Srinagar: BJP cabinet ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government today skipped the official function to pay tributes to the 22 martyrs killed by Dogra rulers on 13 July 1931 in Srinagar, in what is considered as a watershed event in the political history of the state.
Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, who paid floral tributes at the martyrs graveyard in old city of Srinagar, said the state will not forget the huge sacrifices of its brave-hearts against suppression and autocracy.
"It was a unique struggle that culminated in the sacrifice by our martyrs, who scripted a new chapter in the history of the state and laid the edifice for democracy and human dignity of people," Sayeed said to a small group of PDP workers who had gathered at the graveyard.
"The real homage one can pay to the martyrs is by creating an equitable environment for everyone to grow and gel together in a democratic atmosphere," he said.
On Monday, the state government had locked down all the major separatist leaders on the day when the disarrayed Hurriyat had decided to march in unity towards Martyrs Graveyard in Naqshbandh Sahib locality.
Two days earlier, on Saturday, hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani hosted an Iftar party at his residence in Srinagar in which the moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Yasin Malik broke the fast together.
Martyrs Day is commemorated by both mainstream and separatist politicians in Kashmir to mark the day when the soldiers of last ruler of independent Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, killed 22 unarmed civilians outside the Central Jail in Srinagar on 13 July 1931.
In 1931, a movement against Maharaja Hari Singh began with the demonstration against the trail of a British butler, Abdul Qadeer, who described the Dogra rulers as a dynasty of ‘bloodsuckers' following which 22 persons were killed by Dogra forces outside Central Jail when a large gathering of people demanded an open trial of Qadeer. The killing led to the founding of the moment of ‘Kashmiri Nationalism’ led by populist politics of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
While the separatist as well as mainstream leaders in Jammu and Kashmir were commemorating the Martyrs Day, outside the Press Club in Jammu, Kashmiri Pandits marked it as a black day.
"Celebrating Martyrs Day against the Dogra rule is not just against the Maharaja's rule, but also against Dogra people and Jammu. It is now close to a century, but in these years no effort has been made to bridge this divide. The extension of Kashmir politics has been missing in Jammu, Rekha Choudhary, who teaches Political Science at Jammu University, told Firstpost.
"Even I don’t think this government has got the chance of bridging this divide. For the moment, they are serving their own constituencies. They are surviving, that is enough. If the BJP ministers would have gone to attend the function, it would have been a political suicide from them in Jammu," Choudhary said.
However, experts in Kashmir believe that the people of Jammu still view the voices raised by Kashmiri leadership against the autocratic leadership as 'negative'. "At least Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh should have symbolically gone to the martyrs graveyard. His not going shows that the people in Jammu have still not come out of the colonial mindset," Noor Mohammad Baba, professor of Political Science at Central University of Kashmir, said.
The cabinet ministers from the BJP, which is part of the coalition government headed by Sayeed in the state, chose to skip the function, a move criticised by the opposition National Conference. After Sayeed left the graveyard, Omar Abdullah, the working president of NC, also reached there and paid floral tributes.
Later, hitting out at the coalition government, Omar tweeted: "J&K state ministers boycott an official state function but the silent Mufti couldn't care less as long as his throne remains in tact."
However, the BJP spokesperson, Altaf Thakur, said the party has never commemorated 13 July and will not do so in future. "No leader from BJP would be there to attend this function. The ministers who are part of the government are all in Delhi for a meeting with BJP president Amit Shah," Thakur told Firstpost.
Junaid Azim Mattu, the NC's spokesperson said that the BJP is against the very essence of 13 July, "Why would anyone expect them to make a change? But, having said that, the ministers in the state government should have attended the function."
Hitting out at BJP's Thakur, Mattu said: "If they are ministers in Mufti Sayeed's government, they should have been part of his function, not in New Delhi. It is a state government's function. What kind of excuse is this? Would they be in Delhi on the day when the secretariat is thrown open. Amit Shah should have scheduled his meeting in a proper manner."
Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Hindu ruler of Kashmir, is seen as a hero in Jammu who provided a sense of identity and power to the people of region. Naturally, the voice raised against him by Kashmir’s most popular political figure, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, was viewed as 'villainous' for snatching their power to rule Kashmir.
"These political and physiological fault lines are still visible and divide the state into two different political identities. The leadership in both the regions should have worked since to change it, but this uneasy relationship continues, which the present government claims to bridge," said Baba.
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Updated Date: Jul 13, 2015 19:14:11 IST