Kashmir Leaders Barred From Visiting Graveyard On Martyrs' Day

This is the second consecutive year that functions have been stopped; last year - the first July 13 celebration since Article 370 was scrapped - no official ceremonies were allowed

Kashmir Leaders Barred From Visiting Graveyard On Martyrs' Day

Last year also the J&K administration did not mark Martyrs' Day on July 13 (File)

Srinagar:

Heavy security was deployed around a Srinagar graveyard today to prevent political leaders and others from paying their respects on Martyrs' Day - a day traditionally observed as an assertion of the people's fight for democracy and remembered for the killing of 22 people on July 13, 1931.

It was only in the aftermath of those deaths, and the public movement that followed, that Maharaja Hari Singh was forced to hold the first Assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir in 1934.

For over 70 years after independence the day - July 13 - was observed as a state holiday, but after Article 370 was scrapped in August 2019 the administration cancelled 'state holiday' status.

No state function is held at the graveyard, no wreaths are laid and no gun salutes are fired.

Nevertheless, July 13 remains part of collective social and political memory of the people of Kashmir.

The National Conference - which traditionally holds a meeting at the graveyard - said the administration had denied permission to offer homage today. Instead, party president and ex-J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah held a meeting at the party's headquarters to commemorate the day.

"July 13, 1931, marks the assertion of JK's IDENTITY and RIGHTS of it's people. The Martyrs of July 13 will continue to be a beacon of LIGHT for us and for the coming generations. Heroes forever!" Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah's son and also a former Chief Minister, said in his post.

The National Conference's official account also tweeted.

PDP leader and another former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, said official curbs at the graveyard were an attempt to distort history and create a sense of defeat among the Kashmiri people.

The events of that day in 1931 have been drawn on by everyone in Kashmir since; the sacrifices that propelled democracy forward were owned by all regional parties across the political divide.

This is the second consecutive year that no function has been allowed. Last year - the first July 13 celebration since Article 370 was scrapped - there was no official ceremony.

Traditionally, the head of the government attends the ceremony and lays a wreath at the graveyard, and a police contingent marks the occasion with a gun salute.

On the day too the J&K flag would fly over the graveyard. That flag, however, has been removed from all state buildings and the Civil Secretariat since August 5, as has the J&K constitution.