Srinagar: Underscoring the ideas of “freedom” and “sacrifice”, the regional political parties on Monday paid tribute to 22 civilians killed by Dogra soldiers on July 13, 1931, in what is referred to as the first moment of defiance in Kashmir’s recent history.
The commemoration of the slain civilians, known as the Martyrs of 13 July, has been observed on the same date annually for seven decades as the Martyr’s Day after it was declared an official holiday. This year, however, for the first time since Dogra rule ended in the region, it was omitted from the annual list of holidays, in what was seen as a result of the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year and BJP’s antagonism towards Muslim symbolism.
Keeping the tradition of commemoration alive, political parties like People’s Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference (NC) and even the newly formed Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) led by Altaf Bukhari, which is seen close to the BJP-led government in New Delhi, issued statements in favour of the martyrs.
Quoting the party vice president Omar Abdullah, NC’s statement said the day marked 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 valor 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,” the former CM said.
Both PDP and NC, the two major regional parties in Kashmir, in their statements while celebrating the martyrdom of July 13, drew comparison with the ongoing crisis in Kashmir which they believe is a result of the August 5 decision carried out by BJP.
“The martyrs laid down their lives for the empowerment of the people of J&K and 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,” PDP’s spokesman said.
Leader of JKAP, Altaf Bukhari, while paying tribute to the “martyrs”, said that J&K is passing through a “critical stage of history”.
“On this historic day, JKAP resolves to fight the nefarious designs used under different pretexts to undermine the unity and pluralistic ethos of our State,” the JKAP president was quoted in a statement.
In 1931, under the rule of erstwhile Dogra regime, scores of Kashmiris had gathered outside the Srinagar Central Jail as a mark of solidarity with a non-local Abdul Qadeer Ghazi, who was arrested for provoking Kashmiris to rebel against the then regime during a speech he made at a rally in Srinagar on June 21, 1931. The rally was called to express concern against two alleged incidents of disrespect meted out by Dogra administration against Islam.
The massacre, according to several historical sources, occurred when one of the protesters stood up to recite Azaan for prayers but was fired at by Dogra soldiers, which was followed by other protesters rising to complete the Azaan resulting in a commotion that led to the killing of 22 civilians.
The carnage is believed to have caused the first major upheaval against the Dogra rule which catapulted the popularity of Sheikh Abdullah as a mass leader in the Valley followed by massive mobilisation against the despotic regime.
Since then, the slain civilians buried at “Mazar e Shuhada” or “martyr’s graveyard” in the courtyard of Sufi Shrine of Naqushband Sahib in Srinagar, have attracted enormous reverence among Kashmiris across the political and ideological spectrum.
The Hurriyat leadership and mainstream leadership in Kashmir were until now caught up at extremes as both owned the July 13 martyrs as a part of their respective ideological lineages.
Apart from being observed as a state holiday, since the outbreak of armed insurgency in Kashmir, the day was also commemorated by separatist politicians with a parallel shutdown call that many Kashmiris adhered to.
Apart from Martyr's Day, the birth anniversary of Sheikh Abdullah on December 5 was also omitted as a public holiday according to a new list released in December last year.
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