Changing the calendar of holidays in J&K appears to be an attempt to distort history of regional heroes
Jammu and Kashmir government, under President’s Rule, has stirred fresh controversy by changing the calendar of official holidays from 2020 in an obvious bid to distort history and diminish local and regional heroes. Interestingly, even before the New Year has yet to begin, the glaring change was noticed earlier this month with the traditional holiday on birth anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah scrapped. The Sheikh was not only the founder of National Conference, he lead Kashmir from the front in the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist Quit Kashmir Movement, played a role in maintaining communal amity and of supporting Kashmir’s accession to India.

To him also goes the credit of implementing his vision of Naya Kashmir by bringing in landmark land reforms and making education accessible for the very poor. The BJP, however, is keen to push his memory down the black-hole because the divisive politics militates against what the Sheikh symbolized. Not only was the holiday scrapped, but even the members of the party he founded also were not allowed to observe a public event to pay tributes to him. The word is now official and shockingly the new calendar reveals that the onslaught is not restricted to Sheikh Abdullah, who is seen both as a hero and an anti-hero by different people, but also the martyrs of July 13, 1931, who fought against the tyranny of feudalism. The 1931 movement against the monarch was a popular movement and encapsulated ideas of liberty, fraternity, equality, socialism and brotherhood. These were the same ideas that inspired and defined the Indian freedom struggle against the British. Jammu and Kashmir, unlike undivided India, was not directly under the British rule but under the Dogra rulers. However, the two struggles were simultaneous processes and assumed a connection and solidarity in due course to come. The Quit India and Quit Kashmir movements were well co-ordinated movements and synchronized with each other not only in terms of timing but also the ideas of freedom, democracy, secularism and socialism they espoused. The bid to scrap the Martyrs’ Day holiday is thus an attempt to not just rob the people of their heroes but also wipe off signs of the emotional and political connect between the Quit India and Quit Kashmir Movements.

On the other hand, the new list of holidays includes October 26 as Accession Day, whose historicity is not only contested by people of different political beliefs, it also curiously militates against the BJP ideology and action in Jammu and Kashmir of complete integration. The Instrument of Accession was hurriedly signed by the Mahajara of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, following the attacks by tribal raiders and internal rebellions. While the accession itself was provisional, the schedules appended to it specified that the Parliament has the power to legislate in respect of J&K only on Defence, External Affairs and Communications.

According to the conditions laid down by the Maharaja while signing the document, it was also specified that “nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future Constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangements with the Government of India under any such future Constitution” and that “Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this State authorising the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose…” The accession document in its entirety does not promote an integrationist view but is linked to the spirit of autonomy. By including the Accession Day holiday, the government is not only trying to purge the alternate political views but alter the very history and facts related to the accession. The ladder to subversion of politics is being built by erasure of history and memory. It will not end up being a promising prospect.