Vikramaditya Singh, the grandson of Maharaja Hari Singh, has written an open letter to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, asking her to “honour” the Dogra autocrat by declaring a holiday on his birth anniversary.
“He encouraged young girls to get education by giving them grants. He banned child marriage and the practice of ‘Sati’ and encouraged re-marriage of widows. And finally, he signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ on October 26th, 1947, making Jammu and Kashmir part of India,” Vikramaditya Singh, who is also a People’s Democratic Party leader and member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council, said in the two-page open letter dated September 15 to Mufti.
He has asked the government to acknowledge the “efforts” of Hari Singh in the field of heath care, education and administration.
Vikramaditya Singh asked Mufti to prove herself as a “true leader of our fragile State who does not fear to recognize and honour” Hari Singh’s “accomplishments.”
He has also listed Hari Singh’s decision to “allow Dalits to worship our Gods” by opening the “doors of Jammu’s holiest city temples” to them as one of his “accomplishments.”
Announcing a holiday on his birthday would not only be a “fitting tribute” to Hari Singh but also mean “honouring and respecting the strong sentiments of the people of Jammu region,” Vikramaditya said.
“Jammu feels more isolated, marginalised and threatened by fundamentalist forces more than ever today. Sentiments of lakhs of people are still closely attached with Hari Singh’s visionary social reforms, stand for justice and building of solid institutions,” India Today quoted Vikramaditya Singh as saying.
Singh added, “We are simply asking for Jammu sentiments to be respected by declaring a state holiday. We do not want to be treated as second class citizens in our own state anymore.”
The Bar Association of Jammu also asked the state government to take a “positive decision” on its demand that September 23, the birth anniversary of Hari Singh, be declared a state holiday.
The association said that it failed to understand what was stopping the government from taking a decision on its long-standing demand which involves “regional aspirations”.
“From political parties to civil society and social organisations, everyone wants holiday on September 23 as a mark of respect for the great Maharaja,” said President of the association B S Slathia.
“We failed to understand what is compelling the government from taking a positive decision on the issue despite the passage of a resolution?” he told reporters in Jammu.
“The demand is linked to the regional aspirations of the people which is evident from the one voice raised on the issue by National Conference provincial president Devender Rana, Congresss Sham Lal Sharma, other political groups and every member of civil society and social organisations,” Slathia said.
“We have been demanding it for a very long time and even the BJP which is part of the government fought for it since 1947,” he said.
On January 24, the legislative council had passed a resolution for the holiday to commemorate the birth anniversary of Hari Singh.
BJP member Ajatshatru Singh moved the resolution in the the Upper House, which was backed by all BJP members and the PDP’s Vikramaditya Singh.
Ajatshatru and Vikramaditya are the grandsons of Hari Singh and sons of veteran Congress leader Karan Singh.
While the opposition National Conference staged a walkout from the legislative council in support of its demand for withdrawal of the resolution, independent MLA Engineer Rashid had termed the passage of the resolution as a “murder of the democracy”.
He said the demand was a “disrespect to the people who gave their life fighting against the autocratic rule”.