SRINAGAR: For the second consecutive year, commemoration of July 13, Martyrs’ Day, was again prevented from happening by the government. Till two years ago, the day used to be a government holiday, and political parties of all shades of opinion would pay tributes to the 22 martyrs at the graveyard where they are buried at Naqashband Sahab in downtown Srinagar. The BJP government in Delhi had in 2019 removed the day as a government holiday.
The significance of the day in Kashmir is due to it being a symbol of people’s fight against autocracy. Historically, too, the day is significant because it led to the autocrat Maharaja holding the first popular elections in J&K, and the emergence of leaders like Molvi Muhammad Yousuf Shah and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
This year, the government imposed restrictions on movement around the martyrs’ graveyard, preventing any political party from reaching the site. Till two years ago, the same political parties when in power would impose similar restrictions on Hurriyat leaders. Now, most of them are behind bars. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whose great grandfather Molvi Muhammad Yousuf Shah had led the funeral procession of the slain in 1931, remains under house arrest for more than two years, the most he has ever has been in his lifetime.
Still, the day remains important in the memory of people, as was evident in many areas of Srinagar observing a spontaneous shutdown on the day.
The NC said that the administration had denied permission to its leaders to offer homage to the martyrs. Party president Farooq Abdullah held a meeting at the NC headquarters along with scores of other leaders.
“July 13, 1931, marks the assertion of JK’s identity and rights,” former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said, describing the official curbs at the graveyard as an attempt to distort history and create a sense of defeat among the Kashmiri people.
In a joint statement, Dr Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah described the 1931 episode as “a landmark in the history of J&K”.
“Their sacrifices resulted in the transformation of the State from a feudalistic to a democratic one. The brave men 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,” they said.
The PDP, too, also marked the day at its Srinagar office. Mehbooba Mufti, the head of the party, said that the sacrifices of 1931 propelled democracy forward and were remembered by all regional parties across the political divide.
“Today on the occasion of Martyrs’ Day, the gates leading to their graveyards have been locked up. Attempts to distort and rewrite Kashmir’s history are being done only to create a sense of defeat and helplessness amongst Kashmiris. Nevertheless, as we pay homage to the heroes of 13th July, 1931, our resolve to strive for restoration of J&K’s dignity remains firm,” she said.
Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference and Altaf Bukari’s J&K Apni Party also paid tributes to the anti-Dogra protesters.