A day before India’s Independence Day, a Singapore permanent resident by the name of Avijit Das Patnaik posted a pretty controversial picture on the Singapore Indians and Expats Facebook page. The picture: a black t-shirt with a graphic of the Singapore flag being ripped apart to reveal an Indian flag underneath.
Obviously, the post went viral for the wrong reasons. The police have since launched investigations into the case — under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act, it is an offense to apply the image of the flag as part of any costume or attire. Except in such circumstances as may be approved by the Minister, being circumstances wherein there is no disrespect for the flag.
We’re pretty sure a graphic of the Singapore flag being shredded up is disrespectful, though.
The post was shared to a Facebook group with about 11,000 members, and the online outrage has been massive, especially so among Singaporeans. The comments often veered into xenophobic and racist territory, while the harassment has been so overwhelming that Patnaik had to take down his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.
Patnaik had to clarify to The Straits Times that he was not the one who designed the image, stating that he came across the picture on various social media accounts first before sharing it. The man — a Singapore resident for a decade — also apologized, stating that he did not mean to cause offense.
“I love Singapore deeply and am always singing praises about this country, so my intention was never to cause so much grievance,” he told ST. “I just felt that the image represented that deep inside, the heart also beats for our motherland”.
The post was accompanied with a caption in Hindi “Phir bhi dil hai…” — which The Independent SG reported as the title of Hindi film Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, which translates into “Still my heart is Indian”.
DBS Bank responds
The backlash even hit Patnaik’s employers DBS Bank, which launched its own investigations into the matter. Netizens took to the banking giant’s Facebook page to criticise their employee’s behavior and DBS did not shy away from responding directly to comments. According to the company, Patnaik has since been counseled and is “deeply sorry for the distress caused”.