Only Tricolour will fly high in Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir was the only state in India that had a separate state constitution and a separate state flag.
June 7, 2020, will mark in a unique way the complete integration of the Jammu and Kashmir region with the Union of India. For the first time in 68 years, this day will NOT be celebrated as the ‘State Flag Day’ in Jammu and Kashmir.
The beauty of India’s democracy lies in the dynamic nature of its Constitution. The Constitution of India itself defines the procedures through which its laws and legislations can be changed according to the need of the day, without compromising on its basic structure.
On August 5, 2019, when India’s Parliament rendered Article 370 ineffective and carved two Union Territories out of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, both the state constitution and the state flag ceased to exist.
This was a demand that was persistently raised ever since June 7, 1952, when the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had adopted the state flag. This day was officially celebrated as the ‘State Flag Day’ ever since – in fact, celebrated most ostentatiously by the separatist lobby.
Jammu and Kashmir was the only state in India that had a separate state constitution and a separate state flag. This was a position that was tom-tommed by mischievous elements to promote separatism and secessionism within J&K.
India is a Union of States, governed through parliamentary democracy. When a clear majority in Parliament voted on August 5, 2019, in favour of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, it was simply the will of the people that emerged victorious. People across India celebrated the historic decisions of that day. Interestingly, the people of Jammu too had welcomed and rejoiced over the decisions.
Delhi Agreement: A state flag was agreed upon in the Delhi Agreement of 1952, between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah on behalf of Jammu and Kashmir. In the context of the flag, the agreement is quoted as follows: “the Union Government agreed that the State should have its own flag in addition to the Union flag, but it was agreed by the State Government that the State flag would not be a rival of the Union flag; it was also recognised that the Union flag should have the same status and position in Jammu and Kashmir as in the rest of India, but for historical reasons connected with the freedom struggle in the State, the need for continuance of the State flag was recognised”.
The Delhi Agreement was a simple understanding between two political leaders. It was not a legal document. On July 24, 1952, Nehru orally informed the Lok Sabha as to what had transpired between him and Abdullah. Since it was not followed up with the issuance of a constitution order applicable to J&K by the President of India, Prime Minister Nehru’s statement in Lok Sabha also had no legal or constitutional significance. According to some reports, while making a statement on Delhi Agreement, even Nehru had described "the article an unusual provision and by no means final”.
State Constitution: In 1956, J&K adopted a separate constitution, under which it was permitted to fly its own flag.
Article 144 of the now defunct Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir related exclusively to the Flag of the State, and stated: “The Flag of the State shall be rectangular in shape and red in colour with three equidistant white vertical strips of equal width next to the staff and a white plough in the middle with handle facing the strips. The ratio of the length of the Flag to its width shall be 3:2.” This was the full text of Article 144, and there was no other reference to the flag in the state constitution.
Separatist minds in Jammu and Kashmir have always thrived by creating controversies and confusing people about facts.
In March 2015 such an attempt was made vis-à-vis the state flag. On March 12, 2015, without any apparent emergent reason, a government circular was issued directing all constitutional authorities to hoist both Union and State flag jointly on buildings and official cars. This created a stir. A day later, on March 13, the circular was withdrawn with just a cryptic one-line circular.
The first circular referred to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir plus the Delhi Agreement of 1952 to justify why the State Flag had to be hoisted along with the Union Flag. It went to the extent of warning that any deviation would amount to an insult to the State Flag.
On March 15, the withdrawal of the first circular was challenged in J&K High Court. A Single Judge of Jammu Kashmir High Court gave the verdict that the state flag shall be unfurled alongside the Indian Flag (Tricolour) on government buildings and cars of constitutional authorities. However, the Division Bench of J&K High Court promptly stayed the order of the Single Judge. The matter went nowhere after that, but did manage to create a storm in a teacup for a little while.
It is noteworthy that Article 144 of the Jammu Kashmir Constitution simply specified details such as the size, colour and design of the state flag, without any reference whatsoever as to how and where it should be placed.
Significantly, on August 11, 1952, the Constituent Assembly of Jammu Kashmir itself had made it clear that the State Flag did not compete with the National Flag, and that status of the National Flag was higher than the State Flag. The Constituent Assembly Debate of Jammu Kashmir recorded that: “..the new State Flag was in no sense rival of the National flag. But for historical and other reasons connected with the freedom struggle in the State, the need for continuance of this Flag was recognized. The Union Flag to which we continue our allegiance as part of the Union will occupy the supremely distinctive place in the State.”
Last year too, separatist elements in Kashmir had tried to create a hue and cry when they were not given permission to hold functions on ‘state flag day’.
Now, the break-India lobby is left with one less reason to promote its agenda.
SHYAMA PRASAD MOOKERJEE’S DREAM
A freedom fighter and a cabinet minister in the first Union Cabinet of independent India headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee had resigned from the union cabinet and the Indian National Congress due to differences with Nehru over J&K issues.
Mookerjee, who founded Bharatiya Jan Sangh, supported the movement of the Praja Parishad in Jammu for full integration of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Union. Mookerjee’s famous slogan “Ek Desh Mein do vidhan/Ek Desh Mein do Nishan/Ek Desh Mein do Pradhan/Nahin Chalenge, Nahin Chalenge” had struck a chord with the people of India then, and continued to echo till August last year, when the mission was finally achieved. ‘Vidhan’ referred to the state constitution, ‘nishan’ to the state flag, and ‘pradhan’ to the post of ‘sadr-e-riyasat’ or prime minister that was granted to the head of J&K government then.
In May 1953, Mookerjee went to Jammu and Kashmir to take the integration movement forward, but was arrested. He died in Srinagar 40 days after being arrested, under mysterious circumstances.
As Jammu and Kashmir moves towards peace and good governance, June 7, 2020, will sound a silent trumpet to the victory of nationalist sentiment over separatist lobbies both within and outside India.
(The writer, a senior journalist, is an expert on Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan affairs).