July 13, a day of Ironies and Sacrifice

Barring the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Jammu-based National Panthers Party, the entire spectrum of political ideologies in Jammu and Kashmir, including separatists observe July 13 as Martyr’s Day.
Though J&K Chief Ministers make it a point to attend the function, Governor N N Vohra will skip it.
On this day in 1931, twenty two common Kashmiris were killed in firing by the forces of Dogra ruler Hari Singh outside the central jail in Srinagar. The day, observed as a government holiday in J&K, marked a turning point in the long Kashmiri struggle against the Dogra autocratic rule remembered for tyranny and discrimination.
The 22 martyrs were laid to rest in the premises of the revered shrine of Hazrat Khawja Naqshband Sahab shrine (RA) at Khajwabazar in downtown. The graveyard is popularly known as Martyrs’ Graveyard.
The BJP that won 25 seats in the 2014 Assembly polls in the state has decided to observe July 13 as a working day and stage a protest. The NPP too has plans to stage a protest in Jammu on the day.
The rest of the ‘mainstream’ pro-India political groups in the state including the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress party observe the day as Martyrs Day and pay floral tributes at the Graveyard in downtown.
Separatist groups, however, are not allowed by the government to do the same and are usually confined to their homes or police stations on the day.
Chairman Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Geelani while paying tributes to the martyrs of July 13, said the ongoing “freedom struggle in Kashmir” is a part of the movement started by the martyrs of 1931.
“The martyrs of 1931 with their blood created history. These martyrs are a milestone of the freedom movement. Though they laid down their precious lives for a sacred cause, their mission remains unfinished,” Geelani said in a statement.
Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the martyrs’ mission was to free Kashmir from the tyranny of despotic Dogra rulers.
“This was the day of uprising when people decided to rise up against the autocratic Dogra rule and protest the persecution of great sympathiser and activist of Kashmir freedom struggle Abdul Qadir Khan,” Mirwaiz told Kashmir Post.
He said those killed on this day were common Kashmiris as is the case today.
“This day is a key milestone in the history of our struggle against foreign control and self determination.”
Echoing similar thoughts, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman, Muhammad Yasin Malik, who continues to be detained in police station Kothibagh since July 6, said martyrs of 1931 are a “symbol of freedom and bravery.”
“We remember these martyrs who demonstrated unparallel courage and stood firm against tyranny and oppression. They endured bullets on their chests and refused to bow before tyranny, and dictatorship,” Malik said in a statement issued from the police station.
He said that the present people’s revolution that started in 1988 is actually a continuation of the struggle started in 1931.
“It is ironical that rulers and other pro-India parties despite being agents of oppression celebrate martyr’s day and shower flowers on the graves of martyrs and try to deceive people of Kashmir.”
The state’s oldest political party, the National Conference pays similar respect to the martyrs of 1931 as do Kashmir’s separatist groups.
“The sacrifices of the martyrs of July 13 will continue to be a beacon of humanity’s fight for dignity and justice,” said National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah in a statement.
“I pay my humble tributes to our great martyrs who laid down their lives to pave way for a struggle against despotism and tyranny. It was their sacrifice that proved a turning point in our history and inspired millions of oppressed Kashmiris to rise in unison against dictatorship.”
The relatively new PDP also describe the sacrifices of the 1931 martyrs as beginning of a “golden chapter in the history of State.”
In her message, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said the brave hearts of 1931 sacrificed their lives for laying the foundation of a system based on equality, justice and liberty.
“Their sacrifices ought to be safeguarded, respected and protected by every citizen and no sacrifice is big enough to guard their contribution,” she said.
The state president of Congress party, Ghulam Ahmed Mir said martyrs of 1931 laid down their lives to pave way for a struggle against tyrannical rule and injustice meted out of people.
“Sacrifices of these martyrs inspired oppressed Kashmiris to rise against dictatorship and autocratic rule,” Mir said.
However, the BJP has categorically stated that it won’t observe July 13 as martyrs’ day.
“In Jammu and Kashmir, there are many role models like Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, who was popular in Kashmir and Maharaja Hari Singh was famous in Jammu region,” said BJP’s state spokesman, Altaf Thakur.
He said July 13 as a martyr’s day is a debatable issue for BJP and it’s for the party high command to take a call on it as to whether “we need to celebrate it or not.”
Ever since BJP forged an alliance with the PDP in 2014, it stayed away from the official wreath laying function at martyr’s graveyard, stating “it was yet to decide whether those buried there deserve to be called as martyrs.”
The NPP also has similar views for July 13.
“We have never observed or celebrated this day. That’s all what I have to say (about this day),” NPP chairman and the J&K’s former education minister, Harsh Dev Singh told Kashmir Post over phone from Jammu.
The Jammu Bar Association has echoed the BJP and NPP.
“We have decided to stage a protest outside High Court Jammu complex to press for our demand that July 13 be observed as a working day. We strongly oppose the J&K government’s stand of observing July 13 as martyrs’ day,” said Prem Sadotra, the general secretary of Jammu High Court Bar Association.
He said in fact on this day in 1931, some anti-social elements laid the base for present day atmosphere in the valley by inciting the people for communal violence.
“On this day, we have decided to provide fee legal aid to the needy so that the day is observed as a working day,” Sadotra said.