm people, to remind them of their small place in the big order.

Of course, this is not the only way political ideas can be conveyed. The Vietnamese Maya Lin Memorial in Washington does the opposite, it pulls you into its nooks and crannies, makes you confront the names of the dead, the nature of war, and your own image on polished granite – it makes you think. There are many types of public art, memorials, and installations that are no less powerful in rejecting gigantism.

It is difficult to argue with the flag, a simple symbol of the nation. But does a secure democracy need these large-scale projects, if size matters so much to “patriots”? Why should a national symbol be so big that it makes the rest of us look small in comparison? At a time when the idea of ​​the Indian nation and the nature of the Indian state are fiercely debated, what does a “my flag is bigger than yours” contest say? Too few.


This article was published as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.


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