The ideological differences between the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir were clearly visible on Monday when BJP’s legislators and ministers in the state government skipped the official function held in the city to commemorate July 13 as Martyrs’ Day.
Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, along with his senior Cabinet ministers, attended the function at Martyrs’ Graveyard in the Old City and paid floral tributes. However, none of the BJP ministers participated in the official function that was held under tight security.
To avoid participating in the event, most BJP ministers and legislators had left the city on Friday.
“They (martyrs) worked against suppression and autocracy. It was a unique struggle that culminated in the sacrifice of our martyrs, who scripted a new dawn in the history of the state, which laid the edifice for democracy and human dignity of people,” Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said while addressing a small gathering at the Martyrs’ Graveyard.
J&K government had officially declared July 13 as Martyrs’ Day to recognise the sacrifices of 21 civilians who were killed by Dogra forces loyal to the erstwhile Maharaja of the J&K state outside city’s Central Jail in 1931.
Last year, BJP leaders in Jammu held several functions and observed July 13 as a black day. This year, however, a day before the event, BJP leaders had conveyed to the PDP that party leaders would skip the official function as it was against the BJP’s ideology.
The PDP criticised BJP ministers for skipping the official event.
“To take part in the official function organised to pay tributes to the martyrs was an obligation that the ministers ought to have fulfilled and any deviation from such a precedent was inappropriate,” said the PDP’s chief spokesperson, Mehboob Beg.
Meanwhile, BJP’s senior vice president and its in-charge of Kashmir affairs, Ramesh Arora, sparked another controversy when he told The Indian Express that people killed on July 13, 1931 were not “martyrs” as they were protesting against the state’s genuine ruler.
“Our party has a clear stand against observing this day as Martyrs’ Day as we don’t consider them as martyrs,’’ he said, adding that the day had no relevance for the BJP and was against the ideology of the party.
Taking a dig at the coalition government, both National Conference president Omar Abdullah and Congress leaders, who paid floral tributes at the Mazar-e-Shoudha, said that while the Chief Minister was commemorating this day as Martyrs’ Day, his partners in the government boycotted it.
Omar also criticised the government for detaining separatist leaders on the Martyrs’ Day and imposing restrictions on the movement of civilians.
Last week, both factions of Hurriyat Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front had announced a joint rally to mark Martyrs’ Day. In a departure from the past, they had even asked people not to observe a strike on this day.
However, the state government detained leaders of all major separatist parties and imposed restrictions in areas falling under five police stations in the old city.