Several programmes, including armed rallies, were Saturday organised in Jammu region to mark the 122nd birth anniversary of the state’s last autocratic Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh, amid demands that the day be declared a public holiday.
Participants criticised the PDP-BJP government for failing to declare September 23 as a public holiday in the state. At an event to pay homage to the state’s last Dogra ruler, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh was forced to cut short his speech.
The issue has been gaining traction in the state for some time. A resolution was adopted in the state legislative council in January to declare the day a public holiday.
But there apparently is no agreement between the two ruling parties.
Lawyers affiliated to the Jammu Bar Association stayed away from work and instead organised a programme within the Association’s premises to celebrate the contribution of the Maharaja.
Maharaja’s grandson and PDP lawmaker Vikramaditya Singh said the demand for public holiday will continue as the issue is linked to the “sentiment” of people in the Jammu region.
“Maharaja was a great leader and the entire Jammu region is united in its demand for a holiday to mark the birth anniversary of their beloved king,” Singh told reporters.
Singh said it was time the sentiment of the people of the Jammu region was recognised.
The BJP had backed the January resolution, but opposition National Conference had walked out from the Council then.
Independent MLA Engineer Rashid had claimed that the passage of the resolution was a disrespect to the people “who gave their life fighting against the autocratic rule.”
Several groups of youth, some armed with swords and licensed guns, rallied through the city on motorcycles and four wheelers, raising slogans against the state government.
Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chief and former minister Harsh Dev Singh asked his grandsons Ajatshatru and Vikramaditya – to resign from their respective political parties in protest against the state government’s “contemptuous denial” to declare the day as a public holiday.
He said the “criminal silence” of the BJP ministers on the issue has exposed the ruling alliance.