The Bar Association of Jammu on Saturday asked the state government to take a “positive decision” on its demand that September 23, the birth anniversary of last Dogra king Maharaja Hari Singh, be declared a state holiday. The association said that it failed to understand what was stopping the government from taking a decision on its long-standing demand which involves “regional aspirations”.
“From political parties to civil society and social organisations, everyone wants holiday on September 23 as a mark of respect for the great Maharaja,” said President of the association B S Slathia.
“We failed to understand what is compelling the government from taking a positive decision on the issue despite the passage of a resolution?” he told reports in Jammu. On January 24, the legislative council had passed a resolution for the holiday to commemorate the birth anniversary of the last Dogra king.
BJP member Ajatshatru Singh moved the resolution in the the Upper House, which was backed by all BJP members and the PDP’s Vikramaditya Singh. Ajatshatru and Vikramaditya are the grandsons of Hari Singh and sons of veteran Congress leader Karan Singh.
While the opposition National Conference staged a walkout from the legislative council in support of its demand for withdrawal of the resolution, independent MLA Engineer Rashid had termed the passage of the resolution as a “murder of the democracy”. He said the demand was a “disrespect to the people who gave their life fighting against the autocratic rule”.
“The demand is linked to the regional aspirations of the people which is evident from the one voice raised on the issue by National Conference provincial president Devender Rana, Congress’s Sham Lal Sharma, other political groups and every member of civil society and social organisations,” Slathia said.
“We have been demanding it for a very long time and even the BJP which is part of the government fought for it since 1947,” he said.
“I don’t see any reason for the government to delay the announcement of the holiday. It is unfortunate that the government failed to honour the resolution and remained unmoved to the demands of the people,” he said.
The President appealed to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Chief Justice of state High Court to intervene in the matter. Praising Maharaja for his revolutionary steps like state subject laws and removing the practice of untouchability, Slathia said the king was the first ruler who talked about freedom of India in 1931 round table conference in London.
He warned the government of street protests if the demand was not met and said “the consequences of such a situation lie with the government”. “If the demand is not met, the people will be forced to come out on the roads and start agitation which will create law and order problem and the consequences will be on the state government,” he said.
Slathia also questioned the silence of the BJP on the issue. “BJP has fought for declaration of Maharaja’s birthday as holiday since 1947. But when they are in the government they are silent. I appeal them to agitate,” he said.
He asked political parties and civil society groups to join hands and chalk out a joint strategy on the issue. “If they want ‘bandh’ (general strike), the decision should be taken unanimously and the strike should continue till the government is forced to declare a holiday to commemorate the birth anniversary of Maharaja,” he said.