Srinagar, Jan 22: The flag hoisting controversy might have evoked mild response in 2011, but it has surely rekindled the memories of January 26, 1992 when the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) announced raising the tri-colour at Clock Tower in Lal Chowk during the height of militancy.
On January 26, 1992, Kashmir was different. In government quarters, it was regarded as almost a 'liberated zone' with the armed militants ruling the streets in Srinagar and villages, while in a show of defiance the Border Security Forces (BSF) and army personnel fortifying the city centre- Lal Chowk- turning it almost into a war zone.
The announcement to hoist the flag came in the midst of this situation, when the then BJP President, Murli Manohar Joshi announced it during a rally attended by thousands of party supporters in Jammu. Other than the president, the rally was attended by the two senior party leaders- former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani.
"Murli announced he would come to Kashmir by road with his 10,000 supporters to hoist the flag," Fayaz Ahmad Zargar, 38, a resident of Amira Kadal, said.
BJP President had undertook "Ekta Yatra" that year from Kaniyakumari to Srinagar to hoist the tri-colour at Lal Chowk on January 26.
On the other hand, the militants who called the shots in Kashmir those days were furious over the BJP announcement. All the militant outfits chalked out a joint strategy to stop BJP from raising the flag on clock tower.
The militants intensified their attacks from Jan 24, 1992, onwards. In one of the intrepid acts, they orchestrated an attack in PHQ Srinagar where DGP along with the other command sustained critical injuries after a bomb, concealed in a drawer, exploded.
It was the same incident in which Ahad Jan- the police cop who shot to fame after hurling a shoe on chief minister Omar Abdullah on August 15, 2010- was promoted after he saved the life of DGP Saxena and rushed him to hospital.
"Apart from attacks, the Mujahideen outfits also divided themselves with each party getting its share of task," a former Student Liberation Front militant said. "The foremost thing for us that time was to guard Srinagar- Jammu highway. The BJP leaders along with their supporters had planned to come on their vehicles taking that route."
In the wake of militant threats, the authorities imposed indefinite curfew and issued shoot at sight orders. However, the militants managed to control the highway forcing government to go for alternative means of transport. The BJP president was thus airlifted to Srinagar.
With the arrival of BJP president Joshi, the city was turned into a battle zone.
"I vividly remember the day of Jan 26, 1992," Javed Ahmad, a resident of Lal Chowk said. "A radio announcement was aired that Lal Chowk has been handed over to army."
Ahmad said BSF along with army erected sandbag bunkers, temporary check-posts and enforced strict curfew.
"They were armed to teeth," he said. "Even security personnel were deployed at each door. They took roof tops, buildings and each structure that could have aided militants to mount any attack."
The army was a new guest in the city those days, so was the heavy weaponry they carried. As a result, the fear- stricken residents, who lived around Lal Chowk, fled, except one or two male members who guarded their respective houses.
"On Jan 26, 1992, we heard only firing. There were explosions also we could make out from all directions of the city neighborhood," Ahmad said. "It was like a war going on."
Unlike Ahmad, Abdul Rashid, a resident of Koker Bazaar was unfortunate. He sat on the window sill of the second floor of his house to smoke and get relaxed in the scary situation.
However, he had taken only two drags, before the prying eyes of alert Border Security Force personnel occupying a temporary check post, spotted him.
"They broke open the door and pulled me by collar down on the rain soaked street," Rashid said. "I was kept hanging body upside down. They did it for 15 minutes in that bone chilling cold. Then they made me stand on the road. It was a punishment since I had breached curfew."
Ahmad said Army and BSF had enforced a strict curfew and nobody was allowed to venture outside home, especially in Lal Chowk area.
On the chilly afternoon, BJP president, surrounded by alert soldiers and BSF personnel appeared in Lal Chowk.
During the same time, at least four rockets were fired towards the flag hoisting venue. But none of them reached there.
As Murli raised the flag on the pedestal of clock tower, the rod broke down and one half along with flag fell on his forehead. He got injured.
Till the evening of Jan 26, 1992, scores of people got killed and some injured. It was reported in Srinagar that 10 people, most of them militants, were killed at different locations on the Srinagar-Jammu highway.
The militancy has died down to its lowest ebb in 2010. Kashmir recently witnessed the six month long pro-freedom protests which claimed lives of 115 people while hundreds were injured. There are no guns in the valley but stones and protests. And once again in the midst of political turmoil, the BJP has announced its flag hoisting programme.