In line with the official effort to celebrate India’s 75th year of Independence, a large number of Kashmiris are identifying themselves with ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations, P.K. Pole, Kashmir divisional commissioner told IANS in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
In a significant remark, the senior officer said, “Although I am a civil servant who must speak within the limitations imposed by his service rules, yet I have no hesitation in saying that the people of Kashmir had cost their lot with India much before October 26, 1947 when the then ruler signed the instrument of accession. “Five days before the Maharaja acceded to India, Maqbool Sherwani and others had laid down their lives fighting the tribal invaders.”
“In addition to Sherwani, around 6,000 people including men, women and children had laid down their lives fighting the invaders”. He said that for the people of Kashmir, opportunities to express their love and affiliation with the national flag remained denied for long. “This was exploited by a small number of vested interest to convey an impression through false propaganda and media management that the people here did not identify with the rest of the country”, Pole asserted. He added, “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind about the patriotism of Kashmiri people. They have given more sacrifices than any other part of the country to protect the integrity of India.” He said that Kashmir stands out as an iconic example to prove that religion alone cannot sustain a country.
“This was proved with an example in 1971”, he said. Speaking about the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations, he said from today (August 13) till August 15, the national flag will be hoisted in every government office, institution and government undertaking establishment. “In order to facilitate people to hoist the national flag in their towns, Panchayats, schools, mohallas, village and tehsil level offices and other places, we have decided that the main flag hoisting ceremony in Srinagar will start at 10 a.m. on August 15.” Till then, all local flag hoisting ceremonies will take place. Other institutional flag hoisting ceremonies will be held after the main function concludes in Srinagar,” the officer informed.
He said the administration is overwhelmed by the common man’s response to these celebrations. “Yesterday in Pulwama town, a huge flag rally was held in which scores of men, women and children participated. The joy and pride with which the children were displaying the national flag cannot be anything, but the one that comes from the heart. The rally also displayed a huge tricolour the locals had prepared of their own.” “And, just some time back, Pulwama was projected as the so-called hotbed of militancy. I have pleasure in informing others through this interview that over 2.5 lakh flags have been received by us, those have been prepared by local self-help groups without any official help”.
He said while it is mandatory that the national flags in government offices are brought down with the sundown, those hoisting the tricolour at their homes need not bring them down after the sunset. Asked whether the administration had any plans to sustain the spirit and the sentiment that has been seen during the ‘Azad Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, he said, “Similar people participative flag hoisting functions will be held on Gandhi Jayanti, teacher’s Day and all other days of national importance.”