July 13 and August 14

The July 13 massacre sparked outrage across the subcontinent. Muslims held demonstrations at Amritsar, Lahore, Lucknow, Delhi and other major cities.

The Kashmir Committee headed by Dr Iqbal worked hard to muster support for the freedom movement (in Kashmir).  Blood-stained clothes of some of the July 13 martyrs, sent to the Kashmir Committee, were displayed at various places. It urged Muslims to observe August 14 as Yaum-e-Kashmir (Kashmir Day). Processions were taken out at Lahore, Sialkote, Amritsar, Delhi and Lucknow to express solidarity with the Kashmiris. A rally was also held at Rangoon.

Kashmiri Muslims also observed August 14 as Kashmir Day. Women assembled at the Naqshband Sahib shrine in large numbers. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas and Mistri Muhammad Yaqoub addressed them. Blood-stained clothes of martyrs were displayed here as well. Soon after, a rally was held at the nearby Jamia Masjid. The kin of the martyrs were introduced to the people. Amid sobs, people expressed their determination to continue their struggle against all odds. After reciting from the Holy Quran, Sheikh Abdullah addressed the rally.

Kashmir continued to observe August 14 as Kashmir Day till 1947. Interestingly, Pakistan came into being that very day.  The coming year saw a shift in policy. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah became first the emergency administrator and then the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.  He did not observe the day, for obvious reasons. July 13 was chosen instead, and also declared a state holiday.  So, it was in 1948 that July 13 was observed for the first time.   August 14, however, continues to be important for Kashmiris to this day. They celebrate the creation of Pakistan by bursting crackers and hoisting Pakistani flags. The police responds by taking them into custody, and sometimes preventive detention, but the tradition continues.  This is a harsh reality of Kashmir.  Kashmir presents a deserted look on August 15 when India won independence, while on August 14, its people show happiness by bursting crackers.

A few incidents, especially the Roti Agitation by the Pandits, was sufficient to open the eyes of the persons who ran the show during those fateful times.  The Maharaja had appointed the Glancy Commission to look into the grievances of the Kashmiri people, and make recommendations. An I. C. S. officer, Sir B. J. Glancy, himself an Englishman, was its chairman. Kashmiri Muslims were represented by G. A. Ashai, Kashmiri Pandits by Pandit P N Bazaz, Jammu Muslims by Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas and Jammu Hindus by Lok Nath Sharma.

 The Commission submitted its report to the government on March 22, 1932. The Hindus felt that its recommendations were not favourable to the interests of the community, and ousted Prem Nath Bazaz from the presidentship of Sanatan Dharam Yuvak Sabha.  Jia Lal Kelam became the new president.  In April 1932, Kashmiri Pandits launched a vigorous agitation called the `Bread Movement’ (Roti Agitation), asking the Maharaja not to implement the recommendations of Glancy Commission. Hundreds of Hindus courted arrest to press their demands. Jia Lal Kelam,  Kashyap Bandhu and other prominent Pandits supervised the agitation.   They were pursuing a different goal, but Sheikh Abdullah closed his eyes to this harsh reality and believed that the Pandits were equally persecuted by the Dogras.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s association with these elements had an impact on his personality and politics. He had to shave off his beard to prove his `secular’ credentials. Following a hard hitting editorial by Kashyap Bandhu  in the Martand, Sheikh Abdullah also abandoned the practice of taking out Milad processions.

It was not for his love of the martyrs that the converted Sheikh observed July 13 officially in1948.   He had failed them and betrayed them in 1938. He did it to appease the Congress leaders.  How could Jawaharlal Nehru’s friend afford to allow people to observe August 14 as Yaum-e-Kashmir?

People, however, identify themselves with the July 13 martyrs.  They hold them in high esteem. The government has to impose restrictions to prevent them from reaching the Martyrs’ Graveyard. Officials and pro-India politicians are escorted to the site. They place wreaths on the graves, only to inflict torment on the martyrs.   It is ironic that people who fell to the bullets of autocratic rulers receive wreaths from those who promote family rule. The martyrs laid down their lives for freedom, but those who forced the Kashmiri nation into eternal slavery are the only ones to have access to the graveyard on the massacre anniversary.

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