Sant Kumar Sharma
On July 13, 1931, there was firing by troops in Srinagar city on a large gathering of protestors and around two dozen people died. On July 13, 2012, there was a public holiday in memory of the `martyrs’ of that event as the state has been observing that day as “Martyrs’ Day’’. In fact, July, 13 is a Martyrs’ Day in Jammu and Kashmir for the past several years. Those who died on that fateful day were later declared to be martyrs by the National Conference (NC). In fact, the unfortunate people who fell to the bullets that day are claimed and referred to as martyrs by a large section of Kashmiri leadership, both of the mainstream parties and the separatists.
These people are considered martyrs because the firing was done by troops of the Maharaja, a Dogra Hindu who ruled the state at that time and those who died were all Kashmiri Muslims. So, there is a Dogra versus Kashmiri (read Dogra Hindu despot versus innocent Kashmiri Muslims, if you like) angle and interpretation to the incident. Year after year, the memory of those who fell to the bullets of the security forces on law and order duty is marked as a very special occasion. Chief Minister, whoever he may be, and from whichever party, attends an official function and offers tributes to these martyrs.
Never mind the fact that there is another interpretation of the events of July 13 and there is a different narrative in prevalence as well. Under this narrative, the fallen victims are held responsible for what fell on them for they were defying the state forces, on law and order duty. The supporters of this narrative say that had those protestors dispersed, when they were ordered to do so, there would have been no need for firing bullets. No lives would have been lost and there would be no Dogra versus Kashmiri (as also cruel Hindu Dogra ruler, poor Kashmiri Muslim subjects) interpretation.
Recall the events of May, June and July 1999 when Pakistan troops entered the icy heights of Kargil in Drass, Battalik, Muskoh and elsewhere. On May 26, the badly mutilated body of a young captain and his fellow soldiers were found. They had all been tortured and murdered in cold blood after having fallen into the hands of the enemy in Kargil. India mobilized resources, a large part of its Army, and spent crores of rupees, to free the occupied heights of Kargil from Pakistani soldiers, a large component of which was from the Northern Light Infantry (NLI). The odd war, call it odd because it was restricted to just one district of the state for all practical purposes, lasted almost two months.
It was on July, 26, 1999 that the Indian troops finally declared that all the occupants from Pakistan have been driven back and the positions restored. This was then declared as Vijay Diwas or victory day by the Indian government. During the Kargil war, often described as the fourth war between India and Pakistan, after the 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 wars, discounting the proxy war raging for the last over two decades, hundreds of Indian soldiers laid down their lives to free the territory of Jammu and Kashmir from enemy occupation.
Many of those who died were Ladakhis, drawn from Ladakh Scouts, a large number of them Buddhists, both from Kargil and Leh districts. Of course, there is not one state of India the citizens of which did not participate in the Kargil war against Pakistan.Close to 550 Indians, belonging to all states of the Union, died and a much larger number suffered casualties, though not of fatal nature. The Jammu and Kashmir government does not organize any functions in their memory, not at a level commensurate with the enormity of the occasion and the sacrifices made by them.Why?
If the state government can organize official functions and send press releases about the July 13 episode, event or martyrdoms, why doesn’t it set aside a day for those who died in Kargil war, defending J&K territory? Is the martyrdom of those who sacrificed their lives in Kargil war not sacred? They were far more numerous than those who died in 1931 and actually died while fighting the enemy.
Of course, the narrative of events in Jammu and Kashmir has several versions. But it is unlikely that any state government can contest that those who died in Kargil did not die for the state. Why no martyrs’ day and celebrations to pay them tributes by the state government then?
(The contributor is freelance journalist and Fellow at Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication, Bhopal. Feedback can be sent on firstname.lastname@example.org)