BJP's Demand To Declare Accession Day A Holiday Lands PDP In A Fix

17 December 2015
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: To declare 26 October a gazetted holiday or not? The question is loaded with political implications in Jammu and Kashmir. It has set Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on a collision course with the BJP, his party's alliance partner in the state. On 26 October, 1947, the then ruler of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh, had signed the Instrument of Accession to make Kashmir part of India. Before partition, Kashmir was an independent princely state. Soon after India's independence, it got plagued by invasions led by Pathan tribesmen, forcing its ruler to seek India's help. The Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession at Amar Palace in Jammu which the colonial India's last Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, accepted on 27 October, 1947. This day is observed by Kashmir's separatist leadership, who challenge the legality of the accession, as 'Black Day'. The proposal to declare 26 October as a gazetted holiday was made early this year by the BJP. 'We want to celebrate it as Accession Day every year. The day should be commemorated like other national holidays. The date bears great significance for all nationalist people,' BJP's state general secretary Ashok Kaul said. However, the chief minister's office is yet to respond to it. On the 68th anniversary of the arrival of Indian troops in Kashmir, the BJP this year commemorated 26 October as the 'Accession Day' while the separatists called for a shutdown. In Kashmir Valley, Hurriyat leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik called for a strike, urging people to hoist black flags as a mark of protest. The Hurriyat faction, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, asked people to observe a strike 'to send a clear message that the peaceful struggle for the achievement of right to self-determination will continue till the Kashmir issue is not resolved in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir.' Although the politics over 26 October is as old as the partition of the subcontinent, top government sources told Firstpost the List of Holidays for 2016 has not yet been sent to different departments due to delay in reply from the CM's office. The inclusion of 'Accession Day', as the BJP likes to call it, has been on the wish-list of the right wing party for a long time. Since the day the party came to power for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir, it has been pushing for the inclusion of this day into the list of gazetted holidays in the state. 'It is the most important day for us and so it should be for the every nationalist in Jammu and Kashmir,' Ravinder Raina, senior BJP leader, told Firstpost. 'We have been of the opinion for a very long time that October 26 should be declared as a gazetted holiday. Although I am not privy to any official communication, if there is one sent to the chief minister's office, he should act positively on the matter.' This is not the first time that the People's Democratic Party finds itself in a tight spot. Earlier this year, the state government issued a circular, essentially directing that all the constitutional authorities must maintain the sanctity of the flag of Jammu and Kashmir, as is being done in respect of the Union flag. Jammu and Kashmir has a separate constitution and separate flag, unlike other states of the country. 'All the constitutional authorities are enjoined upon to maintain the sanctity of the State Flag, at all costs, as is being done in respect of the Union Flag', Commissioner Secretary to Government, General Administration Department (GAD), J&K, MA Bukhari said in the circular. However, within a day, the state government had to withdraw the order after staunch opposition from the BJP. A senior PDP leader told Firstpost that the proposal to declare 26 October as 'Accession Day' may not see the light of the day in the view of 'precarious situation' in the Kashmir Valley. 'We don't want another controversy at a time when the state is facing numerous political and economic challenges. This proposal can light up a spark which will prove detrimental for the coalition,' the PDP leader said.