SRINAGAR: Republic Day, the first after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was withdrawn, passed off peacefully across Jammu and Kashmir. In Jammu, the Lt Gov GC Murmu unfurled the tricolour and in Srinagar, it was his adviser, Farooq Khan who presided over the function.
The celebrations took place in tight security as the entire security grid was busy ensuring an incident-free parade in anticipation. Authorities jammed voice calling on the phone and withdrew internet facilities in anticipation of the celebrations. The 2G was, however, restored later in the evening. Given the Bakhshi Stadium being under renovation, the main function took place in the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium.
This was the first Republic Day after Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was withdrawn on August 5, 2019, the erstwhile state was divided into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The contingents of various police and paramilitary forces braved inclement weather to participate in the parade.
In his speech, Lt Gov, Girish Chandra Murmu said the security grid successfully averted bloodshed despite efforts from across the border. He complimented the efforts of the security forces and police and asserted that the strict restrictions are now being eased.
Justifying restrictions, including the Internet blockade, Murmu said: “These restrictions were necessary owing to the problems being created and propaganda from across the border. Our priority was that there should be no bloodshed which we have achieved”.
Terming 2019 as the “year of momentous change for the people of Jammu & Kashmir”, Murmu said it witnessed the abrogation of “temporary provision” that led to the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India as it had removed the “artificial legal and economic barriers”. He said the constitutional changes have opened the doors for development in Jammu and Kashmir. “These are historic times. Jammu and Kashmir is seeing a new dawn. A dawn which promises hope, a dawn which will bring prosperity, a dawn which will lead to progress and a dawn which will usher J&K towards peace. The best way to overcome misgivings is to reaffirm our commitment to abide by the values of our Republic.”
Lt Gov said his administration would take more measures to ensure that the government is “run in a rule-based manner with no arbitrariness or delays and accountability will be ensured at all levels”.
The Lt Governor inspected the parade and took the salute at an impressive march past which was commanded by Col RK Sharma, SM of 5th Battalion J&K Light Infantry (JAK LI).
Besides, the First Lady Mrs Smita Murmu, the cultural programme was witnessed by Chief Justice Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Justice Geeta Mittal; Kewal Kumar Sharma and Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, advisors to the Lt Governor; Judges of the J&K High Court; Chander Mohan Gupta, Mayor Jammu Municipal Corporation; Members of Parliament; BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary; Dilbagh Singh, DGP; former Legislators; senior Civil, Police and Army officers, political and social activists, prominent citizens, media persons and the citizenry were present on the occasion. Earlier, the Lieutenant Governor visited the Balidan Stambh and paid homage to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the honour of the country. He laid a wreath at the memorial at Balidan Stambh.
Farooq Khan paid rich tributes to Dr B R Ambedkar for creating the Constitution that guarantees rights to every citizen without discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, region or religion. He also paid tributes to the people who sacrificed their lives to preserve the country’s sovereignty.
Referring to the developmental activities, Khan said the introduction of Back to Village program, a unique initiative to register and address public grievances at people’s doorstep, witnessed huge participation and the officers of the civil administration reached out to every corner of the UT. Under the programme, he said, a number of developmental projects have were taken up.
To strengthen the democracy at the grassroots level and to involve people in the decision-making process for development, he said Panchayat election was conducted across Jammu and Kashmir, but the highlight of 2019 was holding of the first-ever Block level Development Committee Elections.
Khan hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for exhibiting keenness in the development and progress of Jammu and Kashmir. Khan said that the government is keen to develop sports infrastructure to provide a platform to the youths so that they can showcase their talent at the national and international level.
The advisor hailed the police department for maintaining peace in Jammu and Kashmir and lauded the efforts of the people who are working for peace and prosperity of the UT.
Politicians Stay Away
In Srinagar, workers and leaders of most of the mainstream political parties stayed away from the function. Some BJP activists were seen in the stadium but there was no prominent face from Congress, NC and PDP. In Jammu, there were also quite a few politicians from the ruling BJP. A number of school children and performing artists participated in the function.
