Why flying the state flag is not a separatist issue in J&K

Naseer Ganai
Naseer GanaiJan 06, 2016 | 17:45

Why flying the state flag is not a separatist issue in J&K

Since its alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the impression in Kashmir Valley is that the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has been true to its political ideology, while the PDP has lost the plot.

The latest example of "working relations" between the two parties could be gauged by their understanding of a verdict by a single judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which directed all constitutional authorities to hoist the state flag.

The high court also left it to the state legislature to decide on doing away with the nomenclature of the governor of the state and proposed it could replace it with the Sadr-e-Riyasat. The judgment created excitement in certain sections in the Valley especially in National Conference circles. That is it. The single judge had not said something unconstitutional.

There is already a resolution passed by the state assembly for greater autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir and restoration of the pre-1953 position. The autonomy resolution was passed by the Farooq Abdullah-led government in 2000.

The resolution had called for restoration of all powers taken away from the state since the Delhi agreement of 1952.

In clause IV of the Delhi agreement, the Centre had agreed that the state should have its own flag, and in clause V, there was complete agreement over the position of the Sadr-e-Riyasat to be elected by the state legislature itself, instead of being a nominee of the government or President of India.

The Delhi agreement was attacked repeatedly. On November 24, 1966, the governor replaced the Sadr-e-Riyasat (President) after the State Constitution had been amended on April 10, 1965 by the Sixth Amendment and finally on July 23 1975 through a mere executive order under Article 370, the Constitution of India was amended to bar the state assembly from restoring the 1965 position.

Given the history of the state and continuous erosion of its special position, the high court judgment would not have reversed the historical clock overnight. But without giving any consideration of being in the coalition with a regional party that calls for self-rule and for an elected governor for the state, the BJP apparently felt the judgment was against its political thought.

BJP leader and former top police counter insurgency officer Farooq Khan rushed to the division bench of the high court in Jammu without having even an attested copy of the single judge order and filed an appeal.

Farooq Khan pleaded that, as a police officer, he has been fighting against militancy and separatists and now he was doing the same politically as if the single bench judgment was the announcement of an insurgency and hoisting of the state flag was a symbol of that insurgency.

Khan as a police officer, as per provisions, might have saluted the state flag wherever and whenever it was required. He didn't think then that it created a nation within a nation and didn’t resign on account of it. But now he feels otherwise.

There was no reaction to the issue of state flag from the separatists. Even when a case of restoring honour of the state flag was taken to the court in 2013 by a former forest official, Abdul Qayoom Khan, Kashmir Bar Association, which calls Kashmir a disputed territory and seeks implementation of the United Nations resolution to resolve it, didn’t provide any legal help to the petitioner.

It was a non-issue for the Bar. It was pro-India issue. Separatists are seeking azadi from Indian rule and they consider the state flag symbolic of that rule whereas regional pro-India parties have been struggling to keep the vestiges of Kashmir’s autonomy within the Indian Union intact, of which the state flag is part.

In this game, the PDP lost the plot when a local BJP leader decided to take on a judgment that calls for hoisting of the state flag, making the PDP's political position untenable. The PDP, which claims to have a grand vision of self-rule for Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian Union, has no answer except silence as its ally objects to even hoisting of the state flag.

Last updated: January 06, 2016 | 18:10
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