Hoisting trouble

The apostle of non-violence and communal harmony, Mahatma Gandhi, believed in actions steeped in moral courage and sanctified by the “absolute truth”. He abhorred petty opportunistic politicking or mere symbolism. However, when it came to the national flag, even the great Mahatma felt that “a flag is a necessity for all nations. Millions have died and lived for it”, further admitting that “it is no doubt a kind of idolatry which would be a sin to destroy”, and exhorted that for all “to whom India is their home... to recognise a common flag to live and die for”. It is indeed an inalienable right, in effect a fundamental one, for any Indian citizen to hoist the national flag in any part of the country, especially on a day of national celebration.
The tiranga, our beloved tricolour, symbolises the Indian state as nothing else can, and all Indians, both at home and abroad, revere it as an embodiment of our nationhood and pride. Prima facie thus there will be many Indian citizens who, in keeping with their natural nationalistic inclinations, may agree with the leading Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) initiative to hoist the tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day 2011.
However, this seemingly innocent patriotic act needs to be seen in total perspective, bearing in mind the violent events in troubled Srinagar over the last year where 110 people including youth and children died in senseless violence engineered by Pakistan-inspired and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) funded separatists. With an uneasy peace limping back to Srinagar and a semblance of much-needed normalcy on the horizon, most non-partisan analysts will unanimously agree that the BJP youth wing’s Ekta Yatra towards Srinagar for hoisting the flag at the Lal Chowk was more than ill-advised. It was political opportunism directed at galvanising its traditional votebanks across the country rather than about instilling any nationalistic pride.
This planned misadventure is reminiscent of a similar event enacted by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi in 1992 when under very heavy security cover he planted the national flag (according to some sources upside down and on a lamp post) in
Lal Chowk in a meaningless gesture.
Flag-hoisting has to be a spontaneous gesture with full local and joyous participation. The BJP would have earned as many brownie points as it desired if it would have accepted the youthful Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah’s invitation to join the official Republic Day celebrations at Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar in large numbers.
Security forces are critically over-stretched on such days and irrelevant politicking during such periods makes the task of terrorists easier. Lal Chowk, nonetheless, is as much a part of India as indeed Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Marine Drive in Mumbai, Hazratganj in Lucknow, Anna Salai in Chennai or any other famous or infamous street in India.
Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, like any of the 28 states of the Union. Nevertheless, it must be appreciated that its total emotional integration with the rest of the country will take some more
time considering Pakistan’s continuing sinister games in the Valley.
Thus, the entire nation, especially the leading political parties, must rise above narrow partisan and electoral agendas to heal the wounds of Jammu and Kashmir and bring it fully into the national mainstream.
It is a matter of time that our brethren in the Valley will realise that Pakistan is a failing state bent upon wreaking economic havoc and creating political instability. Thus, the entire Indian state has to rise in unison to stave off the machinations of Pakistan. On the other hand, India needs to be crystal clear and determined in its resolve in dealing with all issues vis-à-vis Pakistan, which should be reminded, if necessary, of its own faultlines. And any seditious activity by the separatists must be put down firmly and speedily by the Jammu and Kashmir administration.
The status of and conditions in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the growing Chinese presence and influence in this region needs to be factored in our security calculus.
A few months back, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah had emphatically observed in the Lok Sabha that they desired a Jammu and Kashmir as it existed in the times of Maharaja Hari Singh.
The interactions of the Interlocutors Group with the common people in Jammu and Kashmir has shown some positive trends and nothing must be done by either the political parties or any organisation of the state to disturb the fragile peace in the Valley. Thus, sacred national symbols must never ever be planned to be used as political props or in pursuit of narrow political agendas.
India confronts many cascading security challenges to its aspirations which can be met only by unity of action and a steely resolve tempered by maturity and wisdom of a large multi-cultural and multi-religious state. Peace and progress in Jammu and Kashmir is a litmus test of our statesmanship to ensure that our sacred tricolour eternally flies in all glory, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Lt. Gen. Kamal Davar raised the Defence Intelligence Agency and was deputy chief of the Integrated Defence Staff

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