Row over BJP move to honour Jammu and Kashmir’s last king

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The ruling BJP’s move to adopt a resolution in the Assembly declaring the birthday of the last king of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, a State holiday, has split the State’s polity.

“One cannot forget the contribution of the Maharaja, who single-handedly unified varied and diverse regional, religious and territorial entities into one entity called Jammu and Kashmir. The Maharaja has been a unifying force. I plead before BJP Member of Legislative Council Ajatshatru Singh to avoid making him a point of discord,” ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and State Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar told The Hindu, in a veiled opposition to the BJP’s move. “I requested MLC Singh to withdraw the resolution,” Mr. Akhtar added.

The Jammu-based PDP member Surinder Choudhary, however, supported the resolution moved by Mr. Singh, also the grandson of the Maharaja, on January 24.

“The Maharaja was a great ruler who brought many reforms. He was a great secular ruler and people loved him so much,” Mr. Singh said.

The resolution was adopted by the treasury benches after the entire opposition, including the National Conference (NC), had staged a walk out. On Friday, NC MLC Bashir Veeri led a walk out of his party members in the Assembly. “Somehow the opposition was kept out of the House and the resolution was passed. It was a ploy of the ruling PDP-BJP combination,” Mr. Veeri said.

The issue, however, split the NC too with Jammu-based MLA Devendra Rana calling for “respecting Jammu sentiments”, in open support to the BJP move.

Mr. Rana’s NC colleagues, Ali Mohammad Sagar and Mohammad Akbar Lone, however, described his utterances as “his personal views”. “The move will only open old wounds,” said NC leader Mustafa Kamal.

Maharaja a killer: JKLF

JKLF chief Yasin Malik has opposed the move, terming the resolution as “the height of shamelessness of the PDP politics.” “Hypocrites are asking us to honour the killers as well as their victims simultaneously. How can these people observe July 13 as a Martyr’s Day (when scores of civilians were killed by the forces of the Maharaja) and at the same time observe Singh’s birthday as a holiday?” Mr. Malik asked.

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