Srinagar, Jan 11: Under the cold shade of leafless Chinars here at Ram Munshi Bagh square, a bunch of young boys frivolously roamed on Wednesday afternoon.
No one noticed them at first, but everybody did once their number swelled.
They came in a few mini-vans, and a bus. Most of around 40 boys were between 12 to 30 years of age. All, apparently a part of BJP’s youth wing in Kashmir, had gathered (or arranged to gather) for participating in a ‘mashaal rally’ on the eve of Swami Vivekananda’s birthday—a first in Kashmir.
Many among the boys said they were from Balhama, an area near Pampore; some said they were from Singhpora, Pattan; most others preferred silence.
“We are here to celebrate Swami’s birthday; we will take out a mashaal rally,” said a group of five, in unison.
They, however, soon fell short of words when asked more about ‘Swami’.
“There is some Swami whom we are here for,” a boy replied, clearly indicating that he hadn’t heard much about Swami Vivekananda.
They, the group said, were informed by “someone” to be here for the rally. But one of them gave away his “reason”.
“I have applied for a job, and for that I need some political backing. So, they told me to bring a dozen guys and paid me Rs 2,500; I arranged 14 boys and paid each one of them Rs 100 for the day. They are happy, and so am I,” he said, not revealing the payer’s identity.
Many others tried their best to avoid conversation, but could not hide their confusion.
Asked when he joined BJP’s youth wing, a boy replied: “I haven’t. We are simply following Aijaz sahab.”
Aijaz, or Engineer Aijaz, the State Vice-President of BJP’s youth wing appeared to have used all his contacts to manage the crowd, which included two participants with physical disabilities.
Excited with snapping of cameras and the attention they garnered, the boys were soon handed BJP flags and torches.
They decided to wear the flags as masks and scarves, draping themselves in saffron colour within no time.
With a large BJP banner in the front and excited Aijaz leading his “followers”, his first slogan was a bit odd.
“Narai Takbeer,” he shouted.
Response was a timid “Allahuakbar”.
Giggles followed, and the bandwagon began.
They all walked around two hundred metres to the TRC square, amid strong police cover and astonished and equally angry passersby.
“If Netanyahu (Israel’s Prime Minister) goes to polls in Kashmir, he too may garner 5,000 votes,” a pedestrian said as he looked in shock at the sloganeering youth who shouted “Tera bhai, mera bhai, Aijaz bhai, Aijaz bhai (your brother, my brother, Aijaz Aijaz).”