First Time Since 1947, Martyrs’ Day Observed Sans Govt

A deserted view of Mazar-e-Shuhada (Martyr's graveyard) in Srinagar on Monday- KO Photo: Abid Bhat

Srinagar: For the first time since 1948, there was no holiday and official function to commemorate the annual Martyrs’ Day in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday.

In a break from past, there was no function at the Martyrs’ graveyard here after the government dropped July 13 from the list of gazetted holidays last year following the abrogation of special status of the state now turned into a union territory.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had declared July 13 as a holiday in 1948.

Apart from the official function at the Martyrs’ graveyard situated in the lawns of Sufi shrine of Bahaudin Naqshband, unionist political leaders used to pay floral tributes at the resting place of 22 Kashmiris who were killed in Dogra army’s firing while protesting the autocratic rule of Maharaja Hari Singh on this day in 1931.

However none of the political leaders visited the graveyard on Monday in view of the strict restrictions imposed in most parts of Kashmir to contain the spread of coronavirus infection.

The Shrine area in Khojabazar was sealed off and its gates locked by the police, residents said.

None of the leaders of Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who had on Saturday called for a strike for the day, could visit the graveyard either.

A National Conference leader, however, said the party had applied for permission to visit the Martyrs’ graveyard, but there was no response from the district administration.

Meanwhile, both NC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the two key pro-establishment parties in Jammu and Kashmir – paid glowing tributes to the martyrs on this day.

In a statement, the NC said the day marked the inauguration of struggle of Jammu and Kashmir against oppression and discrimination .

The day has an emblematic importance for the people of Jammu and Kashmir as it marked the launch of widespread people’s agitation for the restoration of their due human rights…

Every year we remember the supreme sacrifice of the martyrs of 13 July 1931, NC said adding the idea behind remembering them is not merely an act of reminiscing past but there is more to it. “On this day we galvanise our lives with their mission as was done by (NC founder) Sher-e-Kashmir (Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah) all through his life”, NC president Farooq Abdullah said.

Farooq Abdullah, the Member of Parliament from Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency, said it is the day of assertion of Jammu and Kashmir’s identity and rights of its people.

“The day marks the shift from stoicism to dynamism. It was a fight of the tyrannised against a tyrant, of the oppressed against oppressors… I on this day pay my earnest tributes to all the martyrs who laid their lives on that day to secure a new dawn of freedom for future generations”.

The martyrs of 1931 will continue to be a beacon of light for us and for the coming generations. Every single drop of their blood is sacred to us, he said.

NC vice-president Omar Abdullah while paying tributes to the martyrs said the day marks the collective defiance of the oppressed against oppressors .

The day is the watershed moment in the people’s struggle for restoration of their universal human rights. It was their valour that inspired millions of others to rise against the then despotic and autocratic regime. We observe the day to reiterate our commitment to fight evil with kindness, violence with non-violence and peaceful struggle, he said.

The PDP, while paying tributes to the martyrs said, their role in Jammu and Kashmir’s freedom struggle can neither be undone nor can be forgotten .

The memory of 13th July martyrs cannot be erased by changing the government calendar of holidays as they will live forever in the hearts and memories of every freedom loving democrat, a PDP spokesman said in a statement.

He said the PDP reiterates its commitment to the objectives of justice, empowerment and democratic rights that the martyrs have laid their lives down for.

Regional political parties used to pay homage to the martyrs on this day while the successive governments would organize official functions to commemorate this day in the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) president Syed Altaf Bukhari termed the restrictions as highly regrettable.

Bukhari said that the martyrs’ graveyard in Old Srinagar city symbolizes the legacy of those brave hearts and sons of the soil who sacrificed their lives to lay edifice for democracy and natural justice in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Putting curbs on the visit of political parties to martyrs’ graveyard for paying homage to our heroes who laid down their precious lives against autocracy and oppression is unjustifiable,” Bukhari said in a statement.

He said that July 13, 1931 is a historic day for the people of Jammu and Kashmir as the day marks the beginning of a struggle against suppression and inequality and its relevance will remain the same for times to come.

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