By staying away from the official function of remembering the martyrs of July 1931 massacre, BJP has formally established the widely held belief that the right-wing party inherits the legacy of the killers and not the slain.
July 13, 2015 has assumed historic significance because this would be for the first time in history that a political party ruling the state skips being part of the function aimed at respecting the martyrs. July 13, it is interesting to mention, is an official holiday.
July 13 is being observed as martyr’s day to remember the 21 civilians who were killed by the troops of Hari Singh when they had gathered near Central Jail to witness the trial of Qadeer Khan. These dead bodies marked the beginning of resistance to exploitative Dogra rule that set in with Gulab Singh purchasing Kashmir in 1846 under Treaty of Amritsar. Hundreds of people were murdered by Hari Singh’s troops outside Srinagar, mostly in south Kashmir in the subsequent disturbances following the massacre.
When Hari Singh fled Kashmir in October 1947, Jammu witnessed a large scale massacre of Muslim minorities. Historians and witnesses insist the pogram was carried out with the active involvement of the Maharaja. It substantially reduced the demography of the state, especially that of Jammu district.
For the subsequent decades, Hari Singh continues to be hero of Jammu and the main party that would propound this thought was the right wing party. The parivaar existed as Praja Parishad before becoming the BJP and creating a larger family. It was Parishad that led the campaign against the exclusivity of J&K in Indian federation, the Eak Vidhaan, Eak Pradhan and Eak Nishan.
“This was always in place,” said a senior PDP Minister, speaking off the record. “For Jammu, Sheikh Abdullah was always a villain and Hari Singh, a hero.” The minister said Jammu did not permit a bridge on Tawi to be named after Sheikh Abdullah, even during NC rule. Earlier when Ghulam Mohammad Shah was in power, they ensured the Satwari Chowk is not called the Abdullah Chowk.
The minister said while BJP is the main party that spearheads the hero status of Hari Singh, Congress is playing a second fiddle. “They used to attend July 13 function because they exist in Kashmir and that was the pressure,” the minister said. “When they had to unveil the status of Hari Singh in Jammu, they got Ghulam Nabi Azad, the then Chief Minister to do the honours.”
Interestingly, sections of Kashmiri Pandits observe July 13 as Black Day and they also have this day linked to 1931. Post massacre, angry mobs in 1931 took up some corpses and moved around in city. At a few places, they resorted to stone pelting. This incident has been packaged as a communal riot and is being observed routinely in Jammu after 1990.
“Now they (BJP) have formalized it, I feel, it had further divided the people,” the minister said. “I genuinely feel the divide has been taken to the next level.” But the minister says he does not foresee any consequences.
PDP even lost the chance of countering it politically, a young PDP leader said. He said his party should have got Vikramadatiya Singh, the son of Karan Singh to join Chief Minister at the Martyrs Graveyard. “This would have sent a much larger message and indicated a change in the mindset,” said the leader. “Singh is party member in state’s upper house and he should have been around.”
People see the boycott of BJP as party’s rebuff to the Chief Minister. “They have snubbed Mufti but they have chosen a day that is dear to entire Kashmir regardless the politics of it,” a government employee presently posted in the civil secretariat said. “Given the costs it entails for any political party in Kashmir, I think it must have costs.”
Some people said while the BJP has accepted Pakistan and Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister visited Minar-e-Pakistan and Mazar-e-Qaied to make it publicly known in 1998, the BJP in J&K still sees the civilian slain as villains and not the victims!
PDP’s spokesman Dr Mehbooba Beig, who was NC’s top man till late 2014, has expressed his rage and anger. But that is unlikely to reduce the costs of consequence that his party could face in short and long term.
BJP has reacted to the incident at two levels. At one level the party used a Kashmiri to convey that since PDP does not respect BJP leader Shama Prasad Mokherji, why BJP should do it – respect July 13. The other statement was BJP MP R K Singh terming the function as separatist function.
“My opinion is that J&K CM should not have gone to the ‘Martyr’s Day’ function of separatists, its wrong,” Singh has told some TV Channel.
This angered Omar Abdullah, the NC leader. “J&K state Ministers boycott an official state function but the silent Mufti couldn’t care less as long as his throne remains intact,” Omar wrote on the twitter. “Someone please tell the Hon MP that it’s an official state function with a police reverse arms & “Abide With Me”.”
If BJP cannot respect something that is fundamental to the being of J&K as a state, can the party ever agree to the process of reconciliation, an idea that unionists have been hawking for all these years? July 13 is part of constitution and those insulting it may have rethink if at all they are suited to govern J&K.