Srinagar on Sunday woke up to find its state flag missing from the top of civil secretariat, the development comes 20 days after scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The rectangular flag - red background with three white vertical stripes alongside a white plough in the middle with handle facing the stripes - fluttered next to the Indian national flag on the secretariat for more than six decades.
A security officer posted outside the secretariat said that both the flags were taken off last evening, in line with the tradition. “I don’t know why only the national flag was unfurled today morning,” he said.
The security men barred media from entering the premises and said the secretariat was closed because of Sunday.
As there is a communication blockade, no official could be contacted to know if there was any direction to remove the flag due to scrapping of Article 370 or there was some other reason.
On August 5, the BJP-led central government abrogated Article 370, the constitutional provision that gave Kashmir its special status which included a separate constitution and a state flag. The state also had a separate penal code.
Government spokesman Rohit Kansal, who has been regularly addressing media since August 5, skipped the evening briefing on Sunday.
The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was the only state in the Indian Union that had its own flag adopted by its Constituent Assembly on June 7, 1952 and provided in its Constitution.
“The state under the Instrument of Accession ceded its external sovereignty to the Indian union while retaining its internal sovereignty in full measure. Since early 1950s, the state has had its own flag flying alongside the tricolor on the civil secretariat and all other official buildings,” Altaf Hussan, a political analyst.
“Unlike other princely states, the J&K state never merged into the Indian union but now with Article 370 gone, the state’s special status and its internal autonomy has been completely withdrawn. Not only that, its status has been reduced to that of a union territory which means that it will now be governed more by the centre than by the elected representatives,” said Hussain, a former BBC correspondent for North India.
Since August 5, Kashmir has been under restrictions and there has been a communication blackout to prevent protests after the central government’s decision. Hundreds of people, separatists and mainstream politicians, including three former chief ministers have been detained or kept under house detention.
There has been anger in Kashmir against the scrapping of state’s special status and many residents were outraged by the development.
“Our flag was the outcome of the negotiations of our state with the union of India. Its removal today in broad daylight is another sad day for the people of Kashmir,” said a National Conference leader not wishing to be identified.
A group of Kashmiris outside the civil secretariat was sad.
“No sane Kashmiri endorses the decision on Article 370. This is absolute tyranny. Not only us but our coming generations would suffer because of this decision,” said Mohammad Shaban who was selling fruits in a load carrier.
“The flag removal means that our identity has been trampled upon. This is destruction, not development, as they want us to believe. We will die but won’t accept this decision,” said a cart vendor.