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Pay the pavilion fee, J&K traders said; voluntary, says the government

As part of a nationwide Independence Day program, traders in Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir were asked to pay Rs. 20 as a “deposit fee” for tricolor action or facial. Afterwards, a senior district official clarified that the flag campaign was purely voluntary.

On Friday, the Director General of Education (CEO) of Anantnag issued a circular for schools in the district, asking students and teachers to pay the fee of Rs 20. This circular was withdrawn after it was widely circulated on social networks.

The announcement to traders was made from a vehicle fitted with loudspeakers in the southern district of Kashmir.

Anantnag Deputy Commissioner Dr Piyush Singla said on Sunday that it took place without his permission and the person responsible – the advertiser – had been suspended.

Prior to his clarification, the following message came out over the loudspeakers on Saturday: “By order of Anantnag District Administration, every trader is required to deposit Rs 20 at the office granting him the business license. It is possible that whoever does not deposit Rs 20 could face an action. So to save themselves and complete this formality, they should deposit Rs 20.”

The Centre’s nationwide “Har Ghar Tiranga” campaign aims to encourage people to raise the national flag on August 15.

In the town of Bijbehara in the southern district of Kashmir, traders were ordered to deposit the money by Monday noon. The announcement did not specify what action could be taken against those who do not comply.

It came after schools in the Budgam district were ordered to collect Rs 20 from pupils and staff.

“As per the instructions of Director of Education Budgam, all HOIs (head teachers) in this area are requested to collect Rs 20 per head from students and school staff to deposit the same at the office from ZEO within four days,” reads the circular issued by the Zonal Education Officer in Chadoora, Budgam. “In case of multiple students belonging to the same family, the fee for a single student may be collected in accordance with the instructions.”

This circular was published last week.

The Kashmiri school’s director of education, 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 that “patriotism comes naturally and cannot be imposed”.

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“The manner in which the administrator of J&K is forcing students, shopkeepers and employees to pay for the national flag to be hoisted as if Kashmir was enemy territory must be captured. Patriotism comes naturally and cannot be imposed,” Mufti tweeted while sharing a video of the public announcement.

Anantnag Deputy Commissioner Singla said the announcement was made without permission.

“(There was) no sanction to this kind of announcement from the administration,” Singla told The Indian Express. “It’s purely a voluntary campaign. The advertiser did it alone.

He said the advertiser had been suspended.