Curfew in parts of summer capital Srinagar, a shutdown elsewhere in the Valley and placing key separatist leaders under house arrest or taking them in preventive custody marked the Kashmir “martyrs’ day” on Wednesday.
However, chief minister Omar Abdullah, some of his Cabinet colleagues and leaders of various mainstream
political parties, including J&K PCC chief Prof. Saifuddin Soz and Opposition PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, visited Mazaar-e-Shohda or martyrs’ cemetery at Khawaja Bazar in central Srinagar to pay homage to the martyrs amidst tight security. Moving away from tradition, the chief minister chose not to address the ruling National Conference supporters who turned up, though in small number, and also some locals to watch the customary wreath-laying ceremony.
On July 13, 1931, as many as 21 Kashmiri Muslims were killed when the autocratic Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh’s troops opened fire on a group of people which had gathered outside Srinagar central jail where an in-camera trial of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a non-local chef with an English visitor, was underway. Khan had been charged with sedition and instigating people for violence after he made fiery speeches against the maharaja’s “oppressive” rule at a Friday congregation and while pointing towards his palace asked people to raze it “brick by brick”. The bloody incident heralded the Kashmiris’ struggle against autocracy and denial of civil liberties and since July 13 is observed as “martyrs’ day” in both parts of the divided state as well as by Kashmiri expatriates elsewhere. July 13 is an official holiday in both J&K and PoK.
Police and CRPF on Wednesday enforced a security clampdown in central Srinagar to hold back processions and rallies planned by separatist parties on the occasion. Key separatist leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Shabir Ahmed Shah had been placed under house arrest whereas several activists were taken into preventive custody by police ahead of the martyrs’ day. Hundreds of police commandos and sharpshooters overnight took positions around the martyrs’ cemetery. Asian Age