India’s opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, has accused the government of forcing people entitled to free food at government ration shops to buy flags in return for provisions in the run-up to Independence Day celebrations on 15 August.
India will celebrate 75 years of independence from the Raj on Tuesday, and the streets of cities across the country are full of flags for sale.
But Gandhi claimed that in some cases patriotic fervour was being forced on people, referring to a widely circulated video showing a shopkeeper in Haryana state scolding a customer who came in for free grain and did not want to buy a flag.
“This is a government order from the top,” the shopkeeper says. “I have been told by my boss not to give rations to those who refuse to buy the flag.”
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party rules at national as well as at state level in Haryana.
Gandhi said nationalism could never be sold. “Along with the tricolour, the BJP government is also attacking the self-esteem of the poor of our country,” he wrote on Facebook.