By Hilal Mir
Srinagar: This day in 1931, about a dozen men tried to storm Srinagar Central Jail, where then Hindu Maharaja’s judiciary was holding trial of Abdul Qadeer Khan, whom many believe was an Afghan and who had asked Kashmiris to rise against the desecration of Quran by Dogra soldiers in Jammu. About two dozen were shot dead. These martyrs, buried in the courtyard of a shrine complex, are hailed every year as the pioneers of Kashmiri freedom struggle. However, what has passed for official homage to these martyrs for the past 20 years is, in fact, a monumental desecration of their mission.
These martyrs no doubt belong to the entire Kashmiri nation but as dead everywhere, their kin reserve the first right to offer prayers for them on this day. The kin can’t come because of curfew. They can’t come also because the area is converted into a garrison so that the ruling chief minister and opposition members can come in their Z-category, commando-secured caravans and shower the graves with `flowers and tell an assorted assembly of reporters the platitudes that would make these martyrs cringe in their graves.
The 13 July Martyrs Day has been hijacked in the most shamefaced manner by the state. Instead of the martyrs’ heirs, security guards of politicians and a few dozen party activists are now the participants in the annual official ritual.
This year the uprising set in motion by the killing of Burhan Wani, already hailed as the ‘fifth generation heir’ to the 1931 martyrs by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, somehow dimmed the focus on the day and deprived the NC and PDP an opportunity to exhibit their discredited politics from the sacred place in a big way.
Still, between 7 and 8am, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and NC leader Omar Abdullah came to the place along with their crowds. Shrine caretaker Abdul Ahad said while 40-50 people accompanied Mehbooba, Omar had managed a slightly higher number of people from some neighbouring areas.
About 3am, Ahad said, PDP workers accompanied by police hung buntings in about 200 feet stretch of Khawaja Bazar road. From their looks, the buntings, with PDP’s party symbol, looked very old, perhaps last year’s. Even the circular floral wreaths laid on the graves appeared second hand. In the cohort of ministers and partymen accompanying Mehbooba was one nicknamed Birbal, whose pet political theory is that “nothing can stop Kashmir from being raped by India, what one can do is it make it less painful” and a lawmaker who started as a lowly employee in food department and is now owner of a fleet of 100 trucks.
An ad the government released to newspapers reads “salutations to those martyrs whose sacrifices laid foundations for people’s rule, democracy and happiness”. Nothing could be more laughable.
The “happy people” whose “rule” was ushered in by the 1931 martyrs have been under curfew for the past five days, 35 of them have been killed like flies, three blinded and 1500 maimed, not to speak of humiliations. The chief minister who spearheads the “democracy” brings a couple of dozen party workers in police vehicles to the graveyard where she appeals the masses that have risen in revolt, to maintain ‘calm’.
“People’s rule” is a joke, when viewed historically. The chief minister who showered flowers over the graves calls her alliance with quasi-fascist BJP a political miracle. Now, the BJP part of the government, which has never considered the 1931 martyrs martyrs, recently announced it will develop Dogra monarchy’s founder Gulab Singh’s native village a site for religious tourism. BJP members regularly hail Dogra rulers as ‘beacons of light’ and ‘guides for future generation’.
In “people’s rule”, the heirs of Dogra monarchy and its ideology of ruling over majority Muslim subjects, have become de facto rulers. “People’s rule” is being enforced from New Delhi. The only man from the state present at Indian prime minister’s emergency meeting yesterday was Dr Jitendra Singh, who considers his heroes the Dogra maharajas against whose tyrannical rule the 1931 martyrs and the people in general had risen in revolt.
And “democracy”! Oh Yeah. In the “democracy” established by the martyrs, the government imprisons all dissenters and then asks them to rescue the situation that has gone out of hand.
In this “democracy” youths are being blinded with non-lethal ammunition and then retina specialists are flown from, where else, India.