Red Square or the red rag!

Hoisting of tri-colour in Lal Chowk may act as the proverbial red rag to the bull of “Azadi”. The act is nothing but a vote catching gimmick quite often indulged in by BJP!

The Indian tri-colour was first hoisted in Lal Chowk in 1948 when no less a person than Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India was present. He was flanked by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the charismatic colossal leader of Kashmir.

Almost 63 years back at this historical spot named after the Red Square of Moscow by BPL Bedi, the architect of Naya Kashmir Manifesto, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah embraced Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and recited a Persian verse, " Man tu shudam, tu man shudi; Ta Kas na Goyed, man degeram tu degeri" (I became you and you became I; so none could say you are separate from me"….. ) Nehru gave a pledge to a mammoth gathering of Kashmiris that they would be free to decide their future.

Incidentally, the official website of J&K Government carries photographs of this gathering and reproduces Pandit Nehru’s words, “India will never let down Kashmir!” Pandit Nehru did not keep his promise. On the contrary he deposed and imprisoned his friend. The rest of the story is the history of this unfortunate valley of Kashmir, a tragic and pathetic tale of betrayal and suppression. BPL Bedi had compared Kashmir’s peasant revolution to the October Revolution in Russia. In fact, he had borrowed many symbols and names. The symbol of plough was a near relative of sickle and hammer. The red flag was similar to the flag of the Russian revolutionaries and to top it all, was the name Lal Chowk or the Red Square of Moscow given to this historical spot.

However, thanks to Indian security forces, the place has got converted from the Moscow’s Red Square which was the pride of Russian Revolution into China’s Tiananmen Square, the global symbol of suppression of human rights and peoples’ resistance to this suppression. During the peak of militancy it had become probably the most violent town centre in the world but was never closed to public. It was only during last few years that the spot got highlighted once again as most of the “Azadi” marchers wanted to assemble here. This has made the place a symbol of Kashmir’s resistance to India even though it had started in 1947 as the symbol of Kashmir’s accession to India! The Indian Government was unnerved by the massive marches for “Azadi” (Independence) witnessed in recent years. Having a similar gathering at this spot where India’s greatest leader had given a promise to Kashmiris was considered a huge embarrassment. It was definitely a total reversal of history. Lal Chowk is an inalienable part of Kashmir’s recent history. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah must have addressed dozens of rallies at this spot. All the national and international dignitaries who visited Kashmir from time to time have been taken to this spot. It figures in every historical epoch connected with Kashmir since 1947.

The followers of the Hindutva philosophy who consider themselves extra nationalists or rather chauvinists have often felt that by hoisting the tri-colour here they would be able to show to the world that Kashmir is an integral part of India. It is considered by them to be a proof to show that the Indian writ runs in Kashmir. They attempted to do this twice earlier but with disastrous results. In fact, the hoisting of flag by Murli Manohar Joshi was a classic joke. He was taken to the spot in tight security after putting entire valley under the strictest curfew. In spite of this he had to face the rockets of the militants. Now, Anurag Thakur is again planning to repeat the show on the forthcoming Republic Day. However such gimmicks will not be able to suppress the sentiments and emotions of the people. On the contrary because of emotional and sentimental reasons they may give such a hurt which may deepen the alienation that has already reached the breaking point. This could very well be the proverbial last straw! One fails to understand the present regressive strategy of BJP. In fact, it was their own leader Vajpayee who kick started a peace and reconciliation movement in Kashmir. The present leadership seems to have totally abandoned him! There had already been a paradigm shift in Kashmir’s recent Popular Movement started in 1990. The upheaval of nineties was a result of the violence which had been triggered by the rigging of 1987 elections. Kashmiris have been aspiring for “Azadi” or “Freedom” for centuries. They made many attempts to attain it even during earlier rule of foreigners right from the Mughal times but could not succeed. The latest attempt was made in 1931 during the Dogra rule and the movement culminated into the famous “Quit Kashmir” slogan in 1946. However, the cataclysmic changes of 1947 in the sub-continent thrust Kashmiris in a logjam out of which they are unable to come out. For last 63 years they have been trying to reach the goal of total emancipation from time to time. In 1987 they had made an attempt to reach the goal through democratic means but the rigging of elections followed by a massive crackdown forced the youth to take up arms. Two decades of violence did not take them anywhere and they had now switched back to a peaceful movement having realised that after 9/11 all violent movements were bound to fail because of the menace of global terrorism. One would have thought that all the concerned authorities would welcome this paradigm shift and encourage the peaceful movement which would ultimately end in a dialogue. However, the concerned authorities both in Delhi and Srinagar instead tried to suppress brutally the peaceful movement. But this suppression did not solve the problem and the civil society as well as some parliamentarians convinced the government to go for peaceful dialogue with all concerned. While these efforts are on, the main opposition party to show down the government seems to be bent upon sabotaging these efforts.

The Hindutva leaders need to be told that any amount of force does not make a Kashmiri give up his aspirations. He is a great survivor. Apparently he may seem to compromise with the brutal authority but inside he continues to harbour strong anger and resentment which simmers on till he gets another opportunity to strike back! BJP may force the Government of India to bring a Kashmiri to his knees by excessive oppression but they will in the process lose the war to win the hearts and minds of the people. Kashmiris may seem to be beaten by the might of the prospective “Super-Power” but they are not down. In fact they appear to be more determined than before in their resolve, which the authorities may taste sometime in future. Whispers about it are already circulating among the youth in the valley! Kashmir’s famous historian Kalhana has said, “The country of Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit, but not by the force of soldiers”. One wonders why the Hindutva leaders especially the BJP stalwarts like Anurag Thakur planning to lead the race for hoisting the tri-colour and so fond of reviving Kashmir’s Hindu past have overlooked this historical saying!

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