The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration renamed as many as 76 schools, buildings and key roads in all the districts after security personnel killed during counter-militancy and eminent personalities of the region on Friday as part of the Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav campaign of the culture ministry to commemorate 75 years of Independence.
An order from senior administrative officer Manoj Kumar Dwivedi of the General Administrative Department dated October 29 directed the concerned departments to take “immediate necessary steps, including amending the records” for the changed names. “Sanction is hereby accorded to naming of infrastructure assets after the following martyrs/ eminent personalities.”
Most of these schools and roads have been named after police and Army personnel—referred to as martyrs in the list—while some of them have also been named after Sahitya Akademi Award-winning artists and writers.
A government school in Gutli Bagh locality of Ganderbal has been renamed after a local policeman Sakhi Akbar, who was killed in a militant attack close to the Amarnath cave in 2001. Similarly, a government degree college in Kulgam has been renamed after a top counter-insurgency expert from the south Kashmir district, Altaf Dar, who was killed by militants in a shootout in 2015. The Tral-Kahlil road in Pulwama has been renamed after a local policeman from the police’s counter-insurgency unit Special Operations Group who was killed in 2018.
Among the eminent personalities who have been acknowledged for their contribution to art and culture include renowned writer Akhtar Mohiuddin after whom a government degree college in Srinagar’s Zakura has been renamed. Mohiuddin, who died in 2001, made a significant contribution to Kashmiri fiction when writing in Urdu and Persian was predominant.
The government department of public relations has renamed its auditorium after renowned singer Raja Begum while a government degree college in Srinagar’s Iddgah locality has been renamed after poet Habibullah Bhat, famously known by his pen name Hamidi Kashmiri.
The renaming of educational institutions in the Valley has been criticised by some as a “symbolic hogwash” while others have likened it to the ‘cultural crackdown’ after leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) called for renaming all the institutions named after Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the cofounder of All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, now knowns as Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC).
“The government is more interested in changing names rather than bringing any actual change in the lives of the people of J&K. Though the bureaucratic rule, which has no accountability, has failed to deliver, they have excelled in photo ops and narrative building,” JKNC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar told Newsclick.
The administration has been criticised recently for various decisions and measures it has taken despite opposition. The fresh attacks on civilians and non-local workers by militant groups have angered the people, including the Opposition, which has alleged that the BJP has mishandled the restive region.