As part of a nationwide programme for Independence Day, shopkeepers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag were told to pay Rs 20 as a “deposit fee” for the tricolour or face action. Subsequently, a senior district official clarified that the flag campaign was purely voluntary.
On Friday, the Anantnag Chief Education Officer (CEO) issued a circular for schools in the district, asking students and teachers to pay the Rs 20 fee. This circular was withdrawn after being shared widely on social media.
The announcement for shopkeepers was made from a loudspeaker-equipped vehicle in the district in South Kashmir.
Anantnag Deputy Commissioner Dr Piyush Singla Sunday said this had taken place without his permission and that the person responsible — the announcer — has been suspended.
Before his clarification, the following message went out through the loudspeakers on Saturday: “By order of the Anantnag District Administration, every shopkeeper is asked to deposit Rs 20 in the office that gives them trade license. It is possible that one who doesn’t deposit Rs 20 can face action. So to save themselves and complete this formality, they should deposit Rs 20.”
The Centre’s nationwide ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign seeks to encourage people to hoist the national flag on August 15.
In Bijbehara town of the district in south Kashmir, shopkeepers were told to deposit the money by Monday noon. The announcement did not specify what action could be taken against those failing to comply.
It came after schools in Budgam district were told to collect Rs 20 from students and staff members.
“As per the directions of the Chief Education Officer Budgam, all the HOIs (Heads of Institutions) of this zone are asked to collect Rs 20 per head from the students and staff members of the school to deposit the saem in ZEO office within four days,” reads the circular issued by the Zonal Education Officer in Chadoora, Budgam. “In case of more than one student belonging to the same family, charges from only one student can be collected as per instructions.”
This circular was issued last week.
Kashmir School Education Director Tasaduq Hussain Mir did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment.
Reacting to the public announcement and the circular, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said “patriotism comes naturally and can’t be imposed”.
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“The manner in which J&K admin is forcing students, shopkeepers and employees to pay for the national flag to hoist it as if Kashmir is an enemy territory needs to be captured. Patriotism comes naturally and can’t be imposed,” Mufti tweeted while sharing a video of the public announcement.
Anantnag Deputy Commissioner Singla said the announcement was made without authorisation.
“(There was) No sanction to such kind of announcement from administration,” Singla told The Indian Express. “It is purely a voluntary campaign. Announcer did it on his own.”
He said the announcer has been placed under suspension.