Changing Hues Of ‘July 13’

Changing Hues Of ‘July 13’

13 July 2013
Kashmir Times


Srinagar: Observance of the Martyrs’ Day on July 13 has by now been reduced to a soul-less ritual when politicians of various hues from the Kashmir Valley are seen in an ugly race for photo-opportunity. For the common people, its significance and remembrance remains confined to the day being a state holiday. By a strange twist of history, even the original definition of ‘martyr’ has changed beyond recognition. Politically revered ‘Mazar-e-Shuhda’ in downtown Srinagar has since lost its unrivalled claim to fame and history. The last three tumultuous decades have seen a much larger, emotionally more revered ‘Mazar-e-Shuhda’ coming up near Idgah, not very far from the original memorial site. A string of smaller graveyards spread across the four corners of the Valley have come up as centres of reverence by respective local population. In other words, these are the visible signs and symbols of Kashmir’s most recent history whose impact continues to exercise strong hold upon the psyche of the people. Successive generations since that fateful year of 1931, when those buried at the original Mazar-e-Shuhda had offered their precious lives to uphold their universally acknowledged human rights, have gone through the high turbulence of history. Their ideas, thoughts and mindset have undergone radical transformation along with their changing experiences. However, a common thread of underlying aspirations runs through them all. Those aspirations are, essentially, rooted in the human desire for freedom and dignity of life. It is for this objective that the martyrs of July 13, 1931 had chosen to take bullets of an autocratic regime and paved the way for a historic revolution that took 16 years to happen. However, subsequent events came in the way and impeded realisation of the avowed objectives of a popular resistance movement. Declared aims and objectives of the freedom struggle remained unfulfilled for one reason or the other. It would be incorrect and unfair to blame only the so-called external factors for belying the expectations and aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Internal or local politics has played a significant role in shaping the course of events from 1947 to 2013. The landscape has changed beyond recognition. Popular memory of the significance and genesis of ‘Yum-e-Shuhda’ (July 13, 1931) has faded out. This erosion had in fact started soon after the so-called popular ‘awami raaj’ became a reality in 1947. Kashmir’s popular poet, Ghulam Ahmed Mahjoor, in whose name a special postal stamp was issued only a couple of weeks ago by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had expressed the popular disillusionment more tellingly. A deadly combination of external and internal factors has since gripped Kashmir and it continues to reel from one end to the other, often with a heavy human cost. The staggering number of martyrs and their memorial (Mazar-e-Shuhda) across the Kashmir Valley, since 1947, stand witness to the fact that the aspirations of the people remain unfulfilled nearly seven decades after the autocratic regime was overthrown. Obstinate refusal to honour moral obligations of this hard reality as well as the denial of its genuine political and democratic justification is the root cause of the festering problem. That is why all these ritualistic photo-op visits to the Shaheed Mazar on July 13 and showering of flowers on the graves of the July 1931 martyrs looks so hollow. With the passage of time and because of intervening historical developments an ugly rivalry amongst the contending political entities has marred the sanctity of the revered site. They come there more for running one another down than showing sincere respect to the martyrs. The reason is simple: The aims and objectives of the struggle for which the martyrs had laid down their lives have been pushed into the background. It is indeed tragic that today this valued historic event is accompanied by the worst kind of authoritarian imposition. Ordinary folks are compelled to stay indoors with suffocating restrictions on the movement of people and frightening deployment of forces to make way for the ritualistic VIP visits to the Mazar-e-Shuhda. This cruel irony has become a familiar part of Kashmir’s blood stained contemporary history.