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Row Over State Holiday For Hari Singh Birthday Grows In Jammu And Kashmir

Jammu:  A major controversy has erupted in Jammu and Kashmir over the birthday of the last King of Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh – 55 years after his death. Hari Singh’s grandsons, members of the ruling PDP and BJP, are demanding that the day should be marked as a state holiday. But some political forces in the valley say that given the struggle against the Maharaja for the transition from autocracy to democracy, such a move would be inappropriate.

In Jammu today, Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh was heckled by those demanding the day be declared a state holiday.

Maharaja Hari Singh’s grandson and PDP legislator Vikramaditya Singh has been spearheading the campaign. Mr Singh has written a letter to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for the cause.

“I have written a very honest letter to the chief minister. I have clearly written about Jammu’s sentiments. If still I don’t get a formal response or an acknowledgment, then I am not in a position to give a reply,” said Vikramaditya Singh.

The campaign has also found support from Ajat Shatru Singh, the second grandson of Hari Singh, Vikramaditya’s brother and a BJP legislator.

“If it is not declared as a state holiday in this government, it can never happen. Some pressure needs to be put on the PDP and the Chief Minister,” said Ajat Shatru Singh.

Hari Singh’s son and former Sadar-e-Riyasat Karan Singh said in a statement that sentiments of people of Jammu must be respected in the same way as sentiments of Kashmiris are respected by making Sheikh Abdullah’s birthday a public holiday.

Earlier, a resolution was passed in the Jammu and Kashmir upper house pertaining to Maharaja Hari Singh, for adopting September 23, his birthday as a state holiday.

The state has been officially observing July 13 as the Martyrs’ Day to remember 21 Kashmiris killed by Maharaja’s forces.

Martyr’s Day is observed as a transition of power from autocracy to democracy and as a victory of people’s movement led by Sheikh Abdullah the founder of the National Conference and sits squarely against the idea of honouring Hari Singh’s birthday.

“National Conference’s stand is that it is the government which has to take the decision. We have not made any demand for the state holiday of the Maharaja,” said Junaid Mattoo, spokesperson National Conference.