Tricolour at 8 am, rebel flags at 4 pm Avijit Ghosh|

16 08 2008


Courtesy: Times of India Epaper

Avijit Ghosh|TNN


Srinagar: At exactly 8am, CRPF hoisted the Indian tricolour at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar on Independence Day. At 3.45pm, Lal Chowk wore a totally different look. Hundreds of slogan-shouting protesters swarmed the area and at 4pm planted the flags of Jamaat-e-Islami (which looks like the Pakistani flag) and the terrorist outfit, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, on top of the same tower where the Indian flag had been hoisted.

If one were to go by the symbolism of the spectacle at Lal Chowk, the Valley’s a l i e n at i o n from the Indian Union seemed complete. One of the slogans of the protesters drove the m e s s a g e home— “Jiyo, jiyo Pakistan, hum hain Pakistani.” Other slogans included “Islam Zindabad,” “Lad ke lenge azadi” and “Allah-u-Akbar.”

The crowds had a free hand through much of Friday. They were aggressive in their gestures, but did not resort to violence. Driving around the city, it was obvious that CRPF’s presence was vastly reduced, especially in old Srinagar area. Police too remained mere onlookers as the protesters kept jumping and screaming slogans at Lal Chowk for at least 20 minutes.
In the evening, there was news of police firing in the Habba Kadal area in which more than 20 protesters were injured. Between 8pm and 9pm, the city observed a blackout— rather was forced to do so as activists went around enforcing it at buildings where lights were switched on. What happened to the Indian national flag at Lal Chowk? Prabhakar Tripathi, the CRPF PRO, said the national flag was
taken off around 10.00am to protect it from rain. Apart from Lal Chowk, the national flag was also hoisted by governor N N Vohra at Bakshi Stadium.

In the afternoon after the namaz, the demonstrators spilled out into the streets from nooks and crannies of Srinagar. Many protesters carried black flags; a few wore black armbands. A majority of them were young—in the 15-30 age group. Women and children too marched in the procession raising slogans for “azadi’’.

Around 1pm in the Safa Kadal area, loudspeakers blared out from mosques, “humko chahiye azadi’’. A procession on M a u l a n a Azad Road a ro u n d 3.30pm had at least 5,000 p e o p l e. A ro u n d 2.45pm, before the namaz at Jamia Masjid in old S r i n a g a r town was over, a bunch of 15 women in burqas burned the tricolour.

T he women shouted: “Bharat teri maut aye, Millat aayee, Millat aayee.’’ When asked, one of them identified herself as a member of Dukhtaran-e-Millat, a pro-separatist women’s organization. Their action spurred the young. They danced shoulder to shoulder. And they shouted pro-Pakistan slogans at the top of their voices.

In his speech at the mosque, APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the protests would continue till Monday. Which means shops will continue to remain closed. On Saturday, there is a ceremony called Rasm-e-Chahram (fourth day of mourning) at Pampore, about 15km from Srinagar, for Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who was killed in police firing. People from different parts of the state are expected to reach there, making it another massive gathering.

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