Impromptu celebrations broke out breaking an eerie calm around midnight as scores of people assembled at the statue of Maharaja Hari Singh near the Tawi bridge in Jammu to celebrate the birth anniversary of the last Dogra ruler of the erstwhile state which included parts of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and the North Western Province of Pakistan.
Waiving the tricolour and bursting crackers, people cut cakes and danced to the tunes of Dogri songs. The prominent among them included BJP’s J&K president Ravinder Raina, former Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, sitting BJP MP Jugal Kishore, besides leaders of the Yuva Rajput Sabha, Bajrang Dal and other organisations.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah paid tributes to Maharaja Hari Singh on his birth anniversary. In a tweet in Hindi, he said, “I bow to the symbol of nationalism Maharaja Hari Singh ji on his birth anniversary. PM Modi has paid a true tribute to him by declaring his birth anniversary as a state holiday to commemorate his efforts to make Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India and to keep the country’s integrity intact.” Maharaja Hari Singh was born on September 23, 1895.
The UT administration, following agitation by Yuva Rajput Sabha and members of civil society, had announced a public holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh. Earlier, the erstwhile state had holiday on the martyrs’ day falling on July 13 in the memory of protestors who were killed in firing by Maharaja’s forces in 1931. The protestors had assembled outside Srinagar Central Jail where one Abdul Qadeer, an employee of the British Army deployed in Peshawar, was held and tried on charges of sedition.
The celebrations continued through Friday with various political, social and religious organisations taking out processions towards Tawi Bridge and Maharaja Hari Singh Park to pay their tributes. The processions also led to traffic jams in different parts of the city.
At Maharaja Hari Singh Park, J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina and Congress’s working president Raman Bhalla were seen embracing each other and giving credit to each other for the declaration of holiday for the Maharaja’s birthday.
However, once they separated, both started taking credit for the holiday, with Raman Bhalla saying that the statues where the celebrations are taking place were installed during the Congress rule in J&K. “We will not stop here (public holiday) but struggle until Maharaja Hari Singh’s state is restored to Jammu and Kashmir and the rights of the local people to land and jobs is protected,” he said.
Ravinder Raina, on the other hand, said, “Everything will be restored. They (Congress) cannot give anything as they do not have anything in their hands.”
Mission Statehood workers led by their president Sunil Dimple also reached Tawi bridge and offered floral tributes to the erstwhile Dogra ruler and distributed sweets among the people. He also demanded restoration of statehood for J&K and protection of local people’s right to land and jobs.
The Union Territory’s Lieutenant Governor, following his meeting with BJP and Yuva Rajput Sabha leaders, had on September 15 announced a holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh. “The holiday has been announced in view of the contributions of Maharaja Hari Singh who had been a great educationist, progressive thinker and social reformer,” he had said.