There was no wreathe-laying ceremony. No gun salutes. No flag-raising. The Martyrs’ Day commemoration was officially abandoned in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. It was the first time since Independence and Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to Union of India, that the July 13 ceremony did not take place in Srinagar. In yet another significant move since provisions of Article 370 were scrapped last year, the Union Territory administration has cancelled Martyrs’ Day holiday and commemoration function.
Known as Kashmir’s Jallianwala Bagh moment to fight against autocratic rule and Independence, 22 people were killed outside Central Jail Srinagar on July 13, 1931. Since then, sacrifices to end despotic rule have remained central to politics in Kashmir to safeguard and fight for democratic rights.
The stripping of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood and special constitutional status has also put an end to the 72-year long tradition. It was after the massacre that a public movement that followed and Maharaja Hari Singh was forced to hold the first assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 1934.
Since then, the legacy of those killed on July 13 have been drawn on by everyone in Kashmir. The sacrifices which propelled democracy were owned by all regional parties across the political divide. But Monday marked an end of era. At least in official protocol.
Normally, the head of the government, Chief Minister or Governor would attend the ceremony at the graveyard where the those who fell are buried. A police contingent was giving gun salute to commemorate the day.
This is also for the first time the state flag was not raised at the graveyard. The Jammu and Kashmir state flag would normally fly alongside the national flag in the erstwhile state. After August 5, the flag was also removed following the scrapping of its separate constitution.
The political groups in Kashmir, paid tributes to the heroes. But no leader could visit the graveyard. The administration has enforced a fresh lockdown in Srinagar in the wake of a spike in coronavirus cases.
Stopping a 72-year-old practice was also the biggest debate on social media in Kashmir. “Martyrs will be relieved today. Those who betrayed them have not gone there with bouquets today,” said a political commentator.