By Tajamul Ahmad
Every year on July 13, people of Kashmir on both sides of the ‘Line of Control’ (LoC) observe Martyrs’ day with zeal and devotion to pay tributes to twenty-two Kashmiri Muslims who were martyred in 1931 while protesting against the despotic regime of Dogra and their repressive and suppressive policies. The day is a landmark in the history of Kashmiri struggle for self-determination or freedom against foreign occupation.
The Dogra rule (1846-1947) in Kashmir is known by its oppression and coercion towards Muslim people of this beautiful vale. Under such tyrannical rule, it was very difficult for Muslims of Kashmir to live normally; their life was full of miseries and helplessness. In other words, Muslims despite being in a majority experienced brutal repression under their autocratic rule in the form of unpaid forced labour, high taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, discriminatory laws and so on.
The sad and sorrowful condition of Muslims and dictatorial rule of Dogras can be visualized by Justice Muhammad Yusuf Saraf’s book, “Kashmiris Fight for Freedom” in which he calls the condition “free forced labour” and “instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used for transportation of commodities across the remote areas”. In a similar vein, while describing the height of subjugation and autocracy by Dogra rulers towards Kashmiri Muslims, Sir Walter Lawrence, in his book, “The India We Served” writes, “the Army was employed in forcing the villagers to plough and sow, and worse still, the Dogra 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”.
There were a number of incidents which sparked the rampant violent public protests for a number of days in both Jammu and Kashmir against the Dogra autocracy. One such incident was the ban of Eid Khutba (sermon) in Jammu city, which was followed by the desecration of the Holy Qur’an at the hands of Dogra forces in the valley of Kashmir (Srinagar), eventually resulted into mass anger among Muslims throughout Jammu and Kashmir.
To condemn this blasphemy, Kashmiri Muslims from all walks of life assembled in the courtyard of Jamia Masjid Srinagar. One such gathering was also held in Khankah-e-Muellah Srinagar, which was addressed by prominent and influential Kashmiris like Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Khawaja Saad-Ud-Din Shawl, Mirwaiz Mohammad Yousuf Shah, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas (Jammu), Mirwaiz Atiq-ullah Hamadani and Aga Syed Hussain Shah Jalali. In the same historic meeting at Khankah-e-Muellah one youth, Abdul Qadir unable to hold back his emotions, oozed out all his feelings from his heart and pointing his finger towards the Maharaja’s Palace, raised anti Maharaj slogans against Maharaja. This speech against Maharaja by Abdul Qadir was recorded by Rashid Taseer in his work “Tarikh-i-Hurriyat” as:
“Muslim brothers: the time has now come when we should not meet force by great force to put an end to the tyrannies and brutalities to which you are subjected, nor will they solve the issues of disrespect to Holy Qur’an to your satisfaction. You must rely up on your own strength and wage a relentless war against oppression “pointing his finger towards the palace, he thundered: raze it to the ground”. He said, “We have no machine guns. But we have plenty of stones and brickbats”.
In a little while , on the 25th of June, 1931, Qadir was detained for his “seditious” speech. He was to be tried in the court, but due to large public animosity, the venue of the trial was shifted to Central Jail Srinagar. On the 12th July, 1931, Srinagar city was witnessing violent public demonstrations in response to the shifting of court to Srinagar Central Jail. The next tragic day, on July 13, 1931, thousands of people gathered around the Jail to witness the in-secret trial of Abdul Qadir. Meanwhile the time for obligatory prayer (Nimaaz-i-Zuhar) approached, one young brave hearted youth stood up and started reciting ‘Azan’(prayer call) for Zuhar prayer but , alas, he was shot dead by Dogra forces by the reckless order of Dogra Governor, ‘Turlok Chand’.
Another courageous youth took his place and stood up to continue ‘Azan’ but he too was subjected to death. The process continued and one after the other, young men stood up to carry on the recitation of ‘Azan’ and kept being martyred relentlessly. In quick succession twenty-two youth gladly or readily accepted the martyrdom while completing the ‘Azan’. This heart wrenching incident disturbed the whole state; and life in the Valley came to halt. The 22 martyrs were buried in ‘Martyrs Graveyard’ or ‘Mazar-i-Shuhada’ at ‘Khawaja Bazar’, Srinagar and since then , the day is observed as Kashmir Martyrs’ Day also known as ‘Youmi Shuddah-i-Kashmir’.
Even after this heart moving incident, the brutalities against Muslim people of vale have not stopped till this date. The free hand given to the Indian forces by Government of India like the Dogra rulers, have resulted in ruthless killings, mass graves, forced disappearances, rapes, tortures and maiming innocent youth and women of Muslims of Kashmir. Despite all this, I wonder how our own remorseless and corrupted mainstream politicians (Kashmiri people) are working shoulder to shoulder with collaborators for petty gains and later on showering petals on the graves of martyrs of July 13th, 1931. Is this not hypocrisy? Obviously it is. These pro-Indian politicians from Kashmir , who on the martyrs’ day, pay homage to the martyrs are actually the main culprits who pushed Kashmir into dictatorial rule after its ancestors offered ultimate sacrifices for the liberation of Kashmir from the clutches of tyrant rulers. Instead of paying tributes to these martyrs’, the pro-Indian lobby should accept this day as a message that if our ancestors did not beg or bow down their heads in front of tyrant rule of Dogra then how come they will surrender or break down to the Indian rule. Finally, I conclude by saying that we as a nation should not have to pay mere tributes to these martyrs but should have to remember their selfless services for people of Kashmir as well. It is said that a nation loses its right to live in the body of nations if it forgets the blood of its martyrs.
—The author is a Post graduate in Islamic Studies with the JRF. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org