No hoisting of Tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk

A break in 20-year-old tradition

No official reason was cited for not hoisting the national flag in Lal Chowk, which recently saw a 22-hour terrorist siege. The authorities last evening eased security restrictions in the city to lessen inconvenience to the people. Police and paramilitary forces remained deployed in strength but checking of vehicles and frisking of pedestrians was restricted to a few places.

“We have not lowered the guard but several steps have been taken to avoid unnecessary harassment of the people. Instead of random checking at every half a km in the city, the vehicles were searched at a few places particularly at the entry points,” officials said on Monday.

While the Jammu and Kashmir capital was otherwise incident-free, the Line of Control in the Akhnoor sector witnessed exchange of gunfire between terrorists and BSF troops trying to prevent a major infiltration bid from across the other side. Pakistani troops opened fire and fired a rocket at BSF outposts in Kanachak.

A BSF spokesman said the security men noticed some movement from the Pakistani side as a group of militants was trying to infiltrate into the Indian side. Even though they were asked to go back, the militants opened fire in return and an exchange of fire ensued.

Pakistani troops also opened fire towards Indian posts and four BSF posts were targeted. A rocket fired from across the border landed just in front of a post. However, no one was injured.

A BSF spokesman said the Pakistani troops wanted to facilitate the infiltration of militants. He said hundreds of Pakistan-based militants were waiting to cross over to the Indian side through the Akhnoor sector.

Recently, the security forces had foiled another attempt by militants to infiltrate into the Indian side by cutting the fencing along the border.

Amid tight security cover and a separatist sponsored general strike, the Republic Day functions passed off peacefully in Kashmir. The general strike and the tight security arrangements paralysed normal life in the Valley. But what was striking was that the tricolour was not unfurled on the clock tower, popularly known here as “Ghantaghar” in Lal Chowk on Republic Day and Independence Day since 1991. On January 26, 1992, the then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi had hoisted the National Flag at Lal Chowk, marking the end of his 46 day-long “Ekta Yatra.”
Consequently, Governor N N Vohra unfurled the national flag at Moulana Azad Stadium in Jammu where he asked the militants to shun violence and join the peace process.

“We must bring an early end to these unfortunate phases of agitation and confrontation. Those, who hold contrary beliefs, should come forward to participate in a meaningful dialogue,” he said.

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