Maximizing The Impact

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Maximizing The Impact 

Make Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav A People’s Movement

Involve Kashmir Civil Society In Celebrations 

 

 

 

 

The nation is observing “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” since March 2021. This is the 75-week countdown to our 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2023. It is befitting that a host of events and programs involving the people have been made part of the celebrations.

Recently, the Prime Minister called for hoisting national flag in every household across the country with the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign. There has been mixed response to the call. The Opposition parties targeted the ruling BJP for what they called the “hijacking of the national flag”. Accusations and counter accusations occupied the headlines in the national media. As the Independence Day drew close, the voices for and against grew louder.

The initial thrust of the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign was perhaps for Kashmir. It has wrapped up the entire nation in fervour. The Tiranga has been zestfully hoisted on housetops across the country. In addition, from rickshaws and auto-rickshaws to tempos, cars, buses and trucks, all Indians are proudly displaying their love for the national flag.

The campaign is primarily symbolic, and symbolic gestures are very important in the context of Kashmir. For the last two years, the government institutions – particularly the Military establishment – has spearheaded the campaign for hoisting the Tricolour at all major instillations which have historic, strategic or cultural significance for Kashmir. This is a major shift.

How The Bizarre Was Normalized

Till recently, militants, OGWs and their separatist associates would indulge with massive symbolism by raising Pakistan’s national flag on its Independence Day, viz August 14. They would observe August 15, India’s Independence Day, as black day.

Their explosive utterances on Pakistan’s Independence Day had a significant impact on young minds across the length and breadth of Kashmir valley. Pakistan’s flag would be visible in every nook and corner. There was no serious attempt on the part of the government to take action against these brazen illegitimate acts. Raising the Pakistani flag in Kashmir was normalized. A section of youth started identifying with that flag.

Post abrogation of article 370 situation changed and those who indulged in unlawful activities came under scanner and heard of them were booked under seditious laws. The crackdown on antinational elements saw a steep decline in celebrating Pakistan Independence Day. No there are no call for observing the Independence Day of India as black day and not many people dare to raise Pakistani flag.

 

The Symbolism Is Important

The symbolic gesture of erecting the Tricolor at almost allimportant instillations, in government offices and autonomous bodies marks a shift in Kashmir’s political bible. It is now the Tricolor which flies high.

That said, what is perhaps strategically unwarranted is the thrust of the military and para military forces on the installation of the Tricolor here and there. The patriotism and nationalism of the security forces is beyond question. There is absolutely no doubt that the Tricolor flies high because of the supreme sacrifices of the security forces of India.

What I am advocating is the higher involvement of the civil society in the greater visibility of the Tricolour in Kahsmir. Rather than leading the campaign of hoisting the Tricolor in every nook and corner of Kashmir valley, the security forces should have encouraged the Kashmir civil society to take the charge.

We are aware that in some parts of Kashmir, particularly in the north, the civilian population have enthusiastically participated in the Har Ghar Tiranga  Program. The jubilation is not the same in other parts of Kashmir valley. It is mostly the security forces who are involved in the campaign. Public participation is not what it should have been.

The historical Lal Chowk in Srinagar, of course, has become the hub of Tricolor hoisting events. Whether it is BJP or some NGOs, all are within their rights to show their love and affection towards the national flag. What was unlawful and illegitimate was the hoisting of the Pakistani flag at the historic Clock Tower at Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

For greater involvement of the civil society with the Tricolour, schools and the Higher Education Department should have been associated closely with the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav program. It would have been appropriate to enthuse the children about the Tricolour and make them aware of the significance of participation in the Independence Day celebrations.

Involve Education Department, Schools

As of now, the involvement of the school management, the teachers and the students is restricted only to the events held to mark August 15 and January 26. The schools are directed to issue orders that the teachers and children must be present in their respective educational institutions on the morning of August 15 for the flag hoisting ceremony. The compliance is nearly 100%.

We do not need to elaborate on whether it is out of love or fear of the state that teachers and students comply with the directions to celebrate the major national days. The fact is that the Tricolour has been proudly hoisted in Kashmir for the last three years.

What would have actually worked much would have been the involvement of the School Education Department in the entire program, instead of seeking their involvement in just the event on August 15.

Complete involvement of school children by raising their passion for a patriotic outlook shall be strategically significant for Kashmir. It shall incentivize love for the nation, and will help in changing the collective mindset.

We have still one year left for the culmination of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav campaign. It shall be appropriate if the Education Department is closely involved in the overall celebrations. This shall go a long way in de-radicalization of the vulnerable young minds.

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