Political parties, cutting across ideological lines, on Monday paid rich tributes to July 13, 1931 martyrs in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Peoples Conference, led by Sajad Gani Lone, in their messages termed the current political scenario in Kashmir as “worse than monarchy”.
The PDP while paying tributes to the July 13 martyrs said they laid down their lives for the empowerment of the people of J&K and that it is tragic that the “myopic and communal actions” of the present government demolished with one stroke on August 5 all the progress that had been achieved in the last seven decades.
“The resultant chaos is now showing results that are completely opposite to what had been sold to the people of India at the time of scrapping of state constitution and special status granted by the constitution of India,” the spokesperson said. The party said it rejects the undemocratic status quo “imposed on us by the BJP government, which has deprived us of our autonomy, freedom and human dignity, which underpin the constitution.”
Every year since 1948, Jammu and Kashmir would officially observe July 13 in remembrance of Kashmiris who fell to the bullet of the Dogra forces in 1931. Last year in December, five months after abrogation of Article 370, the day along with December 5, the birth anniversary of former J&K Prime Minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, were dropped by government from the list of public holidays for 2020.
“Though the July 13 movement had originally started as a campaign for empowerment of Muslims of the then princely state, it had later evolved into the most inclusive and secular movements of the pre-independence era. Unfortunately for the present government it became the main target of its agenda of hate. The people will however continue their struggle to resist demographic change, disempowerment, and oppression through democratic, constitutional and non-violent means to rebuild the state in accordance with our traditions of tolerance, accommodation and amity,” the PDP spokesperson said.
In a statement, senior vice president Peoples Conference, Abdul Gani Vakil, said the “valiant sacrifices of July 13 martyrs would continue to inspire people of the state to fight for their rights, dignity and justice.”
He said the “sense of servility” that a Kashmiri has been subjected to today was no different than what the rulers in 1931 did. “Our struggle today is the same. The present day rulers have left the monarchy well behind in their unquenchable thirst to disempower and humiliate Kashmiris. We must be inspired from the spirit that was nurtured and sown by the martyrs in 1931 and resolve to rise above self to carry forward their sacred mission,” he said.
The National Conference in its message, however, has limited itself to pay tributes to martyrs and defined July 13 as the day that marks the collective defiance of the oppressed against oppressors.
Martyrs Day, July 13
Since 1948, every year, July 13, was observed as the state holiday in Jammu and Kashmir and the Chief Minister and other Cabinet Ministers, opposition leaders, would pay tributes to the martyrs in Srinagar. On this day, in 1931, 21 Kashmiris were killed by Maharaja Hari Singh’s forces when Kashmiris were agitating against Maharaja for arresting a fiery orator, Abdul Qadir, outside Srinagar’s central jail. Qadir was arrested for insisting that the only course for Muslims was to fight “Maharaja’s oppression” with sticks and stones if guns were not available. The Maharaja’s forces opened fire at the protesters, who were pelting stones. Twenty-one Kashmiris were killed and several wounded. Thus, the first street agitation against Maharaja began in Kashmir. Later, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah described the day as having the same impact on “our movement as the massacre Jallianwala Bagh had on India’s independence movement.”
Syed Ali Geelani’s Shutdown Call and Police Denial
On Tuesday last week, Jammu & Kashmir Police issued a statement saying it has filed an FIR against unknown people for allegedly circulating a letter calling for a strike July 8 and July 13 in commemoration of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani and the martyr’s day, respectively. Police said the letter was being circulated in the name of senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, 91, but stated he hadn’t written it.
The official Twitter handle of Kashmir Police said the letter had been published “from Pakistan”.