‘As followers pushed to get close, the pole broke in several places and the flag tumbled down onto Mr. Joshi’

History repeats itself, and we learn so little from it. Or rather, we learn too much from it. I am excerpting below about half the text of a report dated 27 January 1992, written by EDWARD A. GARGAN in The New York Times, describing in detail Murli Manohar Joshi’s hoisting of the Indian flag in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. Wish I had a picture!

He [Murli Manohar Joshi] had begun his trek, which he named Pilgrimage for Unity, 44 days before at India’s southernmost point. But the inability of the security forces to protect even their highest officials made it clear that there was no way, despite the presence of several hundred thousand troops in the Vale of Kashmir, to protect a convoy of cars and buses filled with zealous Hindus. So Mr. Joshi and a small contingent of his closest supporters were flown here on Saturday night.

By daybreak the army had erected a 15-foot-high makeshift white flagpole on a low dais in the center of the city’s central square, Lal Chowk, and covered it with orange, brown and red Kashmiri carpets. At the flagpole’s tip, a tightly folded Indian flag dangled from a halyard.

Then, less than an hour before Mr. Joshi was due to arrive, there were two thunderous explosions, which the army said appeared to be detonations of rockets fired by guerrilla groups.

Suddenly, two olive-drab army buses lumbered into the square, which was empty except for soldiers and a small crowd of journalists. About 70 of Mr. Joshi’s supporters stepped gingerly from the buses, uneasily eyeing the huge military presence.

Four white sedans sped into the square, and Mr. Joshi, in a traditional Kashmiri feran, or woolen cape, and saffron scarf, hurried toward the flagpole. He began waving an Indian flag, which he tried to mount on a collapsible flagpole that a supporter supplied. But as followers pushed to get close, the pole broke in several places and the flag tumbled down onto Mr. Joshi.

National Anthem Is Sung

Undetterred, he moved to the army’s flagpole and tugged on the halyard, unbundling the flag above him, releasing a shower of yellow, blue and red confetti that had been folded with the banner. Then he and his followers sang the national anthem, bringing even the soldiers to precise attention.

Moments later, Mr. Joshi was hustled back to his car and rushed to the air force helicopter that was to carry him home. He was in Lal Chowk for exactly 11 minutes.

Before boarding the helicopter, Mr. Joshi declared that he had accomplished his mission.

“The people of Kashmir,” he said, “have understood the message that the country is behind the idea of national unity and solidarity, and it is useless to fight against democratic forces of the country. They will understand that it is no use to take to the politics of the gun. It is of no use to be misguided by a neighboring country.” Rebels Derides Visit

But guerrilla groups greeted Mr. Joshi’s hasty visit to Srinagar with contempt. In a telephone interview this afternoon, Zainul Abideen, a spokesman for the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the guerrilla organization that seems to enjoy the broadest support among the four million residents of the Indian-held part of Kashmir, said the Hindu leader had abandoned his plan to complete his trek by road because of the guerrillas’ threats.

“We don’t give any credence to the hoisting of the flag in the presence of security personnel,” added Mr. Abideen, who claimed responsibility for the bombing of police headquarters on Friday. “It is a defeat for Mr. Joshi. The flag itself fell on his head.” [“Airlifted Hindu Nationalists Fly India’s Flag in Kashmir”]

See also:

Sameer Bhat: The Flag Bearers
Siddharth Varadarajan: The Fabric of Belonging
Indrajit Hazra: Rude Little Patriots

2 thoughts on “‘As followers pushed to get close, the pole broke in several places and the flag tumbled down onto Mr. Joshi’”

  1. BJP’s ‘brain fart’ (courtesy Sameer Bhat) to unfurl the tricolor in Lalchak is actually aimed to nurture Lalkrisna Advani’s dream to hoist the flag at Lal Killa before the charioteer of death and destruction of nineties is forced to retire like the ‘mukota’ Vajpai. BJP is neither interested in winning the hearts and minds of valley people nor in national unity and solidarity.
    The saffron brigade’s cynical game is unmistakable. It wants to build up a Hindu hysteria against the Muslims of Kashmir and by default, the community in rest of the country so that once again it can pick up the thread of its pre-Babri politics, refurbish its claims as sole spokesman for Bharat and harvest it in coming polls.
    Sidharth Varadarajan is right. Kashmiries must be forgiven for thinking that the nation, which is so emotional in its claims on the contested land, has actually forsaken them. Congress leadership and the prime minister didn’t bother to visit the valley, listen to the gored people and put some balm of their fresh wounds considering that it would only legitimize the stone-pelters and Azadi brigade.
    The parliament would been have rocked if 100 youth were killed in police/crpf firing in such a short period in other parts of the country. But the Opposition joined the nationalist consensus to turn blind eye to the Kashmiri angst. The xenophobes in media with the likes of Arnab Goswami are busy in making Yasin Mallik a hardliner while painting the saffron rastrawadis as bunch of bleeding heart nationalists is only aggravating alienation in Kashmir.
    The Lefts who took the initiative to reach out failed to demand the scrapping of Armed Forces Special Power Act full-throatily fearing the anti-national stigma and electoral backlash in their fiefdoms.
    In this scenario, the liberal India’s cherished dream that someday Kashmiris themselves will flock together voluntarily to Lal Chak to hoist the tricolor has already been reduced to a cruel joke.

  2. Hahah while they were mucking around with academia, the Hindutva waalahs were at least creative. This current brain fart (love this term!) is just a rehash of previous madness; will probably end the same way.

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