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Omar's gamble may not pay off

Inspite of clear orders to the police and other security agencies to foil BJP's "Ekta Yatra" in the interest of peace in Kashmir, this decision of the Omar Abdullah government offers no guarantee against re-eruption of violence in the Kashmir Valley.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2011 13:42 IST
Arun Joshi

Inspite of clear orders to the police and other security agencies to foil BJP's "Ekta Yatra" in the interest of peace in Kashmir, this decision of the Omar Abdullah government offers no guarantee against re-eruption of violence in the Kashmir Valley.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has declared the BJP's " yatra" aimed at hoisting national Tricolour at Lal Chowk on The Republic Day as a "threat to peace in Kashmir", as per its decision on Thursday. It has asked the security agencies that no programme that has the potential to disturb the peace should be allowed to take place.

The context was the hoisting of BJP's yatra and flag hoisting plan. But the moot question remains unanswered: whether foiling the hoisting of the national Tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar achieve that goal.

There are no immediate answers.But what is clear is that the BJP's flag hoisting is as much of politics as is the move behind stopping it.

BJP wants to play up the flag hoisting issue to "challenge the separatists," who have started hurling threats to all those seeking to celebrate the national festival- Republic day on January 26.

The ruling coalition,National Conference, in particular, want to prove a point that the " yatra" has the "potential of vitiating peaceful atmosphere in the state," and it was demonstratively working in the interest of peace.

Law Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar on Friday tried to underscore this point that the peace in Kashmir has been brought about by great efforts of the NC-led coalition government. He claimed that summer unrest in which "112 children were killed," was calmed due to the strenuous efforts of the NC government.

Between these two conflicting stands – BJP asserting the right to hoist Tricolour as Indians anywhere in the country and the separatists' plans to derail it, the state government is caught in a dilemma.

Every year Tricolour is hoisted at Lal Chjowk too. Paramilitary forces do it. Since 1991, with few exceptions , one or the other groups, Shiv Sena or Bajrang dal have been sending their small groups to Lal Chowk and hoisting the flag.

"I hoist the ( national flag) on August 15", Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told Hindustan Times.

On Republic Day the flag is hoisted all across the state, including Srinagar, so why do they want to hoist flag at Lal Chowk," he asked.

But a counter question that is being asked in the streets in Jammu is, if the flag is not hoisted at Lal Chowk, will the situation stay calm in Kashmir.

"There is no guarantee," an official admitted.

"We can only make efforts but what might ignite the trouble in 2011 is a secret that Kashmir summer unfolds at the last minute since 2008.," the official said requesting that should not be quoted.

The move of the government, instructing police to take all measures to ensure that there is no disturbance to peace, virtually amounts to telling the law enforcing agencies that no one should be seen at or around lal Chowk carrying Tricolour on the Republic Day with the intention to hoist it.

That order seems to have come in the wake of the claims of the Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha, whose president Anurag Thakur, is leading the march to Lal Chowk, that many of their activists have reached Srinagar and they would " unfurl the flag come what may".

It also speaks of the fears of the government, arising out of the fact that many BJP supporters from neighbhouring states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh would join the march – in both the states the party is either ruling or ruling in partnership- and they might take the routes to Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

" What happened in the aftermath of 1992 Ekta Yatra," Sagar noted, " is a known to everyone," implying that the situation deteriorated in the Valley.

Sagar and top leadership of National Conference were not in the Valley in 1990s- they had fled to Jammu . They returned only in 1996 only after elections in which National Conference was declared winner on most of the seats.

Until that time, and even during the NC regime, militants were calling shots.

Today, militancy is at its lowest ebb, and 1992 did not witness as much violence as was the case in the two preceding years or in 1993 and 1994.

But the street power of protests may be lying dormant at the moment, but it has the potential to re-erupt, like a volcano. Omar Abdullah has taken a gamble – despite his efforts to stop the yatra , it might happen.