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Srinagar's Lal Chowk market looks straight out of Europe

Traffic passes through the market area of Lal Chowk in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Lal Chowk is a city square in Srinagar in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Lal Chowk was named so by Left-wing activists inspired by the Russian Revolution as they fought Maharaja Hari Singh. It is a traditional place for political meetings with Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, Sheikh Abdullah, Kashmir's first premier and various other Kashmiri leaders having addressed people from it.

It was at Lal chowk that Jawaharalal Nehru unfurled the national flag in 1948. It was here that he promised Kashmiris a referendum to choose their political future. It was in Lal Chowk that Sheikh Abdullah announced his love for Jawaharlal Nehru and India in a Persian couplet saying “Man Tu Shudi, Tu Man Shudi, Ta Kas Na Goyed, Man Degram Tu Degri (I became you and You became I; so none can say we are separate)”.

On 2 November 1947 that Nehru,standing beside Abdullah, addressed thousands and said “The fate of Kashmir will ultimately be decided by the people. We have given that pledge and Maharaja (Hari Singh) had supported it. It is not only a pledge to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it,” promised Nehru.

The 1993 Lal Chowk fire refers to the arson attack on the main commercial center of downtown Srinagar, Kashmir that took place on 10 April 1993. The fire is alleged to be started by a crowd incited by militants, while civilians and police officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch and other organisations allege that the Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) didn't provide enough protection to the building and did not allow the police to rescue of people, apparently in retaliation for the burning of an abandoned BSF building by local residents.

Bajaj Electricals built the Clock tower in 1980 with the idea just to make its presence felt in the city centre. For Bajaj, it was a huge advertisement opportunity in Lal Chowk but for Srinagar residents, it was just a fancy tower and a popular landmark with no political symbolism.

The Clock Tower gained political significance in 1992 when the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Murli Manohar Joshi came to hoist the Tricolour atop the tower on Republic Day. Joshi’s move brought several militant groups together, uniting them against India. With Kashmiris locked inside their homes, Joshi hoisted the flag in the company of soldiers. He had to be whisked away in haste when a rocket fired by militants landed some metres away from the tower.

Since then, the BSF and the CRPF undertook the hoisting ceremony until 2009 when they announced it was unnecessary to continue the ritual because the tower “had no political significance” and an official function was held at the nearby Bakshi Stadium on Republic day and Independence day anyway.

Source : Wikipedia

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