Keeping aside the appeals to abandon its plans of hoisting the tricolour at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on January 26, the BJP has its own reasons to stop its ‘Tiranga Yatra’: peace and national interest, which it wants to achieve. All it has to do is look back to what it did when the party was in power.
In February 1999, former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee undertook a bus journey to Lahore to break the ice on Kashmir. Despite the Kargil war later that year, which killed his initiative, he did not stop. Despite the massacre of more than 100 people on July 31, Vajpayee declared that the talks with Kashmiri separatists would be held within the parameters of humanity. And he kept his word.
The Vajpayee government held talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen in August 2000. Unfortunately, vested political interests didn’t let the talks continue. That wasn’t all. The BJP again picked up the threads in November 2000 when it announced the first ‘Ramzan ceasefire’ against militants. Ramzan got over in December — by the time Lashkar-e-Tayyeba had made its first attempt at a fidayeen attack at Red Fort — but the ceasefire lasted till May 31, 2001. It proved to be a futile exercise, as militants regrouped and fidayeen attacks became the norm.
That initiative ended but another started with an invite to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to visit India and discuss Kashmir. The fate of the Agra summit of July 2001 is now history. Even at the height of tensions on the borders, following the terrorist assault on Parliament in December 2001, Vajpayee did not see any “clouds (of war)” in May 2002.
There was no talk of flag hoisting all these years, until now when the flag has been picked up by Anurag Thakur, a young BJP MP. When people are not ready, unfurling flags don’t win hearts and minds. The separatists in the Valley have their own agenda. The bitter truth of the Valley is that even after 62 years of independence, there are not even 62 Indians. Those who were have either fled or have been silenced. It’s a psychological battle and that’s the message that Vajpayee gave on April 18, 2003, to a crowd waving green flags embossed with a pen and an inkpot (The People’s Democratic Party’s flag, which is a reincarnation of the flag of the Muslim United Front) in Srinagar.
He stunned his audience who cheered his offer of “extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan”. The dividends were there for all to see: a ceasefire on the borders came into effect in November 2003 and the foundation for a composite dialogue with Pakistan was laid on the sidelines of the January 2004 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Islamabad. In the same month the dialogue between the Kashmiri separatists and the Centre started. It was for the first time there was a dialogue between the Hurriyat Conference and the Centre. It was the then Deputy PM LK Advani who held two rounds of talks with the separatists.
Coming back to 2011, it’s ironic that while it’s the same faces, the approaches have changed. And people are wondering why.