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Chhattisgarh Man Hoists Saffron Flag Atop Palace of Adivasi Royal Family

Police have arrested a man who claimed to have been mentally unstable. Palace residents said he had to have climbed five floors to replace the state flag with the saffron one.

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New Delhi: On May 9, 2022, a minor crime shook Sarangarh Palace in Chhattisgarh’s Sarangarh-Bilaigarh district.

Home to the erstwhile Sarangarh royal family, one of the few that comprised Adivasi people, the Giri Vilas palace had a young trespasser in the middle of the night whose primary intention was not theft. He entered the building to hoist the saffron flag atop the palace by removing the flag that has been the symbol of the Saragarh princely state for centuries. 

The Sarangarh royal family has traditionally supported the Congress. Its patriarch at one time, Naresh Chandra Singh, became the only Adivasi chief minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh in 1969.

Since then, many from the family have been elected representatives both at the Union and the state government. Among its current members, Pushpa Devi Singh has been a Lok Sabha MP and her daughter Kulisha Mishra is the serving national secretary of the Indian Youth Congress. 

 

Speaking to The Wire, Kulisha Mishra said that she saw a young man walking with a rope at around 9.45 pm on Saturday, May 7, when she was out on a stroll within the palace premises. “When I called at him to ask who he was, he left in a hurry. Since it was dark, I didn’t go after him. But the next morning, we noticed that the state flag had been replaced with a saffron flag.”

“The man would have had to climb five floors to place a saffron flag atop the palace. There was nothing missing at home, which means the man must have come only to remove the state flag and hoist a saffron one,” she said. 

The family immediately filed a police complaint alleging that the family flag had been stolen by a trespasser.

The police, after initial investigation, arrested a young, unemployed man from a village situated very close to the Giri Vilas palace.

It also found burnt remains of the stolen flag and a rope near a lake in Sarangarh. The state police also claimed that the accused, Monu Sarthi, confessed to his crime but reasoned that he was “mentally unstable”. A case has been filed against him under sections 457 (house trespass) and 380 (theft in dwelling house) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

 

A few villagers also testified that Sarthi was indeed the person who carried a saffron flag on May 7 to hoist it atop the palace as part of some challenge.

Mishra, however, is troubled by the fact that the alleged mental instability has led a young man to indulge in a political act of reinforcing an “exclusivist” ideology.

“The person could have done anything after getting into the palace because of his mental instability. But he came with a stated purpose to replace the state flag with a saffron one, not any other flag. Clearly, it is a political act. I am only wondering how young people under the influence of Hindutva think it is absolutely okay to enter someone’s house without permission and do what they want to,” Mishra said.