Jammu divided over Martyr’s Day, Governor skips ceremony in Srinagar

  • NC pays tributes, BJP says ‘not martyrs’ for us
  • There should not be holiday on this day: Congress

There is a sharp divide among people and the political parties in some of the districts of Jammu region with regard to observing of July 13 as the Martyrs’ Day.
While BJP said that those who lost their lives on July 13, 1931 “were not martyrs” and some organisations observed it as a black day, the National Conference in the Jammu region observed the day paying rich tributes to the people who lost their lives on this day.
Some politicians with whom Kashmir Post talked were cautious and choose not to talk about the issue.
“I am not any authority to speak. Please talk to some other person,” said a senior most Jammu-based national political party’s leader.
Similarly, other senior regional political party leader said, “Why you are asking me such questions? My party will not excuse me if I speak up what Jammu wants and it would be against the party stand. Please forgive me.”
PDP’s general secretary Ved Mahajan also skipped the question and said he was busy with some people and he would call back later.
BJP, though maintaining silence over the issue when it was a coalition partner in the government until recently, is now openly opposes it.

BJP’s chief spokesperson, Sunil Sethi told Kashmir Post that they don’t agree with the 13th July to be observed as “holiday or as a martyrs’ day”.
“On July 13, 1931, we feel, people broke the law and there was a commotion. It was the then District Magistrate, under Maharaja Hari Singh Rule, who directed opening of fire on the people who created law -and-order problem and took law in their own hands. District Magistrate exercised powers vested on him.”
“If you observe July 13 as martyrs day or it is continues to be a holiday, then a situation will come when people will ask for holiday on date of slain Hizb Commander Burhan Wani or Maqbool Bhat,” he said.

“We take it as a law-and-order problem and it was dealt with law,” he said, further adding that “It will give rise to more such demands. We see seed of militancy or seed of separation were sow on July 13, 1931 in Jammu and Kashmir and if you make people who were part of the crowd as heroes, then a situation will come when whole society will be divided on communal lines.”
Interestingly, the rightwing political party faced anger in its strong hold i.e. Jammu district and massive protests by the people where former Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh was allegedly hackled on Tawi Bridge near the statue of last Dogra Ruler compelling him to leave the venue.
“If Hindus would also have been killed on July 13 while creating law-and-order problem in State, we would not had supported them too,” Sethi added said.
“If you work against the established law, due course will have to follow. You see lot many militants killed in Kashmir.”
The BJP leader said they cannot make “heroes out of them”. “It was National Conference and Congress Party who were forces in power after Indian Independence and they made heroes to the people who created chaos or law-and-order problem.”
Senior Congress leader and ex-MLA Gandhi Nagar, Raman Bhalla told Kashmir Post “Why there is State holiday on July 13 when they have not announced holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh?”
“Sentiments of Dogras are associated with Maharaja Hari Singh and it was not honoured by the Government. There should be a holiday on last Dogra ruler’s birthday,” Bhalla said.
Former Minister and senior National Conference Ajay Sadotra told Kashmir Post “martyrs day is being observed since the day it happened on July 13, 1931.”
“NC has always stood against the violence or violation of rights of people. NC never fought against any personality (hinting at Maharaja Hari Singh). Those opposing martyrs day remained in power in State. They are talking differently to spread hate in Jammu and Kashmir,” he
“Time has come when people should unite to bring peace and prosperity in entire State.Government should also restrain from harassing unarmed men or civilian. We will not raise voice when armed men are taken to task in Kashmir,” he said.
He said that those demanding holiday on the birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh whether it was Congress or BJP, they kept quit when they were in rule. Today, they are playing politics,” said the NC leader.
Meanwhile, National Conference leaders on Friday paid glowing tributes to 1931 martyrs at a function held at Sher-e-Kashmir Bhavan Jammu here and pledged to work for strengthening democracy and promoting the spirit of unity and communal amity.

