Ahead of the Independence Day celebrations, the iconic Clock Tower (Ghanta Ghar) at Lal Chowk in Srinagar was illuminated with colours of Indian tricolour on Friday (August 6). The development, which comes a day after the 2nd year anniversary of abrogation of Article 370, was confirmed on Twitter by the Mayor of Srinagar.
The official handle of the Mayor of Srinagar tweeted, “We have illuminated the Clock Tower (‘Ghanta Ghar’) at Lal Chowk in colours of the Tricolour ahead of Independence Day. New clocks fitted. Well done Team SMC (Srinagar Municipal Corporation).” Following the evaluation of the security situation, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) hoists the Indian flag atop the Clock Tower each year. However, this is the first time when the clock tower has been illuminated with the colours of the Indian flag. Besides Lal Chowk, the Zero Bridge was also illuminated in a similar fashion
Narendra Modi, the Ekta Yatra and unfurling of tricolour at Lal Chowk
Lal Chowk is considered a highly sensitive area in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The area, once under the control of Islamist separatists, is now easily accessible to the residents of the city. At the peak of Islamism in Jammu and Kashmir, ex-BJP President Murali Manohar Joshi had led the momentous ‘Ekta Yatra‘ and hoisted the Indian tricolour at the Lal Chowk. It was perhaps the most noticeable event of flag hoisting at the chaotic spot in Srinagar. The coordinator of the movement was none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even at that time, he was not just an ordinary party worker hitching a ride on the yatra.
The Ekta Yatra started at Kanyakumari on December 11, 1991, and it was scheduled to conclude on 26 January in Srinagar with the hoisting of the tricolour at the Lal Chowk. And this yatra was conceived, planned and organised by Narendra Modi, then an active party worker and a member of the National Election Committee of the party. He was designated as the convenor of the Yatra, not just a party worker participating in the same. Modi had also worked on organising the Rath Yatra of L K Advani two years earlier. A video clip from that time shows the valour, grit and determination of PM Modi against all threats to his life.
In a public address, he said, “The success of this yatra has jolted the terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. There are posters on Lal Chowk issuing threats against those trying to hoist the Indian tricolour there. They had challenged our valour (reference to mother’s milk) and warned that such people would be killed by the terrorists. Let me tell the terrorists now: Tomorrow is July 26. There are only a few hours left. Let’s see who has drunk the mother’s milk (an open challenge to terrorists).” As history would have it, the flag was hoisted on the same day by Murali Manohar Joshi. When he finally unfurled the national flag at Lal Chowk on Republic day in 1992, Narendra Modi was there just next to him, joining him in hoisting the flag.
The Promise of the Future: Revocation of Article 370 and impact
After hoisting the flag, the party president had introduced Narendra Modi as an “energetic and promising” party leader in front of the press, recognising his role in organising the Yatra. Revocation of Article 370 was the brainchild of BJP ideologue Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. And it was only under Modi 2.0 that the long-held dream of the BJP came to fruition. In the manifesto, BJP had promised to repeal Article 370 from the state of Jammu and Kashmir that gave it special status. On 5th August, the BJP-led Union government fulfilled the promise. The state was divided into two Union Territories, Ladakh, and Jammu & Kashmir, under Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act. The decision came into effect from 31st October 2019.
As a direct consequence, the incidents of stone-pelting saw an 87.13% drop in 2020, as compared to 2019 in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The data, presented by Director General of Police (J & K) Dilbag Singh in January this year, showed the impact that the abrogation of Article 370 had on the UT. Singh said, “There have been 255 stone-pelting incidents in 2020 as compared to the incidents in 2019 and the year (2020), witnessed an 87.31 per cent decline.” He further emphasised, “Law and order situation is well under control. Our resolve for 2021 is strengthening and consolidating peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.”
During this time, no civilian was killed in law and order incidents in Jammu and Kashmir. In a written reply, MoS (Home) G Kishan Reddy said that the relatives of those civilians, killed in terrorist attacks or cross-firing between armed forces and terrorists, were compensated with ₹1 lakh. The Minister of State for Home Affairs also informed that the number of terror incidents have declined significantly, following the abrogation of Article 370. “The number of terrorist incidents in J&K in 2019, 2020 & 2021(15th March) is 594, 244 and 21 respectively,” he added. Today, when the Clock Tower is illuminated with the colours in tricolour, we need to credit Narendra Modi for making the far-fetched dream possible both in 1992 and 2021.