Thursday, June 12, 2014

1992: Modi in Kashmir

 Mr Modi and Murli Manohar Joshi hoisting Indian Flag at Srinagar's Lal Chowk on 26 January, 1992

Since the issue has been doing rounds in 'nationalist' circles, Here are some of the sources on what really happened (without any value judgement from my side)-

Mr Narendra Modi's narration of what happened-

What Mr Modi's website says-

Shri Modi himself urged the people of India to strike the death-knell of pseudo-secularism and votebank politics. An emotional Narendra Modi watched with joy as the tricolor was finally unfurled in Srinagar on 26th January 1992! The successful completion of this rare national mission amidst the most challenging circumstances was a tribute to Shri Modi’s ability to give effective replies to the anti-national elements with unparalleled courage, vision, skill as the power of Bharat Mata yet again demolished the folly of anti-India elements.

India Today's report of the event in March 1992:

BJP flag-hoisting ceremony in Srinagar turns out to be a damp squib, militancy gets a boost

For the BJP. the Ekta Yatra didn't turn out to be the second coming it wanted. There was no saffron sunrise over Srinagar's Lal Chowk and no exuberant cheerleaders to shout rabble-rousing rah-rahs. BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi's face told the story....
Joshi drove up, on the morning of January 26, in a police car, to be greeted by the sound of gunshots.
In a hurry to leave the confines of the Valley, Joshi quickly got down to the business of hoisting the tricolour he had carried with him from Kanyakumari. And while a contingent of 67 BJP workers raised feeble slogans of Vande Mataram, Joshi and yatra convenor Narendra Modi struggled with the flag presented to him on December 21, its pole snapped into two. Finally, Joshi had to make do with the state administration's flag.
The ceremony lasted precisely 12 minutes, and there was not a single Kashmiri to witness Joshi's embarrassment. Despite the hype preceding the hoisting, Joshi had to fly into the Valley under cover of darkness, the night before the event, swapping his symbolic houseboat for a staid Indian Air Force an-32. Because, as a police official put it: "Surprise is the best form of security."
Security, in fact, was Joshi's main worry. He even spent the night at the BSF mess close to the airport because it was not safe to drive through the city. All along the 15,000-km route of the yatra, Joshi had boasted: "We have more volunteers than the militants have bullets."
But in the end. the bullets won, as an audaciously-planted bomb exploded on January 24 at the police headquarters, injuring DGP J.N. Saxena and four other senior officers. Added to this were the rocket attacks and the incessant firing, as well as the attempt to shoot down the Indian Airlines IC-421 as it was landing in a curfew-bound city.

As JKLF- commander-in-chief Javed Ahmed Mir told India Today over the telephone: "Our mujahedins are in a state of preparedness. The curfew is a measure of our success. The entire nation's eyes are on Srinagar, not because of the yatra, but because of us."
Indeed. The yatra united the scattered militant groups as even the Centre's worst mistakes couldn't. Gathering together under one umbrella and launching 'Operation Snowstorm', they set up 'Maqbool Butt' squads to tackle the travellers.
And succeeded in sending a chill through Srinagar's ghostly air, which may last long after winter's gone. For, Joshi's coming has swung a losing battle in the militants' favour and further wounded the Kashmiri psyche.
The signs were evident on the last lap of the yatra. Having billed itself as a long distance runner, the BJP ran out of oxygen after Jammu. Much of it was due to the attack on yatris near Phagwara on January 23.
As an anxious Atal Behari Vajpayee, on board the flight to Jammu, said: "The killings in Punjab could give ideas to the Kashmir terrorists." They did. By the time, BJP leaders trickled into their Jammu hotel, the news of the Srinagar blast wrecked their remaining confidence.
All through the day, L.K. Advani, Vijayaraje Scindia, Vajpayee - among others - debated whether politics was more important than protection. And Governor Girish Saxena shuttled between his house-turned-office and the hotel. Ultimately, security prevailed. It remained for Joshi to put the seal on the deal.
Soon, the fanfare at Joshi's Jammu reception faded into insignificance. There were no press briefings, no off-the-record conversations and no official announcements - from either the Centre, the state Government or the BJP leaders - but details of the agreement started filtering through. And Modi was blunt enough to tell journalists: "From now on, you are on your own. If you can, reach Lai Chowk and we will see you there."
Convincing the BJP leaders wasn't difficult. After consulting bureaucrats at the Centre, Saxena told them: "We cannot assure your security if you travel by road to Srinagar. We will do our best, but you will have to take your chances."
The officials convinced the BJP top brass that even handing over the national highway to the army could not guarantee their safe passage. Then, there were reports that the militants had proclaimed a ban on private vehicles on the highway from 6 a.m., January 25, to 12 noon, January 26.
The only quibble the BJP had was on the timing of Joshi's flight - the pretext, they said, should be that they had to stop because of landslides. Somebody up there must have heard. When the yatra set off from Jammu, there were two landslides near Banihal.
But those in Jammu who showered petals and chanted Vande Mataram and Jai Shri Ram while sending off the yatris were blissfully unaware of this high drama. Barely 5 km from Udhampur, when the yatris had broken off for lunch, District Magistrate B.L. Nimesh told the press cars to go no further.
And as agitated yatris blocked the road, they were told by Modi to head for home. Even as they looked on, angry and confused, Joshi was whisked away, with six others, in three cars led by Nimesh.
The next thing they knew, two iaf Chetak helicopters were heading for Srinagar. The reaction of a Rajasthan MLA, Tara Bhandari, was typical: "All of us feel cheated. What was the need to bring us all here and make us look like fools?"...
Ultimately, Hindutva draped in the tricolour proved politically expensive - for the BJP and for the country. The Yatra's odyssey to Srinagar was unnecessary provocation at. a time when the earlier mood of confrontation has discernibly abated. By raising political temperatures along with the Indian flag, the BJP has lost much and gained little.

