By Qadri Inzamam
Srinagar: He cuts a square-shaped piece of cloth from a long roll of white Dasterkhwan, then draws a crescent and a star on its one half and paints it green on the other, thus completing a Pakistani flag. Though the crescent and star on the flag are not neatly drawn, he says most of the times he makes them in rush, thus neatness is compromised.
Altaf (name changed) has been doing it since 2010 – cutting, stitching and painting Dastarkhwans into Pakistani flags and banners reading slogans of Aazadi, freedom.
Altaf, from an uptown locality of Srinagar, owns a camping agency, renting tents and other goods for the wedding and other ceremonies and functions.
When uprising began in 2010, Altaf started using Dasterkhwan for making Pakistani flags and banners out of them.
“The whole business was down and boys were being killed. I had to contribute somehow, so I would paint and stitch Dasterkhwan into flags and banners and distribute them for free,” Altaf says.
During the current uprising, Altaf has again made several flags and banners and distributed them among the youth.
“Many boys know me here for my flag-making, so they come to me asking for making flags. Sometimes they also come with slogans they think of and ask me to paint those on banners,” he says.
However, Altaf says, he never accepts the requests of painting indecent or odd slogans on the banners nor does he make flags other than Pakistan’s.
Altaf is in his early forties. He says that he was a regular stone-thrower till he was married. But after the marriage, things changed for him. “I am married now. I have responsibilities on my shoulders. But that does not mean I will stay away from the movement. This flag-making is my way of contribution,” Altaf says.
But of late, there has been a hiatus as all Dasterkhwan in his shop has ended. “I used all of them to make flags or offered them to boys who wanted to make flags themselves,” he says.
Last week only, Altaf went to a few cloth-merchants and bought nearly 80-metres of white cloth that he will use for flag-making and banners.
“It is very easy to make flags but dangerous. During 2010, I used to make flags at home but this year, I have shifted to other place. I don’t want to put my wife and children in danger, in case anyone learns about it,” he says.
What drives Altaf to make Pakistani flags is his ‘unconditional love’ for Pakistan. He says that if it were not for Pakistan’s support, India would have annihilated Kashmir long ago.
“They have stood by us during difficult times and spoken for us at international forums. We are meant to be part of Pakistan,” he says.