Rajaram Muthukrishnan
Why did the Tiranga have to be unfurled on Lal Chowk?
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of


It wouldn’t escape the scrutiny of any seasoned observer that government of United States is clearly inching towards a carefully calibrated deal with Pakistan that will facilitate American withdrawal of troops and ensure that no further attacks are organized from AfPak region. Obama is clearly emerging as Neville Chamberlian of our times. The time table that Obama has announced would mean that the Pakistan has clearly extracted a price. That price is for stabilizing itself. The usual gun to the head based demands include:

1. India should cut and run from Afghanistan and should not have any role to play at all

2. India should settle Kashmir in a way that Pakistani establishment can claim victory

3. US and China should in tandem to deny India supremacy in the region and China should be allowed to give a similar nuclear deal to Pakistan. US should help through China in its efforts in getting a similar nuclear deal

4. The west and everyone should write off debt and give more money to Pakistan

In return Pakistan:

1. Will never allow a base to develop in the region that would organize terror attacks on the US (it will try to restrain acts against India and not provide “official policy” support but cannot guarantee against “non-state” actor executed terror strikes – it will however promise to bring to book any such perpetrators)

2.Will settle for a compromise on Kashmir as long as it gains territory to show for its efforts. The Indian side should allow itself to some creative cartography and make borders irrelevant (best exemplified through a rarer bout of rhetorical flourish from the good doctor-“Breakfast in Amristar, Lunch at Lahore and Dinner at Kabul”). The hold on Kashmir by the governmentof India should be tenuous at best

3. Will promise not to proliferate nuclear weapons and will cap its capability. India should do likewise and not enhance its delivery capability or nuclear stockpile. The US India nuclear deal(incidentally sold to the desi middleclass as magical piece of legislation that will miraculously light up India) should be used as a leverage to achieve this objective.

The government of United States seems to be willing to cut a deal along these broad contours. In the Indian leadership of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, they will find a willing partner. Given his track record as an unimaginative bureaucrat, ever willing to  seamlessly execute ideological somersaults at behest of powerful political masters, it’s hard to decipher what Manmohan Singh stands for. At best he holds an extremely reductionist worldview, primarily centered on economic determinism, which envisages India meandering to a steady state of surviving as a benign state. He is also a firm dissenter of a nuclear India. He does not believe in the sanctity of maintaining India’s sovereign options.

Lesser said about Sonia Gandhi better. At best she has nothing but a mercenary relationship with regard to India. Her motivations seem to be driven by a need to perpetuate the stranglehold of her family on the party and consequently on India.

The gameplan of current UPA dispensation is pretty clear. The Indian people are to be won over by a mix of economic populism recklessely bankrolled by the private enterprise led burgeoning  economy, creation of a fear complex amongst minorities regarding any nationalistic force by painting them as anti-secular( with the connivance of pliant media) and project themselves as the sole capable protector. They are building a base for exercising absolute control through a network of crony capitalistic sources of power, money and influence. Demonstrated actions so far clearly reeks of this mindset.

Sample these as evidence –

1. The systematic rolling back of the armed forces in J&K,

2. The slow but steady PR campaign that has been unleashed to prepare the Indian public for the need for peace as a precursor for growth and “super power” status through campaigns like “Aman ki Aasha”.

3. Dissent is welcome in a democratic discourse but a climate of hostile narrative is being deliberatey nurtured by providing stage to Arundati Roy led anarchist brigade to challenge the great Indian exceptionalism and our fundamental existential principles. Any meaningful counternarrative from the state is largely absent.

4. The constant and high profile propagation of the twin myths (A stable, prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interest and There is no alternative but to talk and settle with Pakistan),

5. The appointment of the haughty peaceniks as interlocutors and their acts and statements following the same.

Need for the March

Seen within the context of the US intent, Pakistani demand and the Congress leadership’s predilections, reasons to BJP’s march to Lal Chowk can be located.

