The BJP's attempt to hoist the national flag in Srinagar's Lal Chowk -- the symbolic center of the protest movement for an independent Kashmir -- was stymied by swift action by the state government, reports the Hindustan Times under the headline "BJP's flag march...fizzles out." Thousands of BJP party workers and a few top leaders were arrested, prevented from crossing the border into Jammu & Kashmir from Punjab, or stopped from proceeding from Jammu to Srinagar.
In what will come as a worse blow to the Hindu nationalist party, though, the people of India refused to rally around the transparent ploy to whip up patriotic sentiment on India's Republic Day. The Mail Today newspaper reported, in fact, that J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah -- an ally of the Congress -- emerged stronger after he thwarted the BJP march.
And that was a critical miscalculation for the BJP, considering how unpopular Abdullah had become during weeks of protesting--and the killing of some 60-plus civilians by the police--this summer.
Is this further sign that liberal India's hope that the days are over when fear mongering "yatras" (pilgrimages) work to whip up a frenzy of hatred and jingoistic passion? Maybe so. But it's certainly a sign that the BJP hasn't given up on the strategy of provocation -- however risky and irresponsible it may be.
This was not a policy move. Hoisting a flag in Lal Chowk would have changed nothing. It was just the political equivalent of ruffling a reg cape in front of a bull.