Jaspreet Oberoi: Tiranga Yatras Are An Old Divisive Modi Tactic That’s Now Targeting Sikhs In The West

The origin of the term "Tiranga Yatra" actually goes back to 2016, conceived by Prime Minister Modi himself

Jaspreet Oberoi
March 5, 2021 | 4 min. read

If you can understand that one group is protesting for the human rights of loved ones facing state oppression in India and another group is counter protesting in defense of that state then you can easily ascertain the divisive and malicious designs of the recent pro-Modi Tiranga Yatras (Indian tricolor flag processions) happening across Canada, Australia, the USA, and the UK.

As the ongoing farmers’ protests in India enter the seventh month, allies worldwide have organized many peaceful rallies and attracted unprecedented support for farmers dissenting against the Modi government - from global celebrities to politicians across the world. This has only amplified as the Indian state continues with violent crackdowns against demonstrators, journalists, and anyone else who dares to speak out.

All of this has undoubtedly put the Modi government under pressure, which has led to it resorting to one of its oldest and well-tested tricks, the ‘Tiranga Yatra’. The origin of this term goes back to 2016, conceived by PM Modi himself.

These yatras follow a fixed pattern, irrespective of the issue. 

A group of people proceeds on foot or vehicles carrying the Indian tricolor while sloganeering in favor of the Hindu Nationalist BJP government using jingoistic chants all with an intent to vilify those taking an anti-government stand. 

In addition, the route chosen for these processions is usually controversial, often passing through areas densely inhabited by the “other” side, including places of worship like Gurdwaras and Mosques.

The intention always is to provoke and instigate a reaction. The motivation behind carrying a ‘Tiranga’ (Indian tricolor) is to project pro-BJP supporters and reinforce that the dissenters are seditious anti-national rogues.

Tiranga Yatras have a history of being tense and violent. Lives have been lost during these processions and in the aftermath as a result of situations purposely created by these yatras. The most infamous one being in 2018, when ABVP (BJP’s student wing) took out a Tiranga Yatra in the Kasganj area of Agra, UP on January 26, India’s Republic Day. 

Hundreds of BJP supporters marched through the city belittling and slighting the Muslim community. The procession turned violent while passing through a Muslim-dominated area and a person lost his life due to a gun-shot. 

It is noteworthy that along with intimidating dissenters, the BJP has also successfully used these yatras to create a narrative of ‘us’ vs ‘them’.

During the anti-CAA protests of 2020, multiple Tiranga Yatras were organized and promoted by BJP leaders on the pretext of educating the masses about the benefits of the CAA law passed by their government. The intention was again to project the national flag bearers as patriots and the protestor as an “anti-national” outsider.

Fast forward to today and it becomes obvious that the widespread popularity and reach of the ongoing farmers’ protest has forced Modi to push his Tiranga Yatra narrative to foreign lands.

In the last month, multiple rallies under the banner of ‘Tiranga Yatra’ have been organized in different parts of the world. Similar to the narrative parroted in India, each of these rallies has been promoted as a pro-India “anti-Khalistan” effort, aiming to malign the peaceful protests of the farmers and project them as a seditious act.

It is public knowledge that these rallies are organized by members or those affiliated with the BJP and the RSS. Both organizations have chapters in the West via the Oversea Friends of the BJP and the HSS respectively.

Another group helping organize these processions in Canada is the Canadian Hindu Advocacy. It has blatantly put out on its Twitter feed that much like targeting Mosques in India, they will be targeting Gurdwaras. They also have been openly calling Gurdwaras safe harbours for “terrorists”, and asking white supremacists to join forces. 

Such commentary and discourse has already been taken note of and sensing Modi supporters seeding communal tensions, the Mayor of Brampton wrote a scathing remark against the Canadian Hindu Advocacy and flagged it to the police chief of the region.

Unfortunately, Australia could not stop all the pro-Modi violence associated with these yatras. Though the police did manage to stop a pro-BJP and RSS convoy of cars carrying Indian flags and chanting slogans from reaching the Glenwood Gurdwara in Sydney, they could not avert two other targeted attacks on Sikhs by Indian government supporters. 

In one instance, a Sikh youth was chased on the streets by an angry mob, and in the latest attack, a group of Sikh men fled a gang who then smashed their car with bats and hammers while they were still inside.

Australian authorities have reacted strongly against the violators and while the search is on for the perpetrators,  warnings of deportations have been issued.

The farmers’ protest right now demands a bit more patience, a bit more resolve, a bit more sacrifice, like it has from the very beginning. The best way to deal with these pro-India and BJP supporters is to alert local authorities to the provocation and continue with our own advocacy fearlessly. It is working.

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Jaspreet Oberoi was born and raised in Patiala, Punjab, and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. He is a columnist focused on socio-political issues concerning India and Canada. You can find him on Twitter at @ijasoberoi.


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