Speaking to Kashmir Post, Sham Kesar, Secretary Regional Committee (CPIM) said “We don’t oppose July 13 holiday.
“At the time of British Rule entire nation there facing agitation against the occupant forces, and similarly, Jammu and Kashmir too had agitation under Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah against the Maharaja Hari Singh’s Rule for restoring democracy,” he said.
“Those who are defending Maharaja Hari Singh never support his decisions like Article 370. They never accept some of his decisions. They are using Maharaja’s name for communal politics. It is not regional politics but a communal politics,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jammu Bar Association held a protest demonstration in front of the court complex in Janipur against martyrs day and organizing counseling for people even as the courts were closed.
“They (Kashmir residents) treat militants as martyrs when they get killed in anti-militancy operations of security forces in Kashmir but Jammu people cannot consider them martyrs,” president of Jammu Bar Association, Advocate BS Salathia.
Salathia said that “Ruling class whosoever it was, remained busy to create Hindu-Muslim divide in Jammu and Kashmir.
“This issue (martyrs day) was never asserted (Jammu based politicians) for their own political vested interests as power was preferred over people. Like BJP wanted to abolish special powers but did not speak when they came to power in Jammu and Kashmir with PDP,” Salathia said.
Speaking to Kashmir Post, Jammu Bar Association member, Advocate Hunar Gupta said that Maharaja Hari Singh ruled the state by keeping all regions along without any discrimination. “It was Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and his companions who launched agitation against Maharaja and their revolt against Maharaja was wrong,” he said.
“Sentiments of Jammu people are associated with Maharaja. During his regime, people were happy but now both regions of Jammu and Kashmir talks differently,” he said.
Panun Kashmir, an organisation representing Kashmiri Pandit migrants, said the community observed the holiday as “black day” saying it “was a reminder of large scale arson, loot and sectarian carnage against minority Hindus”.
“The seeds of genocide and ethnic cleansing of the community from the Valley were sown on this day,” a spokesperson of Panun Kashmir said.
The organisation also urged the government to abolish the public holiday.
Meanwhile, Governor Narinder Nath Vohra Friday skipped the Martyrs Day ceremony while the Governor’s administration had a meeting of all the administrative secretaries scheduled on a State holiday.
The absence of the Governor and his three advisors left National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah wondrous and questioning as to why anyone from the top brass of the government skipped the event.
Speaking to media persons after laying wreaths on the graves of the July 13 Martyrs at the Martyrs Graveyard at Naqshband Sahab in Srinagar downtown, Omar said if the Governor was busy then someone from among the three advisors should have attended the ceremony.
“It isn’t a function of some party but a State function. It should be honoured likewise,” Omar said. “If the government wants to end the tradition of commemorating the martyrs, then let them try it.”
He said holding a meeting in the secretariat on the occasion was unheard of in the past as no State holiday had been meted out this treatment by the government.
Earlier, Governor Vohra skipped the event unlike the last year when the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had presided over the guard of honour and wreath laying ceremony.
Today, the official wreath-laying ceremony was presided over by Director General of Police Sheesh Paul Vaid along with Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Khan.
On Thursday an order issued by the government of Jammu and Kashmir read, “The chief secretary shall take a meeting of the administrative secretaries on 13 July 2018 at 3 pm in the committee room third-floor civil secretariat Srinagar.”
The order further reads: “Accordingly, all the administrative secretaries are requested to kindly make it convenient to attend the meeting.”
Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti also told reporters after laying wreaths that the Martyrs Day marks the foundation laying of the present State of Jammu Kashmir and everybody should visit the place to pay their tributes.
“Every leader should come here because, for J&K’s democracy, they have laid down their lives,” she said.
Interestingly, last year coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir State government BJP had also skipped the event.
Awami Ittihad Party President and MLA Langate Engineer Rasheed said, “While fringe and communal elements are busy hatching conspiracies in Jammu region, ignoring the fact that the martyrs sacrificed their lives for the people of the entire State.”
He said the Chief Secretary, in a horrible and shameful incident, had convened a meeting of administrative secretaries in the civil secretariat just to dilute the sanctity of the Martyrs Day.
“Being a public servant, the Chief Secretary should have conducted programmes to pay tributes to those martyrs whom everyone, cutting across political ideologies, recognizes,” Rasheed said. “It is disgraceful that even the Governor preferred to skip the function.”
He said neither the BJP nor any of their allies had visited the Martyrs Graveyard and the party was thus continuing to give 13 July, the Martyrs Day, a communal colour.
“Undoubtedly, martyrs don’t need homage from State administration but the proxies of New Delhi have exposed themselves by trying to implement the RSS agenda through backdoor channels,” Rasheed said.
On July 13, 1931, 22 Kashmiris were gunned down by the army of autocratic Dogra ruler after the people rose against the oppressive Maharaja’s rule for their rights.