SRINAGAR: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Wednesday hoisted the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, the nerve centre of the summer capital, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had announced to unfurl the tricolour, a move which was seen by the mainstream parties as provocative.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) had also called for ‘Lal Chowk Chalo’ Wednesday to counter the BJP flag hoisting announcement. The entire Lal Chowk area had been sealed from all sides and even mediapersons were not allowed to go there.
The CRPF, as announced earlier, hoisted the national flag at 8 a.m. on Palladium post at Lal Chowk. A CRPF spokesman Prabhakar Tripathi confirmed that the tricolour was unfurled on the post by the commandant of local batallion, posted in the area. He said this time no civilian could attend the function. “This is nothing new as we have been hoisting the flag on Palladium post since it has been set up there,” he said.
Released from custody after their high-pitched campaign for hoisting the national flag at Lal Chowk was thwarted, BJP leaders Ms Sushma Swaraj and Mr Arun Jaitley accused the Omar Abdullah government of “surrendering” to separatists.
Slamming the Jammu and Kashmir government, Ms Swaraj said, “This is an extraordinary situation. India completes 61 years of being a Republic.
This is the first Republic Day after Emergency when Leaders of Opposition of both Houses of Parliament were kept under arrest. We were taken into custody for wanting to hoist the tricolour in our own state of Jammu and Kashmir. Is that a crime?” she asked.
Mr Jaitley said both the Centre and the state government wanted to send a message to the separatists that the BJP leaders have been stopped to appease them. The two leaders held a press conference along with Mr Anant Kumar soon after being released in Kathua by the state government in the afternoon.
Ms Swaraj rubbished the invitation extended over phone by the Chief Minister, Mr Omar Abdullah to Mr Jaitley asking the BJP leaders to participate in the Republic Day celebrations in Srinagar. “Was he not aware that we were under arrest?” she asked adding, “our invitation is that you (Omar) join us and unfurl the national flag at Lal Chowk,” she said. Mr Arun Jaitley, Mr Ananth Kumar and Ms Sushma Swaraj later met their party workers in Kathua after their release and hoisted the national flag there.
Describing as “unfortunate” the detention of senior leaders, BJP president Mr Nitin Gadkari also rubbished charges that the party was playing politics over hoisting the national flag. “Some people say there is politics in hoisting the national flag at Lal Chowk. I don’t understand what politics can there be in hoisting the flag… This is not politics,” Mr Gadkari told reporters on the sidelines of the national flag hoisting function at the BJP headquarters in Delhi. He alleged that the Centre and Omar government were bowing to pressure from the separatists.
Likening BJP’s plan to hoist the flag to party ideologue Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s Kashmir campaign, senior leader Mr L K Advani said the agitation has brought to the forefront the issue of “fully integrating” Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. Dubbing the move of the Jammu and Kashmir government and the Centre to prevent its leaders from hoisting the national flag in Srinagar as “criminal,” BJP Wednesday said the party could move the court against the “unconstitutional and illegal” stand taken by the state administration.