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Pakistan flag becomes protesters’ new weapon

By Yusuf Jameel

Pakistan’s national flag is now increasingly becoming somewhat an integral part of protests in the Kashmir Valley, where the unrest triggered by the killing of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the Internet-savvy poster boy of militancy, entered the 94th day on Monday. Not only do the people wave the neighbouring country’s flag at “aazadi” rallies, processions and protests enthusiastically, the bodies of many of those slain during the over three-month-old turbulence were wrapped in Pakistan flag prior to their burial.

As reported by this newspaper earlier also, Kashmiri youth have turned hardened pro-Pakistani by the day and often do express their love for and leaning to neighbouring Pakistan in extreme fashion. This partly has its genesis into the belief among many people in Kashmir that they were denied something which was due to them or should have happened in 1947 keeping in view the scenic region’s physical and cultural proximity with Pakistan and, more importantly, it being a Muslim-majority state.

Secondly, some of the questionable events that unfolded in rest of the country during the past over two years have boosted the morale of the people who hold and propagate the view the “Two-Nation Theory” was correct. The contenders question their wisdom in the belief that the composite culture and inclusiveness are intrinsic and built-in features of Jammu and Kashmir’s ethos; hence acceding to “secular” India than going with a country carved out on the basis of religion was “ideal” option.

This perspective seems to have been diluted or, at least, has taken a backseat in current situation. Like on several such occasions, this correspondent saw the mourners wrapping the body of 18-year-old slain youth Danish Manzoor Lone in Pakistan flag while another was placed next to his funeral cot at Ladoora-Nadihal outside the north-western town of Sopore recently. Lone had been killed in Army firing on a group of the protesters in the area earlier. Likewise, Muzaffar Pandit, another youth, killed in security forces’ action, was given “befitting” funeral by relatives and neighbours by wrapping his corpse in Pakistan flag while a youth continued to wave another till he was laid in a grave in native Chak-e-Kawoosa village near Srinagar earlier this month. The national flag of Pakistan is a green field with a white crescent moon and five-rayed star at its centre.

The trend has worried the government and in particular the security forces’ authorities as, they maintain, the jawans sent out to contain protests and meet other law and order situations do get annoyed at the pastime. In fact, chanting pro-Pakistan slogans and waving the neighbouring country’s national flag at protests became provocation for the central security forces personnel to use force against the participants on several occasions, the officials say privately.

Some time back, the commanding officer of a paramilitary force stationed in a north Kashmir area tried to pacify a crowd by pleading “Do any damn thing you want but, for God’s sake, don’t chant pro-Pakistan slogans and don’t raise Pakistani flag. I find it hard to control my boys when they see you doing it.”

Lately, many people took the issue to the social networking sites triggering an inward discussion whether the Pakistan flag should be raised or waved at pro-freedom rallies and other pursuits or not. “It would be better to have our own flag displayed at pro-aazadi gatherings because waving of Pakistani flag is seized by India to support its’ arraign that the current unrest is being sponsored by it (Pakistan),” said a Facebook post. The plea has not gone unheeded completely. While many youth have openly refused to discard the Pakistan flag or give up chanting pro-Pakistani slogans on the premise “we love Pakistan from core of our hearts”, at some of the rallies held in past couple of weeks the neighbouring country’s flag had been replaced by “our own flag”. But this Kashmir flag is not the official flag of Jammu and Kashmir but that of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. The flag known as ‘Parcham-e-Azad Kashmir’ or the flag of Azad Jammu and Kashmir as the official name of the held-territory goes features a green background, four horizontal white stripes alternating with green, a star and crescent on the upper fly, and a golden canton on the upper hoist.

The flag was adopted on September 24, 1975 via the Azad Jammu and Kashmir State Flag Ordinance. It symbolises various aspects of the State-the green field represents its Muslim majority population, the gold canton represents the religious minorities, the white stripes represent the snow-peaked mountains of the state, and the green stripes alternating with them represent the Valley of Kashmir. The star and crescent is a “national icon” which also features on Pakistan flag. The flag of Jammu and Kashmir, on the other hand, consists of a deep red field, representing labour, charged with a plough to represent agriculture. Three stripes are found on the hoist side and represent the three geographic regions of the State- Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh.

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