Srinagar: The first ever strike of workers was held in Srinagar on April 29, 1865 by the shawl weavers. The Chicago incident which is commemorated as Worker’s days cross the globe took place two decades after the Zaldagar massacre which left 28 shawl weavers dead.
In 1856 Ranbir Singh ascended the throne. Gulab Singh suffered an attack of dropsy which ultimately killed him in 1859. Ranbir Singh strictly followed his father and imposed severe tax on the shawl weavers. Raw material, import of wool from Ladakh was also taxed. Besides custom duty, tax was also imposed on the finished products.
On the above mentioned date, 28 shawl weavers sacrificed their lives while fighting 300% increase in taxes on shawls. And, this is the day when the phenomenon of extra-judicial executions started in Kashmir.
The Shawl weavers took out a procession but were intercepted on Zaldagar Bridge by the Dogra soldiers. Twenty-eight weavers got killed in the army action. After fishing out the bodies from Kute-e-Kul, the weavers marched towards Ranbir Singh’s palace.
The procession was intercepted. Scores of weavers including their leaders were taken into custody. Sheikh Rasool and Abli Baba were tortured to death in a dungeon in Shergarhi palace. This is where the phenomenon of extra-judicial executions started in Kashmir.
The irony is that nobody knows about the great martyrs. Even the present day trade unionists observe May 1. Most of them do not know about April 29.
Taking cognizance of a report on 1865 martyrs, two local trade union leaders promised to strive for a memorial in honour of the weavers who laid down their lives for a cause. The promise remains unfulfilled to this day.
Even the human rights organisations have failed to take note of the extra-judicial execution of Sheikh Rasool and Abli Baba who were tortured to death in Shergarhi palace.