Holiday changes in J&K’s calendar spark political row
Two holidays have been dropped and a new one added to the annual calendar of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in a government move the National Conference (NC) slammed as “an assault on the psyche” of the people.
July 13 and December 5 will cease to be official holidays, according to a government order that designated October 26 -- the day the region had acceded to the Union of India in 1947--as a holiday in the Union Territory.
July 13 was observed as Martyr’s Day in the erstwhile state of J&K in memory of 21 Kashmiris who were killed by the army of autocratic ruler Maharaja Hari Singh during an uprising in 1931 when the region was a princely state. Kashmir has observed a shutdown every year on the day until this year . December 5 is the birthday of NC founder, the late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
In the list of 27 holidays issued in annexure A of an order by general administration department on Friday, October 26 has been added as Accession Day. There is no mention of July 13 or December 5. “The holidays listed in Annexure-”A” & ‘B” to this order shall be observed in the Government offices and educational institutions of the Union Territory of J&K during the calendar year 2020,” said the order signed by GL Sharma, deputy secretary to the government.
While annexure A mentions general holidays, annexure B lists 19 provincial, restricted and local holidays specific to particular regions of the UT. Some holidays are two days long.
On August 5, Parliament effectively revoked Article 370 of the Constitution that conferred special status on J&K state, which became a UT with effect from October 31. Ladakh was carved out of J&K as another UT . The moves were accompanied by a security lockdown under which Internet services were suspended and hundreds of people, including mainstream politicians, detained. Sheikh Abdullah’s son and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah is still under detention and so are other two other former chief ministers -- Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.
The National Conference said the government had insulted the two most important events of J&K’s history. “I interpret it as a kind of assault on the psyche of the people of J&K… By deleting these holidays, you send a message that in every way is negative...,” said south Kashmir MP and NC leader, Hasnain Masoodi.
He said Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was a towering personality and was part of the freedom struggle. “He was not only the leader of NC but is considered father of J&K... the martyrs of July 13, 1931 didn’t represent a community or a religion but they represented the oppressed people of J&K,” he said.