Finally, the ‘Ekta Yatra’, led by the then BJP president Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and organised by Shri Narendra Modi, which started on December 11, 1992 from Kanyakumari and passed through 14 states, was accomplished on January 26, 1992 with the unfurling of the tri-colour at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. It put to rest all apprehensions in the minds of thousands of BJP workers and scores of other citizens. The hope that Kashmir will be an integral part of India was entrenched. The faith emboldened. The BJP’s slogan of ‘One People, One Nation’ got reinforced.
Prior to starting the Yatra, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi had made Shri Narendra Modi convener of the Yatra. Dr Joshi and other senior leaders had definitely felt the fire of `patriotism in Narendra Bhai. Narendra Bhai also started preparing for the journey in full earnest. Let the people of the country and the entire world realise for once and all that Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so. Another objective of the Yatra was to demolish the evil designs of the separatists and terrorists who wanted to crush the beautiful valley and set the saffron fields on fire.
Twenty Eight years have passed since the Ekta Yatra in 1992. the flame alighted in the hearts of Shri Modi kept burning. He was waiting for the right moment. And then came the historic decision of August 5, 2019
As the journey began on December 11, 1992 the birth day of Guru Teg Bahadur and Shaheed Bhagat Singh, from Kanyakumari apprehensions started to be built by statements of the Home Minister. ‘The Yatra will be stopped’. “Even if it reaches Delhi, it cannot go further”. The Yatra reached Delhi on January 20, 1992. Talks between the Government and BJP leaders started. After many rounds of negotiations the Home Minister categorically said, “We cannot provide any security arrangement in Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.” Dr Joshi reaffirmed his resolve—“Our Yatra shall reach Srinagar.” Neither the journey, nor the number of yatris nor the yatra route and final destination was altered. The Yatra had to reach Jammu through Delhi via Punjab and Haryana. The bus of the workers from Mathura was targeted by the terrorists in Punjab in which five patriots were shot dead and many others were injured. Again the apprehensions rose that many members of the saffron brigade will discontinue. But nothing of that sort happened. By January 24, lakhs of men women had reached Jammu. Everybody was ready to march to Srinagar. Who could stop those bravehearts from reaching Jammu who were committed to protect the crown of Mother India, Kashmir! Fresh rounds of negotiations between top leadership of BJP and the government began. The clouds of uncertainty about reaching Srinagar from Jammu again started hovering. But there had to be no looking back. People had bid farewell to their family members, taken blessings of their parents, had even written their wills before embarking on the journey—how could they look back! But what if the leaders ordered otherwise? How could the BJP workers break the discipline? How to proceed to Srinagar against the decision of the Party? However, at that moment the chains of discipline appeared to be weakening in controlling the surge in the hearts. Therefore, on January 24, in the huge historic rally in Jammu Parade Ground as Shri Narendra Modi started to narrate the bravery of 14 Gujarati youth accompanying him in the Yatra, his voice choked. He wept profusely. The entire crowd became emotional. Those teeming lakhs also wanted to go to Lal Chowk.
Shri Narendra Modi and Dr MM Joshi at the flag hoisting ceremony
at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on January 26, 1992
As the tallest leader Shri Atal Behari Vajapyee started dissuading workers by telling—“I myself will not go, so will most of you…” — he was cut short by a chorus of voices- “we shall go”. The sky reverberated with the determined decision of a lakh of people present there. Atal ji had to change the topic. Throughout the night the workers in different camps remained unmoved. In each camp the top leadership kept persuading them not to go. But they were not ready to give in. Finally, it was decided that only six buses will proceed with Joshi Ji. Now the question was how to choose from thousands of workers from each state? All differences between men, women, the aged and the youth was obliterated.
A group of seventy men and women along with Dr Joshi and the convener of Ekta Yatra Shri Narendra Modi was taken to Srinagar in a special aircraft. Seventy workers of BJP, including me and seven other women, were taken to Srinagar by 4.00 in the evening. We spent 19 hours in Srinagar. Amidst fear, panic and hope. “Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil me hai/Dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-qaatil me hai”, we had heard this slogan numerous times but only those who witnessed the unfurling of the tri-colour at Lal Chowk could feel it turning into reality. Inscribing one’s signature on the pages of history requires putting everything at stake and these BJP representatives put it all at stake in a span of few hours and achieved in equal measure.
