Like the city of 'C' in Jesse Ball's dystopian novel, the Curfew, the thousand-year-old city of the sun- Srinagar is locked every year on 13 July. Not only more than a million humans with windows of their houses latched cannot breathe freely inside their homes. Even the street dogs for straying into quarantined roads land in the animal pounds. For past twenty-seven years, the exercise is repeated religiously for enabling the caravans of armoured cars the Chief Ministers, ministers, and the police chiefs to place massive floral wreaths on the gravestones of the martyrs and take a salute under arc lights and a blaze of publicity.
From 1931 to 1989, the martyrs' day was observed by masses as a day of people's triumph against brutish monarchy till the government banished people's participation in the celebrations. That used to be the biggest event of the year in the state. The banishing of people from participation in the 13 July celebrations is not the subject of this column. But, the question that calls for an answer is why the chief ministers and their team of ministers under cover of elite commandos with the whole of township placed under curfew in wee morning hours visit the martyrs' graveyard. Moreover, place wreaths on the tombstone, unfurl the state flag to smart cops in smart uniforms playing bugles of victory and contingent of armed men lower their arms to pay homage to the heroes of 1931.
Since 1947, the State has been observing the 13 July as a national day, recognizing the martyrs as the national heroes. Every political party across the political divide in the electoral politics and outside stake ownership to these martyrs. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and his proteges, Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad, G.M. Sadiq, Syed Mir Qasim and Mufti Syed and his protoge have been appropriating their sacrifices for legitimizing their rule as heirs of the struggle and movement against autocracy for which they had laid down their lives.
The Martyrs' Graveyard is a symbol of the movement of Jammu and Kashmir against autocracy, feudal rule, corvee, discriminatory and brutal tax system and selective justice system. That were the hallmarks of the hundred years Dogra rule. Against whom these heroes on whose graves the "rulers" shower petals had fought heroic battles and attained martyrdom? This question has once again started echoing in the state after the State Legislative Council passed a resolution that delegitimizing the struggle people of the State that first Prime Minister of Independent India Jawaharlal Nehru had described as "Kashmir's Struggle for Freedom." The state Legislative Council in the absence of the "opposition" adopted a resolution urging the government to declare September 23 the birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh, as a state holiday. Can a state declare a national holiday on the birthday of a man who was responsible for the killing thousands of men, women, and children for a sport?
On Saturday, when I am writing this column, I have no idea if the PDP government has issued a notification in this regard or not. But the very idea of the Legislative Council passing a resolution hailing the last monarch is not consonance with the struggle that ended monarchy, feudalism, landlordism in the state.
In this column, let me not recap the grisly and gruesome sufferings of the people after the sale deed 0f 1846, that had made a poet of the East lament, ….'they sold, they sold all, alas! How cheap was the sale,' or has moistened the eyes of European travelers on seeing people skinned alive and their bodies left for vultures? It would take pages together to reproduces the woeful stories as narrated by George Taylor, Dr. Thompson, Mrs. Hervey, John B Ireland, Mrs. Murrary Aynsley and Robert Thrope.
Hari Singh's callosity, ruthlessness, and cold-hearted nature were exposed first time in 1924, during the agitation of the Silk Factory workers against the discriminatory wage system. The Muslim workers were paid a quarter of a rupee wages per day which besides being too meager was far less than workers from other communities. The leaders of the Silk Factory workers were arrested. 'To express solidarity with them, entire labor force accompanied women and children took out a peaceful procession demanding the release of their colleagues. 'Hari Singh, who was commander in chief, rushed to the place with large contingents of cavalry and army and without warning asked the troops armed with bayonets to run over the people. Hundreds of women and children were trampled under the hooves of horses by mounted troops. Thousands were wounded, and Srinagar was converted into a city of mourning.'
Even historians highly sympathetic to him like Bamzai have written "Proud Maharaja indulged in cheap pleasures of life. Had no personal contact with people, who through centuries of suppression were groaning under the burden of heavy taxation, poverty, and want.' It is petty that the ministers who every visit the martyr's graveyard for paying floral tributes have accorded heroes stature to the killer of these martyrs. Forgetting, that it was he who ordered shooting the Muslims outsides the central jail as ducks. The bloodbath outside the jail continued in Jammu, both in South and North Kashmir towns Shopian, Islamabad (Anantnag) and Baramulla. The compilation of macabre killings sprees from Poonch to Srinagar during Hari Singh's rule will take volumes. In 1947, in the history of the state, Jammu suffered the worst ever carnage hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and almost three times of those murdered pushed into Pakistan. In this article, it may not be possible to quote from the colossal works of Ian Stephens, Cristopher Snedden, and others. But it is established that last Maharaja whom the present government is going to hail as a hero cannot escape responsibility for these killings. None but Gandhi has squarely blamed Hari Singh for the ugly happenings in Jammu. Quoting from the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (volume 90, page 115 and 298) on the Counter Current portal Abdul Majid Zargar writes, ""The Hindus and Sikhs of Jammu and those who had gone there from outside killed Muslims there. The Maharaja of Kashmir is responsible for what is happening there".
How could Hari Singh be a hero for PDP when Gandhi also sees as villainous?