Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Monday attended the Martyrs' Day function here, from which its coalition partner in the state BJP kept away.
The official function at the Naqshband Sahib Martyrs' graveyard was presided over by the Chief Minister but the BJP ministers did not show up, indicating strains in the BJP-PDP coalition government.
A BJP spokesman said although the ministers were in Delhi for a meeting with party president Amit Shah, the function at Martyrs' Graveyard had no relevance to their party.
"The 1931 martyrs have no relevance for us as a party. If they do not respect our leaders like Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, why should we (reciprocate)!" BJP spokesman for Kashmir Khalid Jehangir told PTI.
The function was to honour martyrs who laid down their lives fighting the Dogra rule in 1931.
He said his party does not want to do "emotional politics" on such issues. "The lesser we rake up these issues, the better it will be for the state," he said.
This is for the first time in the history of the state that a ruling party, or a coalition partner, was not represented at the official function held on this day every year.
Congress, which was in power for 12 years in coalition with PDP (2002-2008) and National Conference (2008-2014), WERE represented by its ministers at the official function every year.
Even this year, JKPCC chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir and several other party leaders paid homage to the martyrs.
Addressing the gathering at the graveyard, Sayeed asked people to use their vote if they want to defeat the attempts made at eroding the special position of the state within the Indian Constitution.
"If you want to protect your (Jammu and Kashmir's) unique identity and special position in the Indian Constitution, use your vote. Like they say 'a diamond cuts a diamond'," Sayeed said.
Welcoming the recent meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Russia, Sayeed said peace in the region can only come through sustained and meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan.
He said both India and Pakistan have to resolve their differences by talking to each other for lasting peace in the region.
Sayeed, without naming BJP, hit out at attempts to erode the special status of the state.
"Jammu and Kashmir has a unique status and identity. I am saying it is a treasure for us. The power of our Assembly is supreme (in the state). If Parliament passes a law, it is our (Assembly's) choice whether to implement it or not. We have a separate Constitution. We have a state flag alongside the national tricolour. We have state subject (law)," Sayeed said to applause from the audience.
Highlighting the importance of democracy, the Chief Minister said the gun will not resolve any problem as it only brought destruction.
"It is the ballot by which you can change your fate. You voted in 2002 and this time (2014) you decided that (the government) will be formed here.
"However, what you gave me (mandate) is like standing on one leg," Sayeed said in reference to the hung verdict in the Assembly elections last year which forced his PDP to ally with the BJP to form a government.
The PDP patron said while PDP had a strong mandate from the Valley, the BJP had got overwhelming support in Jammu.
"While PDP got mandate here, there was no trace of Congress in Jammu. I thought if we have to change Jammu and Kashmir, it needs two hands. My hand (PDP mandate) is not an ordinary hand but the hand from that side (Jammu mandate) is also not ordinary," Sayeed said.
Paying tribute to the martyrs, Sayeed said, "The struggle in 1931 was against a system, which was not giving due rights to the citizens of this place".
Earlier, Sayeed, his cabinet colleagues from PDP and senior leaders of his party laid floral wreaths on the graves of the 21 persons who where killed in firing by the Dogra army on this day in 1931.
Meanwhile, PDP chief spokesperson Mehboob Beg took strong exception to the BJP ministers skipping the official function to mark Martyrs' Day.
"To attend the official function to pay respects to the martyrs was an obligation that the Ministers ought to have fulfilled and any deviation from such a precedent was inappropriate," he said in a statement.
Beg stressed that it should be amply clear that the martyrs belonged to the state and not to any particular religion, region, caste or creed and their sacrifices must not be forgotten or belittled.
He pointed out that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed paid respect to the martyrs not as the PDP patron but on behalf of the people of the state as their Chief Minister.
"It is in indebtedness and gratitude that we salute these martyrs and that the martyrs transcended way beyond party lines," he added.