Srinagar: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Sunday concluded his 4,000-km Bharat Jodo Yatra in Srinagar with a flag-hoisting ceremony at the iconic Lal Chowk’s clock tower. He had walked across Srinagar city on the last day of the yatra along with other Congress leaders.

Gandhi was earlier scheduled to unfurl the tricolour on 30 January at the Jammu & Kashmir Pradesh Congress (JKPCC) headquarters on Maulana Azad Road in the city, 800m away from the clock tower.

The party, however, got permission to hoist the flag at Lal Chowk on Saturday evening, and decided to shift the venue.

“Rahul Gandhi was supposed to unfurl the national flag on 30 January at the PCC office since permission to do so elsewhere wasn’t granted. (But) last evening, the J&K administration allowed him to do so in Lal Chowk under the condition that it should be done today, on 29 January, at the end of the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Congress MP Jairam Ramesh tweeted out.

Earlier this month, Rajni Patil, All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for J&K, had said that unfurling the national flag at Lal Chowk was part of “RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) agenda”.

“We do not believe in the RSS agenda of hoisting the tricolour at Lal Chowk, where it has already flown high,” she had said.

Speaking to ThePrint after her comments on Lal Chowk, Patil had said: “Pandit (Jawaharlal) Nehru unfurled the national flag at Lal Chowk. Since the 1990s, first (BJP’s) Murli Manohar Joshi unfurled the flag (there). Then (party leaders) Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley came but were stopped. The national flag can be unfurled anywhere. What I meant was that when our office is in Lal Chowk, why do we need to go there separately?”

Lal Chowk is the main square in Srinagar located in the heart of the city. It is surrounded by parks, schools and media offices. On a normal day, Lal Chowk buzzes with activity, but on some days, there are barbed wires around it.

In 1948, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was the first person to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk.

Since independence, Lal Chowk has witnessed many significant events. During the peak of militancy in J&K, the iconic square saw separatist rallies and even Pakistani flags in attendance.

At the time in 1992, then BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi, along with (now Prime Minister) Narendra Modi, had unfurled the tricolour at Lal Chowk on 26 January, marking the completion of the BJP’s Ekta Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Modi was then the yatra’s convenor.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

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