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Authorities seal Martyrs’ graveyard in Srinagar

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Kashmir political parties condemn curbs; Pandit organisations observe 'Black Day' in Jammu

Srinagar: Authorities sealed off the Martyrs’ graveyard in the old city area here on Tuesday to prevent people from assembling to commemorate the killing of 22 people, who were protesting against the autocratic rule in Jammu and Kashmir, by Dogra forces on this day in 1931.

The entry to the graveyard inside Naqshband Sahib Shrine in Khawaja Bazaar near Nowhatta was sealed and security forces were deployed around the area to prevent anyone going inside, officials said.

The National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had applied to the Srinagar district magistrate for permission to visit the graveyard for paying tributes to the martyrs of 1931 but they were not allowed.

The NC on Monday had accused the administration of using dilly-dallying tactics of not allowing the party leaders to offer homage to the July 13, 1931 martyrs.

The party said it had sought permission from the administration to offer ‘Fateha’ (special prayers) and floral tributes at ‘Mazar-e Shohada’ (martyrs’ graveyard) at Khawaja Bazaar area of the city here.

“However, the administration till this evening has not responded to our repeated calls,” NC spokesperson had said in a statement.

The party took strong exception to the measure and decried the dilly-dallying tactics of the government, calling it unfortunate.

NC said the party had decided to refrain from holding a big commemorative function at the spot because of the ongoing pandemic and Covid SOPs.

The PDP also said that the party had sought permission from the Srinagar district administration, but there was no response from the authorities.

The NC on Tuesday took to Twitter to pay tributes to the martyrs.

“July 13, 1931 marks the assertion of JK’s IDENTITY and RIGHTS of its people. The martyrs of July 13, will continue to be a beacon of LIGHT for us and for the coming generations,” party vice-president Omar Abdullah was quoted as saying in  a tweet on NC’s official Twitter handle.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti also took to Twitter to express her outrage over the locking down of the graveyard.

“Today on the occasion of Martyrs’ day, gates leading to their graveyards have been locked up. Attempts to distort & rewrite Kashmir’s history is being done only to create a sense of defeat & helplessness amongst Kashmiris,” she said.

Paying rich tributes to July 13 martyrs, CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said ‘Naya Kashmir’ which was drafted with their blood was dismantled on August 05, 2019.

“It was due to the supreme sacrifices of July 13 martyrs that ultimately led a way for Naya Kashmir which is notable for its humanistic view of development, including landmark agrarian reforms, free education to all, political and economic rights to women, upliftment of weaker sections, peasants and tenets, and the empowerment of ethnic groups, including the Dalits,” Tarigami said.

He said the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was also the outcome of the ‘Naya Kashmir’ and J&K’s special status under Article 370 “was the outcome of the struggle of the 1931 martyrs”.

“However, unfortunately on August 05, 2019, BJP government unilaterally dismantled whatever little was left. With a stroke of pen, J&K’s special status under Article 370 was abrogated and erstwhile state was downgraded and bifurcated into two union territories,” he said.

“New narrative of BJP 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 silence of people, achieved by force, is being projected as acceptance of BJP government’s unconstitutional and arbitrary decisions. But in reality treating silence by force as acceptance is a biggest mistake,” the former legislator from Kulgam said.

He said it is high time that political parties in J&K rising above ideological differences and introspect as to what went wrong, and unitedly strive for the rights of people of erstwhile state of J&K. “That would be the best tribute to the martyrs of July 13, 1931.”

Apni Party president, Mohammad Altaf Bukhari also paid tributes to the martyrs of 13 July, 1931.

In a statement issued here, Bukhari said that the martyrs of 13 July were the pioneers who without bothering for the consequences raised their voice against the autocratic regime in order to establish a democratic set-up in Jammu and Kashmir.

“These great unarmed men laid their lives for a sacred cause and sparked a movement for establishing a democratic system whereby the people are masters of their fate,” he said.

Bukhari flayed the J&K government for not allowing the party leaders to pay floral tributes at the Martyrs’ graveyard in Khwaja Bazar Nowhatta, Srinagar.

He said that the contribution of martyrs of July 13, 1931 in upholding the flambeau for rule of the people is immense and will be counted among the early struggles of the 20th century for putting an end to autocratic regimes across the globe.

Meanwhile, normal life in some parts of Kashmir was affected due to the strike called by the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference.

Shops and other business establishments in the commercial hub of Lal Chowk, adjoining areas and old city remained closed due to the strike.

“July 13 1931 was the turning point in the contemporary history of Kashmir when 22 Kashmiris killed in cold blood by the ruler of the day became its first martyrs and led to the launch of a political agitation by the people of Kashmir for their political and economic unshackling,’ the Hurriyat said in a statement.

It said to this day, the people of Kashmir “are struggling for the realisation of that aspiration, having lost tens of thousands of lives since and being devastated by a conflict over the land”.

“The people of Kashmir have always honoured these martyrs on this day and commemorated it as the martyrs’ day by holding rallies at the martyrs graveyard to pay tributes to them and observed a protest strike in their memory,” it said.

Meanwhile, the organisations representing the migrant Kashmiri Pandits observed July 13 as a ‘Black Day’, and held demonstrations in Jammu.

The organisations that held demonstrations at various places include the All State Kashmir Pandit Conference, Panun Kashmir, All Party Migrant Coordination Committee, All India Kashmiri Samaj, Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj, All India Kashmiri Pandit Conference, and Roots in Kashmir.

July 13 was a public holiday in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and a grand official function was held every year on this day where the chief minister or the governor would be the chief guest.

The holiday was cancelled and all official ceremonies stopped in 2020 after abrogation of Article 370 and splitting of Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories. (With PTI inputs)

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