Indian national says ripped flag image a piece of “art” and gives his side of story to CNA

Indian National Avijit Das Patnaik who was fired from DBS five months ago for posting an online image of a Singapore flag being ripped to reveal an Indian flag, gave an interview to Channel NewsAsia recently. The article was published today to give his side of the story (‘A ripped flag image, Internet outrage and a family life destroyed: Avijit Das Patnaik’s story‘, 26 Jan).

In particular, CNA gave a headline to the story describing that his family life has been destroyed.

“I feel like I have committed the greatest crime of the century,” he told CNA. “If you Google my name, there are more hits and searches against my name than against leading terrorists and scamsters.”

CNA described that the consequences of him sharing the image on a Facebook post in August last year have been “devastating for the Singapore Permanent Resident”.

“He’s now jobless and he, along with his wife and two young children, will now likely have to leave the country that’s been their home for the last ten years,” CNA reported.

CNA also reported that he is trying to sell his HDB executive flat. Note that PRs are allowed to buy and own a HDB resale flat.

Avijit: Image was a piece of art and Singaporeans have misinterpreted his intentions

He regrets upsetting so many people but maintains that the image was a piece of art that was open to interpretation. He said that he took the image generated from a third party site and all he did was share it on Singapore Indians & Expats, a Facebook group with 12,000 members. He said the image was already circulating elsewhere on social media.

“It is an interpretation of art, and if we go like this, we are leaving no room for the interpretation of art. Anybody can get offended by anything today,” he lamented.

“On the day that I posted, I was sort of declaring that my body is Singaporean, only my heart remains Indian,” he explained.

Over the years, even his friends from India have felt that he has completely changed and “become loyal to Singapore”, he said.

“That’s the interpretation that my friends have, and that day, I was actually saying yes, my body is now Singaporean,” he added.

“I know when he posted that forwarded picture what his intentions were, and (what) his interpretations were,” his wife chimed in.

He then blamed certain “junk sites” for stoking the fury of the netizens after he shared the image online.

“It was only when certain ‘junk sites’ came out, and gave a very different twist to it (that the problem started). They said this guy has been arrested, and he has created this pic. From there, the problem started, and it was based on false reports,” he claimed.

Such reports stoked the emotions of an already angry online crowd as an arrest would have made the whole issue more serious and made him look more culpable, he explained.

Avijit all for Singapore

In any case, the former vice-president at DBS still said that he loves Singapore and its cultures, and that Singapore is the “best country in the world”.

“I can never imagine disrespecting any country or any religion. If you look in my house, you will see Chinese decorations. You will find many Muslim things. We visit mosques. We celebrate Chinese New Year every year, including doing ‘lo hei’ within the family. That’s how we’ve brought our kids up, that you must love every nationality, every race, every religion,” he said.

He highlighted to the CNA’s reporter about his commitment to Singapore and asked:

“Why would I adopt a son here?”

“Why would I not have a home or retirement funds anywhere else in the world?”

“Why would I try to give back by teaching financial literacy in schools and helping construction workers to write letters?”

“We so deeply love the country. We always wanted to be here. We never intended anything like that,” he said.

He and his wife only have a daughter and decided to adopt a son in 2012. This is home to their children but that may have to change in the near future, he said.

They have not decided on their next move, but returning to Mumbai, where they are from, is an option. He said they had wanted to live in Singapore “forever”.

Desperately looking for a job

At the moment, he is desperately looking for a job after DBS let him go last year. He estimated that his curriculum vitae would have reached about 2,500 potential employers.

“Every discussion ends the moment they ask ‘What is your reason for separating from your last job?’,” he told CNA.

Even looking for a job overseas has been difficult, with news of what happened reaching as far as South Africa, the United States and Dubai, he revealed. The moment a potential employer looks him up online, there are only negative things that turn up, which makes it harder to get a job in another country, he said.

“For an expat, his job is everything, his job is his lifeline.”

He has been looking for a position for someone of his experience, and told CNA he would not opt for a job that would leave his family living a “hand-to-mouth” existence. When asked if his wife could work instead, he said she had previously tried applying for jobs as a teacher but was unsuccessful as she does not have the required qualifications.

He was optimistic in getting a job at first but soon becomes depressed.

“I thought there is light, there is clearly light, but the fact is that over the next three or four months I realised that the decision (to be given a warning) doesn’t mean anything for me on the job front,” he told the reporter.

“Our lives have completely fallen apart.”

Because of police reports made against him, he was investigated and, thankfully, only given a warning by the police.

Perhaps some kind employers after reading the story he gave to CNA might want to give him a second chance. What do you think?