Tuesday, January 26, 2010

First time in 18 years

No flag hoisting at Lal Chowk
SRINAGAR, Jan 26: For the time in last two decades there was no Republic Day celebration at Lal Chowk by the paramilitary troopers and neither was the tri-colour hoisted by them atop the historic clock tower.
While not much importance is usually given at the state government level to the hoisting of the tri colour at Lal Chowk as it exclusively remains the affair of paramilitary forces. Official sources said the CRPF, having the camp, at the Lal Chowk did not hoist the flag and held the function for security reasons. Lal Chowk, which recently witnessed 23 hours long gunfight that left two militants and a cop dead wore a deserted look, and CRPF troopers were in a state of alertness.
The hoisting of tri-colour on Republic Day functions in Lal Chowk by the troopers had almost become a custom in the last two decades of militancy. The celebrations of Republic Day and hoisting of tri-colour at Lal Chowk had become a practice after January 26, 1992, when the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Murli Manohar Joshi unfurled the tricolour on the clock tower. Joshi’s unfurling of the flag came two years after insurgency had erupted in the valley in 1989. Srinagar’s business hub was in a state of uneasy calm as people remained indoors due to a shutdown call by separatists and the heavy presence of police and CRPF. During last two decades the troopers used to have their own RD celebration in Lal Chowk and would distribute sweets and sing the national anthem, which would be followed by the hoisting of the national tri-colour on the clock tower. The historic Lal Chowk has witnessed lots of militancy related violence in the last two decades and was always at the centre of political activities, right since partition. Lal Chowk is named after the central marketplace in Moscow. Lal means Red and Chowk is Square. It was a group of passionate Communists in Srinagar who thought of the name Lal Chowk after Lenin seized power in Moscow in 1917. As the clock tower, which never shows the correct time, ticks at the centre, Lal Chowk seems to be in a time warp with the past continually intruding into the present. Four years after the militancy erupted in 1989, a part of Lal Chowk was gutted in a fire, allegedly caused by CRPF men during an incident on April 10, 1993. Many civilians were killed with bullets as people were fleeing their homes. At least 60 houses, over 200 business stores and five huge commercial buildings were destroyed in the blaze. The half burnt Palladium theatre, which houses the paramilitary camp of CRPF, still carries the burnt scars of the 1993 arson even though surrounding shops and complexes have been reconstructed. Since then, the clock has silently watched many flags, even the Pakistani flag being hoisted from time to time.

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