Following the attack on the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) office on Saturday, workers from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) gathered outside the party’s office in Gandhinagar, Jammu city, and attempted to forcibly hoist the Indian tricolour on Sunday.
While the police stopped them from hoisting the flag, ABVP members did put smaller flags on the outer wall of the office. Students from the right-wing organisation also threw green ink on a picture of party chief Mehbooba Mufti displayed on a board hung outside the office. Police officials present at the spot stopped the men from barging into the office and whisked them away.
On October 24, a few unidentified men barged into the PDP office, manhandled two leaders from the party and tried to hoist the Indian tricolour in the premises. As per former MLA and PDP leader, Firdous Tak, who alleged he was manhandled, he was giving an interview when he heard slogans like ‘Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko’ and ‘tirange ka apman nahi sahenge (we will not tolerate the insult of the tricolour).’
“I went outside to find four men with small Indian flags in their hands, shouting slogans. We confronted them and asked them to leave. Few minutes later, the men tried scaling the wall to enter the premises,” he said. Immediately after the incident, Tak took to Twitter, saying that a “few right wingers barged inside” the office and “physically assaulted him” and another leader named Parvez Waffa.
The attack comes days after PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said she would not unfurl the national flag until the flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was restored. The statement by Mufti was censured by state units of both the BJP and Congress, with the former calling the remarks “seditious” and demanding her arrest.
Reacting to Mufti’s statement, J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina had said: “I request Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to take note of (the) seditious remarks of Mehbooba Mufti, book her for the seditious act and put her behind bars.”
Jammu and Kashmir had its own flag before August 5, 2019, which stood alongside the Indian flag atop the building of state civil secretariat. However, the red flag, with three white strips representing the three division of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and a plough representing labour, was taken down after the special status of the erstwhile state was done away with. In her maiden speech after a 14-month long detention, Mufti had placed the party flag and the flag of the former state on a table in front of her, drawing criticism.
The attack on the party’s office elicited condemnation from other parties, which asked for swift action against the perpetrators. While condemning the incident, National Conference spokesperson Imran Dar tweeted: “Condemnable! Who ever has committed this despicable act must be brought to book... There should not be any excuse in dealing with such anti social elements in Jammu. (sic)”
For Tak, a former PDP MLA from Kishtwar district in Jammu, the attack on the PDP office with an aim to hoist national flag was a “camouflage” and was done by the “proxies of BJP and RSS”.
“Miscreants and such elements in society have always used the national flag as means to do illegal and unwanted things. We have seen in the past how some people using the National Flag had justified the rape of a minor in Kathua. Those at the helm of affairs have nothing to offer to the people except for hyper-nationalism. Now they are dividing people in Jammu on the name of religion, region and caste,” he said.
For the longest time, Jammu’s political discourse has vacillated between nationalism and a feeling of discrimination against Kashmiris. This burden of nationalism has created a field for hyper-nationalist voices and right-wing forces to flourish. Political commentators say that when it comes to nationalism, issues plaguing Jammu – employment, development, healthcare, infrastructure – take a backseat. A few days ago, lawyer Deepika Rajawat’s house was mobbed by men over a controversial cartoon she had posted on Twitter.
Speaking about such incidents in Jammu, senior journalist and editor of The Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin, said that it was too early to comment on the incidents but it seemed that the “current regime is patronising mob culture”.
“Even if you see in reference to India, there is no accountability and that is more worrying. Earlier, there has been mob violence. The government had at least tried to crackdown on the mob. Now, it seems government is patronising mob culture. Two such incidents have taken place. Are these aberrations. Is there a bigger pattern? Its too difficult to say right now,” she said.