February 7, 2023

First R-Day crowd in 73 years watches flag-hoisting at Lal Chowk clock tower | India News – Times of India

SRINAGAR: The tricolour was ceremonially unfurled atop the clock tower of Srinagar‘s Lal Chowk on Wednesday for the first time in front of a Republic Day crowd, creating a sense of history that had been missing when the last formal flag-hoisting event was held there 30 years ago amid a curfew.
Back in 1992, former Union minister and BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi had arrived in Srinagar on Republic Day to hoist the flag at the historic clock tower, only to run into a curfew clamped by the administration in view of terrorist threats. While security forces have been unfurling the tricolour there on all national days, never before Wednesday did a local crowd converge on the city centre to be part of such an event.
Two young Kashmiris — activists Sajid Yousuf Shah and Sahil Bashir – were taken to the top of the clock tower by a hydraulic crane to unfurl the flag, followed by the strains of the national anthem. As flower petals rained on the crowd and the tricolour fluttered in the cold winter breeze to the accompaniment of patriotic songs, a loud cheer rent the air.
“Since childhood, we have seen the Pakistani flag hoisted on this very clock tower several times. It’s a proud moment for me to be part of an occasion when the Indian flag was unfurled in front of an audience like this for the first time in 73 years,” Bashir said.
The crowd at the event comprised dozens of BJP workers and supporters, many of whom seemed overcome by emotion while witnessing the flag-hoisting ceremony. Young trainees from the Kashmir Martial Arts Academy were among those who participated in the event.
Bashir said J&K had witnessed a “lot of the change on the ground” since the nullification of Article 370 in August 2019 took away the erstwhile state’s special status. “The hoisting of the national flag atop the clock tower in Lal Chowk in front of a peaceful crowd speaks volumes about the change in the mindset of Kashmiris. This possibly reflects the feelings of what people call ‘Naya Kashmir‘.”
Former CM and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah took a swipe at the administration for taking down the tricolour from the clock tower well before sundown. “Tricolour disappears in less than a couple of hours. It didn’t even remain there for the day. Why insult the National Flag just for a photo op? Is this what patriotism & nationalism has come to? Photo ops & trolling?” he tweeted.
Across Srinagar, more national flags fluttered at various places, including Pratap Park and Iqbal Park, than on any previous Republic Day or Independence Day in memory.
Lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha’s advisor R R Bhatnagar took the guard of honour at the main Republic Day parade at the cricket stadium in Sonwar. A brief cultural programme was held after the parade to mark the occasion. Republic Day functions at other district headquarters and tehsils of the Valley went off smoothly, watched over by large contingents of security forces.
As part of the security drill, internet services on mobile devices had been temporarily barred in some areas of J&K for half the day.

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