“You must stand on your legs and Fight Against Oppression”- Remembering 13 July 1931

July 13

Sajad Shaukat

The Martyrs’ Day, known as Youme Shuhada-e-Kashmir is observed on July 13 every year on both sides of the Line of Control and all over the world by the Kashmiris to pay homage to 22 Kashmiris who were martyred in 1931 to free Kashmir from the brutalities of despotic Dogra rulers. The day is the milestone in the history, as it has become genesis of the Kashmir’s struggle for independence against foreign occupation.

However, the history of Dogra rule (1846-1947) in Kashmir is replete with tyrannous treatment, meted out to the Kashmiri Muslims by Dogra forces. Under the Dogra rule, they were leading so miserable life that it was difficult to differentiate them from beasts. Slave labour, heavy taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, and living under constant terror was order of the day.

In this regard, Yousaf Saraf in his book, “Kashmiris Fight for Freedom” calls it “free forced labour” and “instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used for transportation of goods across the far-flung areas.” In this context, while describing the pathetic picture of the Kashmiris, in his book, “The India We Served”, Sir Walter Lawrence writes, “Army was employed in forcing the villagers to plough and sow, and worse still, the soldiers came at harvest time and when the share of the state had been seized” and “there was very little grain to tide the unfortunate peasants over the cruel winter.”

On April 19, 1931, the ban of Eid Khutba (Sermon) ignited widespread demonstrations in the Jammu city for a number of days. It was followed by desecration of the Holy Quran at the hands of Dogra forces, which resulted into outrage among the Muslims throughout the state. In Srinagar, people gathered in Jamia Masjid to denounce this blasphemy. One such get-together was held in Khankah-e-Maula Srinagar, which was addressed by prominent Kashmiris. When the meeting was concluded, a youth, Abdul Qadeer, pointing his finger to the Maharaja’s palace, raised slogans “destroy its every brick.”

He in his speech said, “The honour, respect and reverence of the Holy Quran are dearer to the Muslims than the ruler-ship of the world. They will never tolerate any interference in their religion or defilement of their Holy Book. The Government of the Maharaja does not care for his subjects. It has no touch with the people, nor any sympathy for the downtrodden. Oh, Muslims arise! Time is near when you shall reply with stones, against the bricks. I warn you that your representatives and memorials cannot come to your rescue, nor will these papers remove injustice and misery. Such things cannot solve the issue relating to the defilement of the Holy Quran. You must stand on your legs and fight against autocratic force. Even, if, you have no arms you can fight with sticks and stones”.

With the accusation of sedition, he was arrested forthwith. Abdul Qadir was to be tried in the court, but due to large public resentment, the court was shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.

On July 12, 1931, in response to the shifting of court, intense public protests were held throughout the city. The next day, on July 13, 1931, thousands of people thronged the Central Jail Srinagar to witness the in-camera trial of Abdul Qadeer. As the time for obligatory prayer approached, a young Kashmiri stood for Azan. The Dogra Governor, Ray Zada Tartilok Chand ordered soldiers to open fire at him. When he got martyred, another young man took his place and started Azan. He was also shot dead. In this way, 22 Kashmiris embraced martyrdom in their efforts to complete the Azan. The people carried the dead and paraded through the streets of Srinagar, chanting slogans against Dogra brutalities.

Complete strike was observed in the city, which was followed by weeklong mourning. This incident shook the whole state and the traffic from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and Srinagar to Jammu came to halt from July 13 to 26, 1931. The 22 martyrs are buried in Martyrs’ Graveyard at Khawaja Bazar, Srinagar.

Consequent upon these brutal killings, the Kashmiri leadership realized the need to form a political party, Muslim Conference (MC) with a view to waging struggle for their freedom. Later, in 1934, state’s first elections were held and MC won 10 out of 21 seats, and after two years in 1936, it succeeded in getting 19 out of 21 seats. Indian Congress was upset with this situation and tried to create division in the ranks of Kashmiri leadership. Afterwards, on July 19, 1947, MC passed a resolution to merge Kashmir with Pakistan, considering the geographical proximity—majority of Muslim population (77%), language and cultural relations of Jammu Kashmir.

Ironically, despite a lapse of 66 years, Kashmiris are still struggling to achieve their alienable right under the UN resolutions for the plebiscite in Jammu Kashmir. Kashmir Valley is one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world with Indian 7 million armed security forces.

According to a report on human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, since 1989, there have been deaths of 1,00,000 innocent Kashmiris, 7,023 custodial killings, 1,22,771 arrests, 1,05,996 destruction of houses or buildings, 22,776 women widowed, 1,07,466 children orphaned and 10,086 women gang-raped/molested.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations