Congress leader Rahul Gandhi unfurled the national flag at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, a day before the Bharat Jodo Yatra end.

“Rahul Gandhi was supposed to unfurl national flag on January 30 in PCC [Pradesh Congress Committee] office, since permission to do so elsewhere wasn’t given,” Congress General Secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh tweeted. “Last evening, state administration allowed him to do so in Lal Chowk, but under condition that it should be done today on 29 at end of Bharat Jodo Yatra.”

Gandhi was accompanied by his sister and party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at the event.

Last week, Rajni Patil, the official in charge of Congress’ Jammu and Kashmir desk, had said that unfurling the flag at Lal Chowk was part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh agenda, reported The Indian Express.

“We do not believe in the agenda of the RSS to hoist the Tricolour at Lal Chowk, where it has already flown high,” Patil had told the newspaper, adding that Gandhi will hoist the national flag on the January 30 at the party headquarters in Srinagar.

During his march, Gandhi has frequently criticised the Hindutva organisation and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for encouraging politics of hate and religious divide.

Gandhi had started the march on September 7 last year in Kanyakumari and travelled to 12 states and two Union Territories – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

On Sunday, Gandhi unfurled the flag amidst high security in Srinagar as shops, business establishments and the weekly flea market were closed.

The march was halted for a day on Friday in Anantnag district of Kashmir after the party alleged security lapse, claiming that police arrangements by the Jammu and Kashmir administration had completely collapsed. The police, however, denied the allegations.

Gandhi, who was in Qazigund, was supposed to walk 11 kilometres in the Valley on Friday but could barely cover a kilometre before his security team asked him to stop, saying that there were no police personnel to manage the large crowd that had gathered to receive him.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Saturday wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking his intervention in ensuring adequate security during the march in Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Gandhi on Sunday said that by hoisting the flag at Lal Chowk he has fulfilled the promise he made to the country. “Hate will lose, love will always win,” Gandhi tweeted. “There will be a new dawn of hopes in India.”

Gandhi could unfurl flag as PM normalised situation: BJP

Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Sunday said that Gandhi was able to unfurl the national flag at Lal Chowk safely because Prime Minister Narendra Modi normalised the situation in the Valley with the abrogation of Article 370, reported PTI.

In 2019, the ruling BJP in the Centre had abrogated the law that had guaranteed a special status to the region with separate administration, flag, and a constitution. After the abrogation, the erstwhile state was split into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

“Rahul Gandhi unfurled the tricolour at Lal Chowk and he was able to do it because of the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who dealt a severe blow to the separatism and terrorism by abrogating Article 370 (in 2019) and strengthened nationalist forces, paving way for the normalisation of the situation and return of peace to the region,” Raina said.

Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and president of People’s Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti said that Gandhi’s unfurling of flag at Lal Chowk comes at a time when Kashmir has been turned into a military garrison.

Mufti compared Sunday’s event with former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s unfurling of the flag at Lal Chowk in 1948 when Kashmir chose to become a part of India under special conditions enshrined in Article 370.

“Nehru’s efforts ensured a Muslim majority J&K acceded to India,” Mufti tweeted. “He assured Kashmiris and allayed concerns about preserving their identity not only in terms of religion but also culturally within India.”

She added: “Assurances given by Indian constitution have been demolished by BJP and is a complete betrayal. Despite these facts, BJP claims to have resolved the Kashmir issue by the unconstitutional abrogation of Article 370. Not only have they failed to address the issue but also gifted 2000 square km of our territory to China.”