September 2017 News

Politics Over Hari Singh's Birthday Gets BJP A Heckling

23 September 2017

Srinagar: Members of the Dogra community heckled Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh on Saturday while he was speaking at a function on the 123rd birth anniversary of former Dogra autocrat Maharaja Hari Singh. The Dogra community had been demanding a state holiday on the birth anniversary and had expected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers, one of whom is the Deputy CM, to ensure this demand was fulfilled. The BJP, contrary to its promises, was unable to do so. Nirmal Singh was speaking near the statue of Hari Singh situated near Tawi Bridge in Jammu when he was heckled. He had paid floral tributes at the statue and had just started speaking about the life and times of the maharaja when angry Dogra men rose to their feet and started raising slogans against the BJP for being a sissy. 'Mehbooba jiski mummy hai, vo sarkar nikammi hai (Mehbooba Mufti is its mommy, this government is inept),' was one of the slogans raised. Dogra youths had come wearing black T-shirts and carrying saffron flags. Some of them were also carrying swords, witnesses said. The angry Dogras surrounded the Deputy CM, witnesses said, and Singh had to stop his speech when some members tried to grab him by the collar. The protesters demanded the minister's resignation and accused the BJP of doing 'disservice' to the Jammu region, PTI reported. 'BJP has done disservice to Jammu, which gave them 25 seats. They have failed to address one of the major aspirations of the Dogras. Despite the passage of a resolution, the BJP could not facilitate a holiday on the Maharaja's birthday. It is a shame,' Sumit Singh, one of the protestors, told PTI. Later, witnesses said, a large contingent of police arrived and escorted Singh away from the venue. The commotion was such that police had to divert the traffic at Tawi Bridge towards other connecting roads. Apart from BJP leaders, leaders of Congress, National Conference, Jammu Kashmir Panthers Party, and other were also present at the function. 'It was the rebirth of the Mahraja in real terms,' a journalist present at the function told Kashmir Reader. 'The NC led by Devinder Rana, the Congress, the Panthers Party and others, everybody praised the Maharaja and demanded a state holiday on his birthday. It was a united call, cutting across party lines.' In other parts of Jammu, day-long celebrations were held and rallies taken out in praise and tribute to the former Dogra king of Jammu & Kashmir. After the incident involving heckling of the deputy chief minister, many BJP leaders skipped the function and paid floral tributes at the statue of Hari Singh located at Bagh-Bahu, close to the police station. BJP Member of Legislative Council Ramesh Arora said that some people had been 'instigated' to create disturbance at the venue. 'I am out of station. I have heard about the incident,' Arora said. 'Some people have instigated youngsters to raise slogans against us.' He said that the state's upper house had already passed a resolution to declare the former Maharaja's birthday as a state holiday. 'I myself sent the file to the chief secretary,' Arora said. 'It had been the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's dream to bring Kashmir and Jammu closer. If Kashmir will celebrate the birthday of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, let Jammu celebrate the birthday of the Maharaja.' Arora said the file with the resolution calling for Maharaja Hari Singh's birthday to be declared as state holiday is at the office of Mehbooba Mufti. 'She has delayed the decision. But I am sure we will get the approval soon,' Arora said. On January 24 this year, the Legislative Council had passed the resolution with a voice vote. Hari Singh's birthday was also celebrated in Kathua, Udhampur, Samba, and Ramban districts of Jammu province. Lawyers affiliated with the Jammu Bar Association stayed away from work and instead organised a programme within the association's office premises to celebrate the contribution of the maharaja, who signed the Instrument of Accession of J&K to the Indian Union in 1947. Hari Singh's grandson and PDP legislator Vikramaditya Singh said that the demand for the public holiday will continue because the issue is linked to the 'sentiments' of people in Jammu region. 'Maharaja was a great leader and the entire Jammu region is united in its demand for a holiday on the birth anniversary of their beloved king,' Singh told reporters. Singh said it was time that the sentiments of people of Jammu were recognised. Panthers Party chief and former minister Harsh Dev Singh asked his grandsons Ajatshatru and Vikramaditya to resign from their respective political parties in protest against the state government's 'contemptuous denial' to declare the day as public holiday. He said the 'criminal silence' of the BJP ministers on the issue had exposed the ruling alliance.