Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Wednesday, 6 July 2005 16:40 UK

Indians can wear flag with pride

By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Delhi

India flag on display
India has had strict regulations on where flags can be displayed

Years after having won independence, Indians are now free to wear images of their flag on their clothing.

But not where it hurts national sentiments - below the belt. The flag can only be displayed on garments above the waist.

The federal government has passed an amendment easing the restrictions of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act (1971).

Caps and T-shirts are in but swimsuits and evening gowns are still a no-no.

Neither can the flag be embroidered or printed on cushion covers, gloves, handkerchiefs, napkins and dress material.

MP's move

The 1972 Act strictly regulates the use and display of the flag.

Our national colours don't represent fashion
Nikhil Mehra, designer

Only senior government leaders and state institutions are allowed to fly it on their premises.

People were allowed to fly the flag and wear tricolour badges on Republic Day, Independence Day and Mahatma Gandhi's birthday.

The fight to ease the restrictions began in 1995, when industrialist and present Congress party MP, Naveen Jindal, began legal action demanding that all Indians and institutions be allowed to fly the national flag respectfully.

The court ruled in his favour in 2001, leading to this week's amendment.

Mr Jindal told The Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday the move was a "good start", adding: "In due course, I'm sure other restrictions will be removed too."

Hindu symbols

The fashion industry has had its run-ins with the flag rules in the past.

Sonali Bendre (l) and Malini Ramani
Actress Sonali Bendre (l) wore Hindu symbols; designer Malini Ramani an India dress

Popular designer Malini Ramani wore a strappy knee-length dress that used the saffron, white and green stripes with the wheel of progress in the centre to a fashion show in 2000.

The event sparked off a national debate and led to police action against the designer.

A case filed against her is still going through the courts.

Hindu symbols have also caused problems - Bollywood star Sonali Bendre fell foul of the police in 2001 for wearing a short, ochre-coloured top inscribed with Hindu religious phrases.

Delhi-based designer Nikhil Mehra told the BBC he welcomed the new ruling.

"We Indians are very patriotic by nature and after 57 years of independence, it is only fair that we be allowed to express our patriotism," he said.

But he also said saffron and green were not suited to Indian skin tones, while white in India represents the colour of death.

"The flag colours are very mature and sombre, unlike say the British or American flag colours. These are very sporty colours, look good on almost any person and people don't mind wearing them.

"But our national colours don't represent fashion."

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