It is a momentous occasion in the history of India that Jammu & Kashmir’s “DOOSRA NISHAN” will not flutter anymore in the beautiful skies of Jammu & Kashmir. In the bloody history of J&K, it will just remain a mere footnote.
It was on June 7, 1952, the ‘State Flag’ was adopted in the Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir. It was for the first time that day was officially celebrated as the ‘State Flag Day’ every year thereafter. For every year after that, the State flag has always been there as ‘DOOSRA NISHAAN’. Even on June 7, 2019, this State Flag was there.
But on August 5, 2019, constitutional amendments were introduced and the State Flag became a relic of the past. So it will be for the first time in 2020 on June 7 that the State Flag will not be found anywhere on any buildings or any vehicles.
Under Article 370, Jammu & Kashmir had its own flag, which was red in colour with three equidistant white vertical stripes and a white plough. The three stripes represented the state’s three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
In 1952, an agreement was reached between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah in the context of Jammu & Kashmir State Flag. Although Jammu & Kashmir acceded to India in October 1947, negotiations on the status of the State with regard to India continued well into 1952. However, a meeting between the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, the founder of the National Conference, led to the drafting of an agreement which defined the contours of J&K’s autonomy.
It is quoted as follows: “The Union Government agreed that the State should have its own flag in addition to the Union flag, but the State Government agreed that the State flag would not be a rival of the Union flag; it was also recognised that the Union flag should have the same status and position in Jammu and Kashmir as in the rest of India, but for historical reasons connected with the freedom struggle in the State, the need for continuance of the State flag was recognised”.
The agreement provided that J&K’s flag could fly side-by-side with the Tricolour. Interestingly, experts claim that there is no signed document of the Delhi Agreement available anywhere.
In 1956, J&K adopted a separate State constitution, under which it was permitted to fly its own flag. As quoted in the Jammu & Kashmir Constituent Assembly official report, Assembly debate, part 1, first volume (1951-1955), Sheikh Mohd Abdullah moved the resolution to adopt a separate flag for J&K, “Resolve that the National Flag of the Jammu & Kashmir State shall be rectangular in shape and red in colour with three equidistant vertical strips of equal width next to the staff and a white plough in the middle with its handle facing the strips. The ratio of width to the length of flag shall be 2:3”.
Later Mir Qasim, a prominent leader of Jammu & Kashmir, who also ruled the State as Chief Minister from 1971 to 1975, proposed an amendment. “That the words ‘National’ occurring before the word ‘Flag’ in the first line of the resolution be deleted.”
He said, “Because this flag was first prepared by the National Conference, it runs by the name of National flag. The members of the very same National Conference who are now at the helm of affairs now, presented it as the State Flag. Therefore, my submission is that the word ‘National’ occurring before the word ‘Flag’ be deleted.”
A Dream Comes True
After Jammu & Kashmir merger into Indian Union was passed, a slogan was coined, “Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan, aur do Nishan nahi chalenge (There cannot be two Constitutions, two Prime Ministers and two flags in one nation)”. Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee gave the slogan. He had taken a strong stand against the way Jammu & Kashmir was being handled by both Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. We all know that Mookerjee was against the special status given to Jammu & Kashmir.
Following their disagreements over the Kashmir issue, Mookerjee resigned from Nehru’s cabinet and the Indian National Congress.
On May 8, 1953, Mookerjee left for Jammu & Kashmir to take the Praja Parishad movement forward. But he was arrested by Sheikh Abdullah’s Government in Kathua on May 11, 1953. After 44 days of his arrest, on June 23 Mookerjee died in Srinagar under mysterious circumstances.
Later Mookerjee’s famous slogan became a war cry for Right-Wing organisations in their campaign since the early 1950s. Earlier it was in the manifesto of Bharatiya Jan Sangh and later it becomes a major poll promise of BJP to remove Article 370 from that State and realise the Mookerjee’s dream of Ek Vidhan, Ek Pradhan, Ek Nishan.
On August 5, Narendra Modi-led Central Government amended Article 370 provisions in the Constitution which granted special status to Jammu & Kashmir for residency and government jobs. Parliament approved the resolution in this regard and also passed the bill on the bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories.
The BJP has fulfilled its poll promise and Mookerjee’s dream 67 years after his death by amending Article 370 of the Constitution which granted special status to Jammu & Kashmir. The BJP not only amended Article 370, but it has also proposed to bifurcate the State of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories – Ladakh (without Legislature) and Jammu & Kashmir (with Legislature). Mukherjee, whose motto was “Ek desh mein do nishan, do pradhan, do vidhan nahi chalega” was strongly opposed to Article 370.
He always believed that Article 370 was harmful to the country’s integrity, as explained by him in a letter he wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru in 1953.
When asked about the issue, J&K based Senior Journalist Sant Kumar Sharma said, “It was the fulfillment of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s dream of “Ek Vidhan, Ek Nishan, Ek Pradhan”, something for which he had laid down his life in Srinagar, in a jail, in June 1953. His martyrdom laid the foundation for a movement demanding scrapping of the pernicious practice of having two flags and two constitutions in India”.
“Finally, we have created an India of Mookerjee’s dreams where only one Constitution, one Flag and one PM prevails”, he added.
Jammu & Kashmir observer, Jaibans Singh on the issue said, “The changes that are taking place in J&K are all for the better. The people know this and have embraced them. The leaders have also understood the new dynamics and are slowly but surely modifying their postures”.
It is a culmination of a long struggle waged over nearly seven decades. The first manifesto of Jana Sangh stated that “to end the state of uncertainty about Kashmir’s future, it should be integrated with Bharat like other states and not given any special position”.
To give the message of India is one, BJP’s took out historic Ekta Yatra on December 11, 1991, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, to unfurl the Tricolour at the Lal Chowk in Srinagar. They successfully hoisted the Tricolour on January 26, 1992, despite life threats by terrorists to Narendra Modi and the then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi. It is said that Modi was the main strategist behind Ekta Yatra.
When Congress and other political parties raised questions over the Ekta yatra and called it a political gimmick, Atal Behari Vajpayee had said in Lok Sabha on December 11, 1991, “whether it was wrong to say that the entire country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari is one? Is it wrong to repeat the resolution that India cannot be allowed to be divided further at any cost? Is it objectionable to say that Kashmir is an integral part of India?”
“It is under these circumstances that the complete absence of the State Flag in the winter capital of the Union Territory will be looked upon as the new normal. It is with a sense of sad nostalgia that one looks upon the demand for such a circumstance made by respected Syama Prasad Mookerjee decades back. It has taken our nation so long to understand the logic and sentiment of his vision. There is nothing left to say now except, “better late than never.”
“The stage has been set to usher in a new era. Making it a reality will require tremendous hard work, trust and dedication at all levels. One is hopeful that the people and their Government will come up on top of the challenge. The beautiful region of J&K and its beautiful people definitely deserve much better than what they got so far because of wrongs being committed at various levels”, Jaibans Singh said.
(The writer is a senior correspondent at Organiser Weekly)