July 13 is a gazetted holiday in Jammu and Kashmir. According to protocol, ministers accompany the chief minister to lay wreaths at the graves of the 22 people who were gunned down by the troops of J&K's autocratic Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, on July 13, 1931 when they sought the release of a political prisoner who had advocated that the Maharaja's subjects rise against his oppressive rule.
Former Chief Justice of India, Justice AS Anand, describes 1931 as an important year in the history of the state in his work The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. "It was in this year, that inspired by the movement in India, some educated Kashmiri Muslims picked up the courage to voice their grievances against discrimination. They met with tremendous response and in 1931 the oppressed Muslims revolted in Kashmir against communal discrimination. The government of the state was not prepared to let the agitation spread and so the repressive machinery of the government was set in motion."
It was this repressive machinery of the state headed by the Dogra Maharaja that fired upon 22 prisoners that year - the day is commemorated as the official beginning of the Valley's struggle for independence from the Maharaja’s rule.
Every year, mainstream political leaders, including the chief minister and Cabinet ministers lay wreaths and shower petals on the graves of the martyrs as a mark of respect for their struggle against autocratic ruler. However, since 1989, when militancy broke out in Kashmir, the entire area around Mazar-e-Shuda (Martyrs’ Graveyard) is put under curfew to facilitate mainstream political leaders to offer their respects at the graveyard, while separatists are not allowed to visit it. On this day, separatists renew their pledge to continue the struggle for the "liberation of Kashmir". All separatists are put under house arrest to prevent them from marching towards the graveyard.
However, the BJP boycotted the function. The BJP argued it has “no reverence for the day.” The mainstream regional parties, particularly the National Conference, would argue that the struggle started on July 13, 1931 culminated into accession with India in 1947. Mufti echoed this view too: “The State will never forget sacrifices of its bravehearts against suppression and autocracy in 1931. It was a unique struggle that culminated in the sacrifice by our martyrs, who scripted a new dawn in the history of the State which laid the edifice for democracy and human dignity of people.”
The BJP’s boycott seems a negation of what regional mainstream parties have been saying all along. Sensing what the BJP is upto, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has thrown down a gauntlet. He took a pledge at the martyrs' graveyard that he would not allow any dilution in the special status. Sayeed said that even if the Parliament passes a law, it is the prerogative of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to accept it.
Later, the PDP spokesman issued a strong statement against the BJP, describing its stance on the martyrs' day as unacceptable.
Given the tension between the BJP and the PDP on the ideological front, anyone who is someone in Jammu and Kashmir is asking whether this government will last and how Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's tenure will tell upon his party’s performance in the future.
A worried Mufti and his cabinet colleagues are eagerly waiting for a financial push from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On July 17, when the prime minister landed in Jammu, PDP leaders expected that he would announce a Rs 1.20 lakh crore package to rebuild the infrastructure in the state. Modi gave a fine speech. Mufti responded with an equally good speech. But there was no announcement of a package. This has perturbed PDP. On the ideological front, the PDP was confronted by the BJP on martyrs' day openly and, on the economic front, the party is nowhere close to getting the promised economic package. There is a lot of tension within the PDP, and if the economic package doesn’t come from the centre in the coming months, things can go in any direction in J&K.