The 75th Independence Day was celebrated throughout the country as Modi unfurled the Indian flag at the Red Fort. Across the country, CMs had organised their own events and paid tribute to the struggle fought against British colonialism. Buildings across the country were lit saffron, white and green.
The 75th Independence Day saw India celebrate “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” and this year’s theme was “Nation First, Always First”. Olympians and COVID warriors were honoured by Modi. Sweets were exchanged between border forces of some neighbouring countries.
In Kashmir, however, the day has always been a sombre event. And to change this perception of Kashmir among global citizens, authorities made sure they put up a show.
The Ghanta Ghar in Lal Chowk has a significant history and is considered a landmark. Over the years, various politicians have used it as a site of “symbolic” protests. The history of hoisting the Indian flag at the Ghanta Ghar goes way back.
This year, however, the landmark was illuminated with the colours of the Indian flag. This was then portrayed as a sign of everything going back to “normal” in Kashmir. Internet services not being affected on the day was seen as another sign of “normalcy” by officials. It was done to portray the “improved” situation since the 5 August, 2019 decision.
Going back to 5 August, 2021, which marked the second year of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, shopkeepers were forced to open their shops. Over the years, Kashmir has seen various instances of civil disobedience and civil curfews and these instances only increase every year with each new tragedy. We celebrate more “anniversaries” than we can count.
Before 5 August, 2021, the police had ordered various traders and shopkeepers in Kashmir not to observe a hartal on 5 August. The SP of Srinagar city said, “The government will not support any hartal. We want everything to be normal.”
But on 5 August, as the streets in busy markets were almost deserted and shops were kept closed, the police broke locks and forced open shutters. Police personnel allegedly used blades and hammers to break the locks. Shopkeepers then had to open their shops to avoid any damage.
Similarly, on 15 August, while Lal Chowk and other parts in Kashmir were heavily secured and shut, in South Kashmir, officials allegedly told shopkeepers to keep their shops open.
Another “sight to behold” was the order by the authorities to hoist the Indian flag on every government building.
COVID restrictions have seen schools and colleges remain shut. But authorities gave leeway for these institutions to “celebrate” Independence Day. Government Schools were ordered to host an event where teachers and students would sing the national anthem and hoist the flag. Teachers and students were ordered to attend their respective events, and they did as they feared repercussions.
The videos of these manufactured events have been used to portray Kashmiri acceptance of what has happened over the last several decades. Forcing people to participate in these events only serves as a photo-op and increases the polarity between Kashmir and the rest of the country.