A local Kashmiri news outlet Greater Kashmir's report on the event (from eyes of the locals)

On January 26, 1992, Kashmir was different. In  government quarters, it was regarded as almost a ‘liberated zone’ with the armed militants ruling the streets in Srinagar and villages, while in a show of defiance the Border Security Forces (BSF) and army personnel fortifying the city centre- Lal Chowk- turning it almost into a war zone.
The announcement to hoist the flag came in the midst of this situation, when the then BJP President, Murli Manohar Joshi announced it during a rally attended by thousands of party supporters in Jammu...
“Murli announced he would come to Kashmir by road with his 10,000 supporters to hoist the flag,” Fayaz Ahmad Zargar, 38, a resident of Amira Kadal, said.
BJP President had undertook “Ekta Yatra” that year from Kaniyakumari to Srinagar to hoist the tri-colour at Lal Chowk on January 26.
On the other hand, the militants who called the shots in Kashmir those days were furious over the BJP announcement. All the militant outfits chalked out a joint strategy to stop BJP from raising the flag on clock tower.
The militants intensified their attacks from Jan 24, 1992, onwards. In one of the intrepid acts, they orchestrated an attack in PHQ Srinagar where DGP along with the other command sustained critical injuries after a bomb, concealed in a drawer, exploded.
It was the same incident in which Ahad Jan- the police cop who shot to fame after hurling a shoe on chief minister Omar Abdullah on August 15, 2010- was promoted after he saved the life of DGP Saxena and rushed him to hospital.
“Apart from attacks, the Mujahideen outfits also divided themselves with each party getting its share of task,” a former Student Liberation Front militant said. “The foremost thing for us that time was to guard Srinagar- Jammu highway. The BJP leaders along with their supporters had planned to come on their vehicles taking that route.”
In the wake of militant threats, the authorities imposed indefinite curfew and issued shoot at sight orders. However, the militants managed to control the highway forcing government to go for alternative means of transport. The BJP president was thus airlifted to Srinagar.
With the arrival of BJP president Joshi, the city was turned into a battle zone.
“I vividly remember the day of Jan 26, 1992,” Javed Ahmad, a resident of Lal Chowk said. “A radio announcement was aired that Lal Chowk has been handed over to army.”
Ahmad said BSF along with army erected sandbag bunkers, temporary check-posts and enforced strict curfew.
“They were armed to teeth,” he said. “Even security personnel were deployed at each door. They took roof tops, buildings and each structure that could have aided militants to mount any attack.”
The army was a new guest in the city those days, so was the heavy weaponry they carried. As a result, the fear- stricken residents, who lived around Lal Chowk, fled, except one or two male members who guarded their respective houses.
“On Jan 26, 1992, we heard only firing. There were explosions also we could make out from all directions of the city neighborhood,” Ahmad said. “It was like a war going on.”
Unlike Ahmad, Abdul Rashid, a resident of Koker Bazaar was unfortunate. He sat on the window sill of the second floor of his house to smoke and get relaxed in the scary situation.
However, he had taken only two drags, before the prying eyes of alert Border Security Force personnel occupying a temporary check post, spotted him.
“They broke open the door and pulled me by collar down on the rain soaked street,” Rashid said. “I was kept hanging body upside down. They did it for 15 minutes in that bone chilling cold. Then they made me stand on the road. It was a punishment since I had breached curfew.”
Ahmad said Army and BSF had enforced a strict curfew and nobody was allowed to venture outside home, especially in Lal Chowk area.
On the chilly afternoon, BJP president, surrounded by alert soldiers and BSF personnel appeared in Lal Chowk.
During the same time, at least four rockets were fired towards the flag hoisting venue. But none of them reached there.
As Murli raised the flag on the pedestal of clock tower, the rod broke down and one half along with flag fell on his forehead. He got injured.
Till the evening of Jan 26, 1992, scores of people got killed and some injured. It was reported in Srinagar that 10 people, most of them militants, were killed at different locations on the Srinagar-Jammu highway.

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