The Jammu and Kashmir flag, three white stripes and a plough on red background, was removed from the Civil Secretariat in Srinagar on Sunday, 20 days after the government revoked special status of the state.
The flag was initially expected to be removed on October 31, when the law bifurcating the erstwhile state into two union territories – J&K and Ladakh – comes into effect.
Until now, both the Indian flag and the state flag used to hoist atop the seven-storey secretariat building. A security officer posted outside the building told Hindustan Times that both the flags were lowered around sunset on Saturday, in line with the tradition. "I don't know why only the national flag was unfurled today morning," he said.
Under the special status granted by Article 370 in the Constitution, J&K constituent assembly adopted the state flag on June 7, 1952, after discussions between representatives from the state and the government of India.
The flag represented the state's three regions -- Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The decision taken by the constituent assembly was then reflected in Section 144 of the Constitution of J&K.
Sources told NDTV that the Centre has instructed the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to replace the state flag with the Indian flag in all the government buildings.
Media reports quoted a few of the Kashmiris as calling the flag removal "heart-wrenching" and "identity trampling".
"Hundreds of locals since 1947 offered sacrifices, in lives and material, to see the flag high and flying. Betrayal after betrayal saw the last remnant of J&K's special status down, never to rise again. It is heart-wrenching," a vendor near the Jehangeer Chowk told The Hindu.
"The flag removal means that our identity has been trampled upon. This is destruction, not development, as they want us to believe. We will die but won't accept this decision," said another vendor.
J&K has faced communication blockade and been under restrictions since the abrogation of Article 370. Governor Satyapal Malik had said on August 13 that restrictions in the Valley will be lifted after August 15 celebrations.
The Governor said mobile phones and the internet were being "used as weapons to misguide youth". "We don't want to give that instrument to the enemy until things settle down. In a week or 10 days, everything will be alright and we will gradually open lines of communications," he had said.
While 190 our 900 primary schools were expected to reopen in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir on August 19, only 95 schools functioned and the classrooms remained deserted.
Parents in the Kashmir valley remained apprehensive of sending their children to school even as the Srinagar deputy commissioner of police appealed them to do so. "There is so much uncertainty in the situation that sending kids to school at this stage is out of question," Farooq Ahmad Dar, a parent, was quoted as saying by PTI.