For the third consecutive year, no function was held to commemorate the Martyrs’ Day in Kashmir to pay homage to 22 Kashmiri people who were killed by the army of a Dogra ruler on this day in 1931, officials said on Wednesday.
July 13 was a public holiday in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and a grand official function was held every year on this day where the chief minister or the governor would be the chief guest.
However, the administration dropped the day from the list of gazetted holidays in 2020, after the abrogation of Article 370 and splitting of the erstwhile state into two union territories by the Centre on August 5, 2019.
No function was held at the Martyrs’ graveyard in the city while no holiday was observed for the third time on Wednesday, the officials said.
Apart from the official function at the Martyrs’ graveyard, mainstream political leaders also used to visit it to pay homage to the 22 Kashmiris who fell to the bullets of the Dogra army while protesting the autocratic rule of Maharaja Hari Singh.
However, the officials said, this year no mainstream political leader visited the graveyard. They added that there were no restrictions on the movement of people.
However, the National Conference said it had applied to the Srinagar district magistrate for permission to visit the graveyard for paying tributes to the martyrs of 1931 but it was not allowed.
The party decried the “dilly-dallying tactics” of the administration on not allowing its leaders to offer prayers and floral tributes at ‘Mazar-e-Shuhada’ on Martyrs’ Day, NC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said.
He said the office of the party’s general secretary had sought permission from the administration for visiting the graveyard at Khawaja Bazar here for offering prayers and floral tributes but no communication from the side of the administration was received.
"Like previous year, this year the administration is again willfully closing the gates of Mazar-e-Shuhada for us to offer our floral tributes and fatiha. Our repeated requests have got the cold shoulders from administration,” Dar said.
He said locking up the gates leading to the graveyard cannot embed the contribution of the July 13 martyrs into obscurity.
“Such attempts are carried out with a sole objective to distort and rewrite Kashmir’s political history and pale our heroes into insignificance. Contrarily, these curbs and gags resuscitate people's veneration for them. Such measures cannot be condoned in a democratic society.
“13th July is a significant chapter in the annals of J-K’s history which cannot be undermined. I on behalf of my party and myself condemn these measures," he said.
In a statement issued here, NC president and Member of Parliament Farooq Abdullah and party vice president Omar Abdullah paid glowing tributes to the martyrs of 1931, calling the day a landmark in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.
Recalling the sacrifice of the martyrs, Farooq Abdullah said the implications of the day thickened over time and resulted in the transformation of the state from a feudalistic to a democratic one.
“The brave men who laid their lives on 13th of July, 1931 belonged to a generation of wisdom and vision. They saw in darkness and despair, a vision for the forthcoming generations; they envisioned a society free from bondage, discrimination and oppression,” he said.
Omar Abdullah said July 13 marks the “collective defiance of the oppressed”.
“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.
Taking to Twitter, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) headed by Mehbooba Mufti also paid “glowing tributes to the heroes of 13th July, 1931”.
“Those martyrs with their blood wrote a new chapter in the history of J&K which created an urge among the people for freedom & dignity. As we pay homage we also reiterate our resolve to strive for restoration of J&K’s dignity,” the party tweeted.
Srinagar Mayor and Apni Party leader Junaid Azim Mattu also paid tributes to the martyrs.
"I pay my humble tributes to those who laid down their lives on 13th July, 1931 in their quest for dignity, equality and our human rights. May their souls Rest In Peace and may we find inspiration in their sacrifices to empower the disempowered and give voice to the voiceless,” Mattu wrote on Twitter.
(With PTI inputs)