Unease in the Valley over BJP 'yatra'

There was no public reaction when the youth wing of the BJP announced the ‘yatra.’ The issue again went unnoticed when the Jammu and Kashmir government decided not to allow such a programme.

“Hoisting or not hoisting the tri-colour by the BJP will make no difference. This issue is the creation of political parties, who want to come into limelight since the five month long civilian unrest of last year has subsided,” said Abdul Majid, a businessman.

Ashfaq Ahmad, a student, said hoisting national flag at Lal Chowk is not something new. “Security forces have been doing it every Republic day and Independence day. Even the handful of local BJP leaders hoisted the tri-colour a number of times in the past. If it was not an issue in the past why is it an issue now,” he said.

Inconvenience

Whether or not the BJP manages to hoists the flag, the common people would be put to a lot of inconvenience in the name of tightening of security arrangements. Some days ahead of Republic and Independence days, the whole Kashmir — particularly Srinagar is put under a siege. Surprise cordon, search operations, frisking and checking amid heavy deployment of security forces adversely affect the movement of people.

The venues of R Day and I Day functions are converted into fortress. On every R and I day, separatists call for a general strike. A curfew like situation is witnessed on the two national days, with men in uniform disallowing civilian movement.

“We do not beef up the security to discomfort the people. Doing so is our requirement,” said Nazir Mohammad, a police official. He added that in the past militants have targeted the R Day functions in Jammu and Srinagar.

It is not the first time that the BJP is trying this ‘trick.’ In 1992, then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi had hoisted the flag at Lal Chowk. Joshi along with a few leaders was flown by the state government to Srinagar amid tight security. Under a thick blanket of security, he hoisted the national flag with thousands of BJP workers and supporters, who were stopped at Jammu — watching it on television.

This time, after the youth wing of BJP announced to hoist the tri-colour, chief minister Omar Abdullah reacted angrily. He alleged that the BJP was bent upon disturbing peace in Kashmir again. He said: “When something bad happens in the valley, BJP accuses me. And now when everything is alright, they want to disturb the peaceful atmosphere.”

Senior separatist leader and chairman of JKLF, Mohammad Yasin Malik, threatened not to allow BJP to hoist the national flag and called a protest march towards Lal Chowk on January 26. His call was supported by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of moderate faction of Hurriyat.

Amid fiery statements, Mehbooba Mufti, president of the main opposition party, PDP claimed that the flag hoisting issue was like a fixed cricket match between the ruling National Conference (NC) and BJP. “Since both the parties were part of the NDA government at Centre in the past, they want to provide political advantage to each other now. The coalition government headed by NC wants to hide its failure by blowing the flag hoisting out of proportion. This issue may give some political advantage to BJP but the party is ruining the advantages achieved by the Vajpayee government in Kashmir,” she said.

The state government took the decision to disallow the BJP from flag hoisting after the chief minister held discussions with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union home minister P Chidambaram. The security agencies had also favoured disallowing the BJP yatra to maintain peace in Kashmir.

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