SRINAGAR: A political storm erupted in Jammu and Kashmir after the BJP, which is part of the coalition government in the state, skipped the official function of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to pay tributes to the Martyrs of 1931 here.

None of the BJP's ministers in Mufti's cabinet turned up at the wreath laying function at Martyrs' Graveyard in downtown Srinagar with the party's chief spokesperson and senior leader, Altaf Thakur, saying that they are camping in Delhi for meeting the high command.

"All the senior leaders (of BJP) are in Delhi and they are going to meet the party president Amit Shah which is why they couldn't attend the function today," Thakur told The Citizen.

The Martyrs' Day is a state holiday in J&K which is observed by the separatists as well as mainstream political parties every year in the memory of 22 protesters who were killed by the autocratic Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh's forces outside Srinagar's Central Jail, on July 13, 1931.

The protesters were demanding open trial of Abdul Qadeer, a British butler, who was arrested by the Dogra forces for giving a pro-freedom speech and advocating violence to end the "oppression" in J&K.

Embarrassed by the public rebuff, the BJP's coalition partner, the PDP, of which the chief minister Mufti is the patron, issued a carefully worded statement on Monday evening, terming the absence as "inappropriate".

"To pay respects to the martyrs was an obligation that the ministers from BJP ought to have fulfilled and any deviation from such a precedent is inappropriate,” PDP's chief spokesperson, Dr Mehboob Beg, said.

The state's largest civil society gathering, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) termed the BJP's absence as an attempt to "insult" to the state’s "national heroes".

"A party which is in power and has taken oath by the state constitution is supposed to respect this event. The coalition government must explain how the rules could be so blatantly violated by one of the partners and still continue to rule the people of the whole state," the KCSDS statement said.

The working president of National Conference, Omar Abdullah, too hit out at the coalition government over the issue. Taking a dig at the Chief Minister for flying to New Delhi to throw an Iftaar party for the BJP leaders, Omar said Mufti is "bending over backwards to please the BJP."

"The PDP opened doors for the BJP here," he said, on the absence of BJP leaders at Mufti's function, "We had said this at the beginning that coming (to power) of BJP was dangerous for the state. If we had been power hungry, BJP was ready to join hands with us at the outset,” he said.

MLA Langate and President of Awami Ittihaad Party, Engineer Rashid, criticised the coalition government for insulting the martyrs. “By not attending the function of July 13 Martyrs at Naqashband Sahib, the BJP in quite a shameful manner by not recognising these martyrs has not only insulted them but their great mission to end dictatorial oppressive regime,” Rashid said in a statement.

“If PDP has any semblance of conscience left, it should immediately end coalition with BJP and shun power lust and not act as shied and equal partner in these fascist designs of BJP,” he said.

“The struggle to get rid of an oppressive autocratic regime of the Maharajas was not a Kashmiri Muslim struggle alone; it was struggle of the people of Jammu & Kashmir state, irrespective of their religious beliefs and ethnicity. It is a historical fact that not only Muslims but even Pandits and other communities were part of that struggle. It was a struggle for democracy, dignity and justice,” the KCSDS statement said.