An Indian man who posted a picture of a black T-shirt showing a ripped Singaporean flag that reveals the Indian flag underneath sparked outrage on social media.
The man, identified as Avijit Das Patnaik, posted the image a day before India’s Independence Day in a Facebook group called “Singapore Indians and Expats,” which has around 11,000 members.
Patnaik, a permanent resident in Singapore, captioned his post “Phir bhi dil hai,” the title of a Hindi film meaning “Still my heart is Indian,” according to The Independent SG.
It did not take long before his post drew ire especially among Singaporeans, who retaliated with angry comments on his employer’s Facebook page.
Authorities have since launched an investigation into the case, which appears to be a violation under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act.
The legislation prohibits the use or application of “the Flag or any image thereof as or 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.”
The incident forced Patnaik to take down his LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. His employer, DBS Bank, pursued its own investigation and referred him to counseling.
“In celebrating India’s Independence Day, which takes place on 15 August, the employee wanted to show that even as he’s in Singapore, he remains Indian at heart. Upon realizing the graphic was offensive, he took it down immediately,” the company wrote in response to a comment.
“DBS takes this very seriously and has counseled the employee who is deeply sorry for the distress caused.”
Speaking to The Straits Times, Patnaik apologized but argued that he was not responsible for designing the image and that he only came across it elsewhere on social media.
“I love Singapore deeply and am always singing praises about this country, so my intention was never to cause so much grievance.
“I just felt that the image represented that deep inside, the heart also beats for our motherland.”
According to Index Mundi, Indians made up over 9% of Singapore’s population as of 2018. Singapore’s Little India neighborhood is often among the top three most popular tourism destination in the city-state after Chinatown and Orchard Road.