No official commemoration of Martyrs’ Day in Jammu and Kashmir, traditionally observed on July 13 to remember the killing of 22 Kashmiris by Dogra forces in 1931

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A view of the deserted martyrs’ graveyard in Srinagar, on July 13, 2020. This year, too, all roads leading to the graveyard were sealed and barricaded. Photo: NISSAR AHMAD

For the second consecutive year, there was no official commemoration of Martyrs’ Day on July 13 in Jammu and Kashmir, a decades-old tradition that was discontinued after the erstwhile State’s special status was revoked in August 2019. July 13 was omitted from the government’s official list of holidays from 2020.

July 13 used to be commemorated officially from 1947 until 2019 to remember 22 Kashmiris who were gunned down by the forces of the autocratic Dogra ruler after the people rose against the Maharaja’s rule for their rights on July 13, 1931.

Mainstream political parties expressed their disapproval of what they described as the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s attempts to erase history and the collective memory of the tyranny the people in Kashmir have suffered.

Farooq Abdullah, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference Party president and Member of Parliament, and his son Omar Abdullah paid glowing tributes to the martyrs of 1931, calling the day a landmark in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.

Farooq Abdullah said that the implications of the day increased over time and that it had led to the transformation of the State from a feudalistic one to a democratic one. He said: “The brave men who laid their lives on 13th of July 1931 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.”

“The martyrs of 1931 will continue to be a beacon of light for us and for the coming generations. Every single drop of their blood is sacred to us,” he said.

People’s Demicratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti condemned the fact that on Martyrs’ Day, the gates leading to their graveyards have been locked up. “Attempts to distort and rewrite Kashmir’s history is being done to create a sense of defeat and helplessness amongst Kashmiris,” she said.

“Nevertheless, as we pay homage to the heroes of 13th July 1931, our resolve to strive for restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s dignity remains firm”, she said.

Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader , said that Naya Kashmir, drafted the with the blood of July 13 martyrs, was dismantled on August 5, 2019.

In a statement issued to the press, he said: “The new narrative of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] government is to make a ‘Naya Kashmir’ where you are not even allowed to mourn and visit the graves of the July 13 martyrs to pay homage to them. In the last two years, the silence of people, achieved by force, is being projected as acceptance of the BJP government’s unconstitutional and arbitrary decisions. But, in reality, treating silence by force as acceptance is a big mistake.

Tarigami also voiced the people’s apprehensions about the ongoing delimitation exercise. “Perception about Delimitation Commission among people is that it has been constituted to further disempower them politically. Despite repeated assurances by the government, full-fledged statehood is not being restored to Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court verdict is yet awaited on pleas challenging unconstitutional scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370. The present government is relentlessly pursuing a policy to demolish the political significance of July 13 further.”