The tri-colour has been unfurled on the Republic Day since 1951. Even on January 26, 1992, hundreds of flags were unfurled throughout the country. Millions across the country saluted the tri-colour. However, at 8.35 am the flag hoisting at Lal Chowk by Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, Shri Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders had realised the true meaning of the three colours of the flag.
The flag reached on the top and unfurled gloriously. Flower petals showering upon Dr Joshi, Shri Narendra Modi and their associates. All the eyes present were moist. The hearts overflowing with joy. And therefore, that historic, inexplicable, intangible feeling poured out from the eyes in the form of tears. Sentiments numbed, words lost. Slogans had assumed meaning, they had come alive.
‘Vande mataram’! “Jis Dharti par Khoon Baha, Yah (and not Vah) Kashmir Hamara Hai.” “Jahan Hue Balidaan Mookerjee Yah (and not Vah) Kashmir Hamara Hai.”
The tri-colour has been hoisted on Republic Day since 1951. Even on Jan. 26, 1992, lakhs of flags were hoisted in the country. But the flag hoisting at Lal Chowk by Dr Joshi, Shri Modi and others at 8.35 am realised the true meaning of the three colours of the flag
The return journey to the airport through the buses began. The route including the armed personnel guarding the deserted valley was the very same, but the feelings had changed. Just 19 hours ago, at 4.30 pm on 25th January, when our convoy crossed them their faces appeared sombre; a palpable tension of performing their duty of successfully securing us through our journey hanging around. While returning each and every Jawan greeted the patriots by waving his hand. Congratulated them. Their faces brightened. As if they were saying- “You have lived up to your resolve—we will further fulfil your mission by protecting Kashmir.” We felt the value of time. We were the same human beings a day before. But then the Kashmir Valley was silent. The Chinar trees seemed silently looking at us. While returning even the silence appeared to have got words. Even the Chinar trees seemed standing high with pride for our patriotism and bravery.
What if even the flag was hoisted? We were never sure of our safe return. So, some women colleagues including me wrote letters to their relatives in the midnight. Wills were written in the name of children.
As we descended on Jammu airport we found Shri Lal Krishna Advani, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and Rajmata Scindia with garlands in their hands. It was a thrilling moment with moist eyes. Some people wept profusely. Narendra Modi was one among them. I stole a glance of his eyes while he was unfurling the tri-colour. A resolve was taking shape in my heart—a day will come when we will hoist the flag on each January 26 at Lal Chowk of Srinagar. While dissuading the sisters from going to Srinagar on the afternoon of January 25 Shri Lal Krishna Advani had told, “those who have been chosen for contingent to Srinagar, I am not sure whether it is party’s blessing or curse for them.”
As I returned after hoisting the flag I told him—“Advani ji, it was nothing but Party’s blessing for us.” He was smiling. Through this Ekta Yatra, the BJP was successful of giving the message of ‘One People, One Nation’ to masses. The message was emboldened and further consolidated.
Many people asked—“How chilly it was there?” Whether it was chilly or not, we could hardly feel that. It seemed as if the entire valley, the mountains, the trees and the glassy houses had got frozen in a large painting. I wished, we could meet the local people there; we could spend a few moments with them and share our feelings! I wish we could tell them that this Kashmir, the land of Gods, is the head and the crown of Mother India. It is our sacred duty to keep it high.
Twenty eight years have passed since that Yatra. But the flame alighted in the hearts of Shri Narendra Modi and lakhs of workers kept burning. Modi ji was waiting for the appropriate moment and favourable conditions. And then came the historic decision on August 5, 2019 which today the world is witnessing. “Jahan Hue Balidaan Mukharjee, Vah Kashmir Hamara Hai. Vah Saara Ka Saara Hai.” The slogan has become a reality.
(The article was originally written after the completion of the Ekta Yatra in 1992)