Flagging Confidence: Waving The Tricolour In Kashmir

21January, 2011

A passenger, who had fought hard to secure a seat in an overly packed bus, temporarily left his seat to buy a cup of tea. Apprehending that his leaving the seat would result in loss of the privilege, he spread a handkerchief on the seat- – an indication that the owner of the hankie would return shortly to the seat.

To his utter shock, upon his return, he found a woman had taken the seat and his hankie now on the floor nearby. When the astonished man asked the woman why she had occupied the seat when a hankie was spread on the seat, the woman quipped, “So what? If you placed your hankie on top of this bus, does it become yours?” Dejected, the man walked away amid laughter of the fellow passengers.

You can go on an excursion to moon and place a flag there as a sign of your visit. You have every right, if you have the wherewithal, to do so. However, you cannot claim moons’ ownership by unfurling your flag on its surface. You have no moral right, even though you may have the power to do so. The very act that is purported to prove India’s ownership of Kashmir through hoisting of the tricolor at Lal Chowk has betrayed the underlying self-doubt about the lack of ownership in the occupied territory.

As soon as the BJP announced its plan, Kashmiris predictably said: “Thanks. But no thanks.” Simultaneously, the integral parts’ CM advocated that BJP refrain from disturbing ‘peace’ in Kashmir through its provocative grandstanding. Furthermore, the Indian army offered the local police help in keeping the BJP activists from their plan of hoisting a flag atop the Clock Tower.

Now, where in India can this happen? Where in India will the Indians ever want their national flag not hoisted at historical places such as Kolkata and New Delhi? Where in India will the army have a need to offer help to the police in preventing hoisting of the national flag atop historical places? The answer is nowhere. The Indians of all religions, all casts, and all political persuasions would undoubtedly welcome such a display of patriotic fervor. And, understandably so.

The tricolour is the symbol of national honour, pride, and dignity for a common Indian. We must all respect that, and any attempts to disrespect the Indian flag, in any form, are unbecoming of a self-respecting people. Having said that, nowhere in India has a CM or the army any role, let alone any need, in judging who hoists a flag and where. As per the amendments to the provisions of the Flag Code of India (2002), the Indian citizens have the right to unfurl the tricolour at any honourable station or post ‘anytime anywhere’, in keeping with the dignity of this national symbol.

Be that what it may, why does Kashmir politely decline this symbolic sham of hoisting of tricolour at Lal Chowk? Why do Kashmiris say: ‘Do not place the right flag on a wrong pole? Why do the CM and army have to prevent this ‘auspicious’ and heady event from happening? The answer is that Kashmir is not India. It is not Kolkata. It is not Chandigrah. It is not Jammu Tawi or Kathwa. To explain, permit me to borrow from late Jawahar Lal Nehru, who once thus addressed his critics:

[In dealing with Kashmir] “Do not think you are dealing with a part of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, or Gujarat. You are dealing with an area, historically and geographically,[different] in all manner of things … there has to be broad-minded acceptance of [these] facts…[The] integration comes of the mind and the heart and not of some clause [or a symbolic act] which you may impose on other people.”

Nehru Ji further added: “[It is] the people of Kashmir who must decide. And I say with all respect to our Constitution that it just does not matter what your Constitution says; if the people of Kashmir do not want it, it will not go there….The alternative is compulsion and coercion… The decision… ultimately lies with… [the] people in Kashmir, not…with [the people of India].”

You may note, Nehru Ji, perhaps unwittingly, called the Kashmiris the ‘other people’, and he was right! Kashmiris are not Indians; they are the ‘other’ people.

So, let this tamasha end. To hoist the tricolor in the territory of the “other people” who bear no allegiance to it, is tantamount to desecration of the flag. Those who may indulge, or have indulged in the past, in such an act should be tried in the court of law under the Flag Code of India (2002). If such a trial actually proceeds, one would be convinced that the Indians truly honour their tricolour. In the absence of such an intervention by the State, one would be amiss in not concluding that Flag Code of India (2002) is another sham among many other shams that India boasts of.

Let there be no error of judgment. The underlying message in flag hoisting at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk is not the show of integral ‘unity’ from Kashmir to Kanaykumari, rather it only betrays the underlying helplessness of the occupiers, and showcases the increasingly flagging confidence of the occupation. It is the sign of distress with regard to Kashmir that has been slipping from India over the years. As an analogy, the concept of the flag owes its origin to ships in distress. As is well-known, ships in distress wave flags in all directions to seek help for rescue. An Indian flag in the Red Square of Srinagar signals distressing moments of the occupation,the impending endgame in Kashmir. In any case, it will be a wrong flag at an inappropriate pole.