It could be argued that BJP had been forced to do this yatra. Its pertinent to remember that it was because of a similar yatra in 1948 by Shyama Prasada Mukherjee, an avowed constitutionalist and great doctor-patriot of Jan Sangh that the rights of rest of Indians to visit this part of India was asserted. He went there in defiance of the ban on entry by Indians and hoisted the flag there. He resigned from Nehru’s ministry and did what he did. He was rewarded with death for his act. Nehru, it appears from numerous records of events of that era, was in agreement with the idea then to keep Kashmir in some kind of “trishanku swarga”. He himself was not averse to the idea that Kashmir was special and should be protected from rest of India.

Leaving aside  MM Joshi’s less than inspiring stewardship of HRD ministry  his tiranga march in 92 was an important contribution. Though it did not attract the same populist fervour of Advani’s rath yatra, it was far more important than Advani. The separatists were at their peak and there was popular and wide spread support for them in the valley, and Pakistani infiltration was at its peak. It was an act of asserting national soverignity. It went unnoticed and unappreciated by the media elite. But it did send a message to those it was primarily intended – the Pakistani puppet masters and to their cat’s paws in the valley.

The Amarnath shrine related demonstrations in Jammu were also a watershed in the events of Kashmir. The power in that state has been long dominated by the Kashmir valley politicians. It demonstrated that there is a ground swell of support to a nationalist call in the state. It also sparked the re-assertion of the other regions of J&K of their right to chart their destiny as a part of India.

If one looks at history, it is often filled with symbolism. That is why it was not right to dismiss  flag hoisting as some kind of chest thumping exhibitionistic phoney nationalism  by an opportunistic opposition that is unable to project a charismatic leadership. The BJP is a deeply flawed party but its also easily a learning organization. By all accounts  its making an incremental efforts to combine agitational and aspirational style of politics . However in  case of flag hoisting , it  recognized that it has to be true to its role as an Opposition. It cannot be just watching silently these concerted efforts to do a deal in order to fit in with the agenda of foreign powers. It had to act. It tried to organise a reassertion of national soverignity by way of a secular,non-sectarain symbolic act. It adopted a way that is peaceful, a cause that no one would have any issue with, through an act that is essentially lawful and well protected as per judgments of the Supreme Court. It also invited others to join in this across party lines. It did not whip up any religious or ethinic fervour against Kashmiris in any way.

India’s is clearly at a inflexion point. We have the demographic dividend in our favour. We have built national capabilities against great odds, we have now a chance to have our own narrative, to assert ourselves in our march to a tryst with destiny on the strength of Indian thought and ethos. A rise of India is imminent and inevitable. It is but natural that it causes concern across status quo power structures across the world. There will be attempts to take control of India by different means. For many powers, a united India is something that must be averted at all cost. Many powers, for different reasons, would therefore want to do their utmost to unravel India.

Given the many fault lines that we still have as a nation, it is imperative that the political parties across the spectrum maintain a “Lakshman Rekha” when it comes to discussing national soverignity or maintenance of national soverign options. Unfortunately, a great political party like the INC was not true to its own legacy. The BJP, despite its many faults and failings, tried to do its duty here.

It is imperative that the symbolic act are done to ensure the assertion of national soverignity and our national strategic options. The raising of the National Flag at Lal Chowk was exactly that. The Lal Chowk has a lot of significance to those who want to cut India asunder and who hold the very ideals of the Republic with contempt. It is there, that we need to assert our soverignity and our ideals.

We should not be apologetic in asserting our nationhood in Kashmir. There are people in that valley who want to be with India who are silenced by intimidation and coercion exercised by a few with help of a hostile neighbour. Hoisting the flag was important to people of Jammu and Ladakh, to the minorities there, to show and demonstrate that the rest of India cares for them. They are part of this Republic like everyone else.

The state of Jammu & Kashmir belongs to every Indian as much as the rest of India belongs to the citizens in that state.The raising of the flag therefore was simply not an act of political opportunism, but a call of our times to reassert our national soverignity and integrity.

May be I have become an irrelevant Indian, disconnected from reality given that others are seeing nothing but petty political grandstanding. I leave it to you, dear readers, to judge, what is at stake – Just political grandstanding or re-asserting our national sovereignty which is at risk through some back room wheeling and dealing.

As for me,it has always been my refrain that it is not prudent to march to distant drum beats of others

(Rajaram Muthukrishnan a strategic thinker and  friend of CRI)