Political parties change colours between Srinagar & Jammu
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU: Contrary to the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s rhetorical outpouring in favour of the erstwhile State flag and against hoisting of the National Flag on all government offices and buildings in the Union Territory, the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party’s headquarters in Jammu has been decorated with just one party flag surrounded by four National Flags. Significantly, the erstwhile State flag is completely missing on its faÃ§ade.
In her speeches and interviews in Kashmir, the PDP President has been critical of the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s recent orders making hoisting of the National Flag mandatory on all government offices and buildings, for the first time after 1947. Interacting with the mediapersons in Srinagar on Wednesday, Mehbooba asserted that the Indian National Flag was being installed on the government offices out of âuncertainty and insecurityâ.
Many of her sympathisers in intelligentsia have also dismissed the LG’s unprecedented order as an act of âenforced nationalismâ. In unison, a vociferous pseudo-separatist ecosystem has been contending that patriotism and nationalism must flow out of one’s heart and attempts of âcoercionâ would be always counterproductive.
Most of these voices of opposition, however, lack credibility as none of them has ever objected to the coercion employed by the separatists and terrorists in everything from enforcing Islamic dress codes to waving off the Pakistani national flags across Kashmir in the last 31 years. The last of such demonstrations were witnessed in Mehbooba’s regime in 2016-18.
On several occasions after 1989, the Kashmiris have witnessed the Pakistani national anthem being sung or played under the fear of the gun, PoK flag waved at rallies and congregations and installed on lofty towers and tree tops. There were no questions of âenforced nationalismâ when even thousands of the victims of gun culture were forced to join such demonstrations in 2008, 2010 and 2016.
Apparently playing to the galleries, the PDP leaders have not installed an Indian National Flag at their party headquarters on Residency Road in Srinagar or elsewhere in the valley. In a sharp contrast, however, they have made it a point to install not one but four Indian National Flags together at the PDP’s Jammu office in Gandhi Nagar. In order to stand politically correct in the Dogra land, they have not installed the erstwhile State flag there.
The red colour State flag with a white emblazoned plough and three white vertical stripes behind its handle became redundant after the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill was passed by the Parliament and confirmed by the President of India in August 2019. The special constitutional status enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir out of Article 370 and 35-A was withdrawn and the State was broken into the two UTs of J&K and Ladakh. On 25 August 2019, the State flag, flying alongside the National Flag, was removed from the roof terrace of the Civil Secretariat in Srinagar.
While being in coalition with the BJP, then Chief Minister Mehbooba warned New Delhi in 2017 that abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A would âweaken the nationalist forcesâ and âIndia will not get a shoulder to carry its National flag in the Stateâ. Her speech at the conference organised by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals in New Delhi on 29 July 2019 raised many eyebrows across the country.
Mehbooba was on the forefront of a political resolution, titled Gupkar Declaration, warning New Delhi of grave consequences of the proposed abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A. She was among the top mainstream leaders who were jailed for several months.
Even after her release from the 20-month-long ‘house arrest’ in October 2020, Mehbooba asserted that her party would neither accept the status quo nor participate in any elections until “everything that has been snatched away from us on 5 August 2019, is restored”. At her first interaction with the media after her release, she placed the erstwhile State flag on her table and asserted: “When this flag of ours is restored, we will raise that flag [the tricolour] also. But we will not raise any other flag till the time our flag, which was robbed from us, is back in our hand”.
“Hamara Uss Jhande Se Rishta Is Jhande Ne Banaya Hai [‘our relationship with the tricolour was built by the state flag’], it is not independent of this flag,” Mehbooba reportedly said.
However, the PDP chose to become a constituent of the political amalgam Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) and participated in the District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir. It bagged 27 seats out of an aggregate of 280. Currently in the worst crisis of its 22-year-long existence, PDP will have to choose its colours in J&K’s changing electoral politics.