A new calendar for people in J&K
On December 27 last year, the government issued a new list of holidays for the calendar year 2020. The holidays previously observed on July 13, Martyrs' day and December 5, the birth anniversary of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, have been dropped from the list.
Sitting inside one of his warm uncluttered rooms, Mushtaq Ahmad Mir is flicking through his new 2020 calendar. He hardly looks at any of the awe-inspiring pictures of mighty mountains printed on the glossy paper. After turning over the six pages, he stops on the seventh calendar month--July--and murmurs: "It sounded true, but now it is confirmed".
One of his old friends in his dusty village of Hajin in Bandipora had told Mir, a few weeks ago, that the government had deleted the holiday of July 13 from the list of state holidays. The news has been gnawing at him since. Although 70-year-old Mir is rather unlettered, he understands the significance of July 13.
On December 27 last year, the government issued a new list of holidays for the calendar year 2020. The holidays previously observed on July 13, Martyrs' day and December 5, the birth anniversary of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, have been dropped from the list. Now October 26, the day when Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India Union, will be the new red-letter day in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Significance of July 13:
On April 29, 1931, the ban on Eid sermon and Friday prayers in Jammu during the autocratic Dogra rule spurred strong resentment among the Muslims in both Jammu and Kashmir. The Reading Room Party, which was formed by the young educated Muslim youth in Kashmir, in tandem with Young Men's Muslim Association of Jammu, organised strikes and protests against these communal moves.
The authorities immediately sacked Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who was in the forefront of the agitation, from his government service. On June 21, 1931, Abdullah organised a public meeting at Khanqhai Mualla, Srinagar. At the end of the meeting Abdul Qadeer, a young man gave a fiery speech and was arrested for instigating the people to rebellion. On July 13, people made a beeline for the Central jail in Srinagar to witness his trial. As the crowd grew restive, the Dogra police opened fire, killing 22 people.
"No one in Jammu and Kashmir can live down the memories of the July 13 martyrs. On this day Kashmiris had spilled their blood", says Mir. Mir adds that he didn’t quite believe it when he heard for the first time, on the grapevine, that the government was going to cancel the holiday.
A Valley-based historian says that July 13 was a watershed in the history of Kashmir.
"On this day the struggle for independence from the barbaric autocratic rule begun formally". he said. Prem Nath Bazaz, a prolific writer and National Conference leader, in his book ‘The history of the struggle for Freedom in Kashmir’ writes:
"13th July was the most important day in the annals of contemporary Kashmir. From this day the struggle for independence and freedom in the most modern sense started openly".
The controversies surrounding July 13 began noticeably brewing during the previous PDP-BJP coalition government, which many considered an unholy alliance, in Jammu and Kashmir.
In July 2015, BJP leaders said that they would stay away from the gathering of political leaders at the Martyrs' graveyard to pay obeisance to the martyrs of 1931 as they, according to media reports, did not believe that those killed on that day were martyrs in the first place.
However, both the mainstream and off-stream political leaders in Kashmir religiously observe the Martyrs' day every year. "It was long on the agenda of the BJP to drop July 13 from the list of state holidays", said a PDP leader, who declined to be identified for this report, adding that they never recognised the sacrifices offered by the people for democratic and secular causes.
Political observers in the Valley of Kashmir also believe that the holiday on December 5 marking Sheikh Abdullah's birth anniversary was equally important. Abdullah, who earned the sobriquet Lion of Kashmir among the local populace in Jammu and Kashmir, was one of the tallest leaders in Kashmir. After the last Dogra ruler Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession on October 26, it was Abdullah who gave it popular legitimacy. He was greatly instrumental in bringing Kashmir closer to India.
"If you are erasing Abdullah from the history of Kashmir you are delegitimising the very relationship between J & K and India", said a political observer, who did not wish to be named.
Although the National Conference registered a strong protest against the deletion of holidays, the authorities went ahead with its decision.