Kashmir Officials Push Har Ghar Tiranga Campaign Into Controversy

SRINAGAR: Implementation of the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign by a section of officials has triggered a controversy leading to the withdrawal of, at least two orders issued by them. In one case, an employee’s services were put under suspension.

Reports appearing in the media suggest that a circular issued by the Education Department in Budgam’s Chadoora zone has asked the students and teachers to collect Rs 20, per head within four days. A copy of the order was put on social media by former PDOP minister, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura.

“Sad to see such orders being issued which contradict Divisional Commissioner’s statement that Har Ghar Tiranga is totally a voluntary movement and there is no compulsion and insistence,” Hanjura tweeted. “The administration must realise that nationalism comes naturally and can’t be imposed through the barrel of a gun.”

Responding to the tweet, Budgam’s Chief Education Officer, Inderjeet Singh said the circular was issued erroneously and the contribution was voluntary. The concerned officer, he said, has issued a corrigendum to the circular.

Chadoora is the second instance of its kind. Earlier, the district administration in Anantnag had also issued a similar order demanding Rs 20 as a flag fee be deposited. The government in fact was seen making a public announcement in an official vehicle.

“For the government’s Har Ghar Tiranga programme, every shopkeeper has to pay Rs 20. All are requested by the district administration, Anantnag, to deposit the money till Monday 12 pm in the office where they get licences for trade,” the announcer is heard saying in a video posted by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Twitter. “Those not depositing the money may face action. So to save yourself (from the hassle), you should complete this formality and pay the money,” The public address system fitted vehicle was parked in Bejbehara, the town that Mehbooba used to represent in the erstwhile assembly.

“The manner in which the J & K admin is forcing students, shopkeepers & employees to pay for the national flag to hoist it is as if Kashmir is an enemy territory that needs to be captured,” Mehbooba wrote in a tweet. “Patriotism comes naturally and cannot be imposed.”

Reacting to the development, Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Dr Piyush Singla said this had taken place without his permission and that the person responsible — the announcer — has been suspended.

Earlier, the Chief Education Officer (CEO) Anantnag had issued a circular for schools asking students and teachers to pay the Rs 20 fee. This circular was withdrawn after being shared widely on social media.

“We are checking whether it was a mistake or mischief. I have asked the district administration of Anantnag to suspend the employee and call an inquiry,” Kashmir divisional commissioner, Pandurang K Pole told reporters. “The Har Ghar Tiranga campaign does not mean that a flag should be raised in every household. It means wilfully whoever wants should do so.”

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi recently announced that the people across India should unfurl the tricolour over their houses between August 12 and August 15.

As the authorities started implementing the order, the political class started reacting to it. “Div Com, Kashmir has said that #HarGharTiranga is a voluntary initiative. But, on the other hand, local administration makes announcements on loudhailers asking traders to deposit Rs 20 to buy Tiranga, and non-compliance may result in action. Whose writ runs, I wonder?” PAGD spokesman and CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said.

The tallest tricolour unfurled at the historic Hari Parbat fort on August 15, 2021. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir Teachers’ Forum had alleged that teachers and students are being forced to contribute money to buy tricolours as part of the campaign across Kashmir. “We have been raising tricolour all along and it has always been part and parcel of our official functions, but why is the government asking money from employees and students?” a Delhi newspaper quoted the leader of the school teacher, M Rafiq Rather saying. “There is a lot of pressure forcing teachers and students to contribute money.”

Officials in education said the orders posted on social media were the response to an earlier order served to them by the higher-ups. “Cost per flag comes out to be Rs 20 plus transportation charges,” a letter issued earlier in July by Commissioner Secretary rural development department, Mandeep Kaur told the deputy commissioners. “You are requested to constitute committees, particularly involving the education department, to ensure collection from every student, both of schools and colleges, departmental employees, socio-cultural organisations, political parties, red cross, NCC/NSS cadets to make it a mass movement. No house should remain untouched or uncovered.”

Days after the controversy, the Accounts Officer of GMC Baramulla has issued a circular on the directions of the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Baramulla asking the staffers to make a “voluntary contribution”. All gazetted employees are supposed to contribute Rs 100 each and non-gazetted Rs 50 each, self Help groups Rs 20, and school students Rs 10 each. However, the medical college officials have insisted that the contribution is completely voluntary and not compulsory.

Talking to the media on the sidelines of a function in Srinagar, Omar Abdullah on Thursday said the people have the right to unfurl the flag of the country over their houses and there is no question about that. However, he said there should not be a compulsion.

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