Award Name Changed
The Republic Day witnessed an important change in the police medal for gallantry and meritorious service by dropping the name Sher-e-Kashmir from it.
“It is hereby ordered that the words Sher-i-Kashmir Police Medal for Gallantry and Sher-i-Kashmir police medal for meritorious service wherever appearing in the government order No 332(P) of 2001 dated 01.08.2001, as amended from time to time, shall henceforth be read as ‘Jammu and Kashmir police medal for gallantry and Jammu and Kashmir police medal for meritorious service,” Principal Secretary, home department, Shaleen Kabra said in an order. The order came a month after the UT dropped Sheikh Abdullah’s birth anniversary as a public holiday.
The medal was given to three officers including the Inspector General of Police, S P Pani, who recently was sent to Central deputation where he is serving as Director-I of the cabinet secretariat. Two others are SSPs -Koshal Kumar Sharma and SSP Suhail Munawar Mir. Besides, sixty other police officers and personnel were awarded the Jammu and Kashmir Police Medal for Gallantry.
The UT of Jammu and Kashmir also announced Jammu and Kashmir Government awards to 11 persons. These included Rinku Raja Pandita, an employee of the tourism department who lost his life during a rafting in Lidder River at the famous hill resort of Pahalgam in June 2019. Falling in the bravery category, his family will get Rs 1 lakh, a medal and a citation.
Others whose awards were announced include Krishan Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Lone (award for achievements in the field of literature), Abu Sufyan Malik (performing art), Fayaz Ahmad Mir, shawl weaver, (excellence in Arts and crafts), N A Qureshi (social reforms and empowerment). They all will get a cash award of Rs 51,000, a medal and a citation each, a government spokesman said.
Besides, the same award was announced for Principal Secretary (Home), Shaleen Kabra, Law Secretary, Achal Sethi, Director General (Planning Development) Tariq Ahmad Khan and Additional Secretary, home department, Khalid Majeed. Shivani Charak was given an award for excellence in climbing.
Padma Bhushan Baig
The President of India honoured five individuals from across Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. These included lawyer politician Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who co-founded PDP. On the eve of Republic Day, Padma Bhushan was awarded to him for his contribution to “public affairs”.
Baig, a former Lok Sabha member, from Baramulla, Baig was one of the few politicians who was not arrested in the wake of August 5. Earlier, he was the Deputy Chief Minister in the Congress-PDP government, an alliance that crumbled under the weight of 2008 Amarnath land row.
Off late, Baig has been vocal against the party president. At the same time, however, he has been very supportive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Unlike Article 370, Baig is very supportive of the restoration of the statehood to Jammu and Kashmir.
In an interview to The Hindu, Baig said the timing of the award should not be related to the current crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. “The Government of India follows a calendar. There is a committee and a process to check the credentials. The award got nothing to do with the timing of the current crisis,” Baig was quoted saying.
On Sunday, Baig said the award conferred on him is actually to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “I am grateful for the award. I do not treat it as a personal award but an honour conferred on the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Baig told reporters after unfurling the national flag at the party headquarters. “I pray for more such awards in the coming years.”
He was also quoted saying: “Pakistan PM Imran Khan and the US president are asking for autonomy to J&K. It means they’ve accepted that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. We demand that J&K should be given what the Constitution gives us.”
“My vehement request to the Centre is to restore statehood so that we can uphold our heads high because in a UT even the MLA if after becoming the chief minister, does not have any power,” he said. “We do not want anything outside the book (Constitution). This is my passionate appeal to the central government as well as the opposition parties in the country that give us the position which is guaranteed in the Constitution.”
No Sweet Exchange
Unlike past, the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) did not exchange sweets with Pakistani Rangers at the Attari-Wagah checkpoint. This indicates a low in the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan.
Reports appearing in media said that Pakistani Rangers did not respond when BSF sent a message on Sunday.