July 13, 1931, is considered a turning point in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. It, therefore, becomes necessary to understand the incident in a proper background. Historians and commoners believe Kashmir erupted when a constable at Jammu desecrated the holy Quran. But was the holy Book really desecrated?
On April 19, 1931, when an Imam was delivering the Eid sermon in a municipal park at Jammu, a police constable, Chowdhury Ram Chand intervened and directed the Imam to refrain from delivering the sermon. The Muslims objected to this interference and registered strong protest. The incident, however, went un-noticed in Srinagar. When the news reached Srinagar, the situation in Jammu had pacified.
Late Professor Noor-ud-Din has written in his diary that the leaders of the Reading Room Party (RRP) pondered and decided to stage a similar drama at Jammu. Noted historian, Shabnam Qayoom also makes a mention of Noor-ud-Din’s diary in his ‘Kashmir ka Siyasi Inqilaab’. Qayoom writes: “A plan was devised to replica the events so as to evoke strong public reaction in Srinagar. The members of Young Man’s Association (YMA), Jammu, took a Muslim constable into confidence. Posters were kept ready. Constable Sheikh Muhammad Ismaiel accused his Hindu colleague of desecrating the Quran and violent protests broke out in Jammu and Srinagar.”
The RRP and YMA authored drama evoked the desired reaction in Srinagar. Moulvi Abdullah Vakil, Munshi Naseer, Moulvi Bashir and Ghulam Nabi Gilkar delivered a series of lectures. This is when Sheikh Abdullah was introduced to the public for the first time.
List of the martyrsS.No. Name Age ResidenceI . Ghulam Mohammad Halwai 25 years Jamia Masjid2. Abdul Khalique Shora 33 years Wazapura3. Ghulam Nabi Kalawal 27 years Pandan4. Ghulam Mohammad Soofi 20 years Daribal5. Ghulam Qadir Butt 22 years Mohalla Bahandin6. Mohammad Ramazan 19 years Khanyar7. Mohammad Usman 20 years Kalashpura8. Ghulam Mohammad Naqash 22 years Kani Kadal9. Ghulam Rasool Darzi 23 years Ahmeda Kadal10. Amir Joo Jandagaroo 27 years GojwaraI I . Abdul Ahad 23 years Gao Kadal12. Ghulam Ahmed Kalbaf 32 years Fateh Kadal13. Amir Joo Makai 35 years Nawa Kadal14. Shaaban Joo Makai 60 years Nawa Kadal15. Subhan Khan 22 years Nawab Bazar16. Abdul Khalique 30 years Watal Kadal17. Mohammad Akbar 33 years Zaldagar18. Abdul Qadir 26 years Bahauddin Sahib19. Ghulam Rasool Dora 27 years Gotapura20. Ahmed Rather 30 years Nowshehra21. Ahmed Dar 30 years Nowshehra22. Wall Wadi 50 years Batapura
A few days before delivering his famous speech at Khankahi Moula, Abdul Qadeer was riding with Major Abet, the British army officer, and the former British Resident, in Dal lake in ‘Kashmir Sunflower’ houseboat owned by Aziz Wangnoo. As they were nearing Hazratbal, Qadeer saw people rushing towards the shrine and requested Major Abet to drop him on the banks so that he could join the Friday congregation. Major Abet is believed to have said to Qadeer “tell your God to free Kashmiris from this oppressive rule.” The British officer’s words inspired Qadeer to deliver a fiery speech. To save himself from arrest, Qadeer changed his clothes in Muhammad Amin Farooqi’s house. (Kashmir ka Siyasi Inqilaab, Vol I, p55.)
On June 21, 1931, hundreds of Muslims from different schools of thought assembled at Khankahi Moula where the Muslim leadership forged unity and constituted a seven-member committee to take the struggle forward. The members were Saad-ud-Din Shawl, Mirwaiz Moulvi Yusuf Shah, Mirwaiz Ahmadullah Hamdani, Aga Syed Hassan Jalali, Khawaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Sheikh Abdullah and Munshi Shuhab-ud-Din. When the leaders dispersed, Qadeer appeared on the podium and shouted slogans against Hindus. He said: “Listen, time has come when we have to act. Requests and memoranda will serve no purpose at this point of time. It will not end tyranny and it will not end desecration of Quran. Stand up and fight the tyrant rulers.” He pointed towards the Raj Mahal palace and said, “Raze it to the ground.”
Qadeer was arrested and put on trial. On July 13, 1931, when people assembled outside the Central jail to express solidarity with Qadeer, the Dogra soldiers opened fire and killed 22 men on the spot. Scores sustained injuries.
Noted historian Yusuf Saraf in his ‘Kashmir’s struggle for freedom’, writes: “On 13th July 1931, thousands of Muslims assembled outside the Central jail. After the entry of the Sessions Judge, they demanded permission to enter the compound. At this stage Advocate Moulvi Mohammad Abdullah advised them to remain peaceful and abide by the wishes of the authorities. This calmed down the crowd; they withdrew from the gate and sat silently outside, waiting for news from inside. At this moment, no unauthorised person was inside the jail compound. At 1pm Muslims began lining up for their noon prayers. In a few minutes came the Governor who snubbed the police on duty for not having taken into custody those who had earlier attempted to enter the compound, and foolishly ordered their immediate arrest. The police, thereupon, arrested five persons with the result that the crowd became restive and raised anti-government and pro-Qadeer slogans. The situation became extremely grave. The crowd then attempted to force its entry into the compound and demanded the immediate release of their men. They also demanded permission to watch proceedings of the case. Instead of handling the situation with tact, the Governor lost his nerves and ordered the armed police to open fire. According to the evidence, officially placed before the Dalai Inquiry Commission, one hundred and eighty rounds were fired. Seventeen Muslims were killed on the spot and forty received serious injuries, five of whom died later in the Jamia Masjid. The Hindu daily Tribune, dated July 28, 1931, admitted the loss of 21 Muslims in the firing. It goes to the credit of Kashmiri Muslims that even according to Mr Wake-field, “the wounds of dead Kashmiris were all in front”.
On July 13, 1931, Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bhat then a ten-year-old boy left for his working place early in the morning. His tender heart was filled with joy when he had a look on the shawl he had been weaving for the past several days. Meanwhile, the factory owner announced lunchtime and Bhat left for his home to have a lunch. Somebody called for Zuhr prayers and asked people to perform ablution in the nearby stream. He also went to the stream and while doing ablution guns started volleying bullets. People ran for safety and Bhat, who lived in the close vicinity of the Central Jail, also rushed to his house. What followed left a deep imprint on his mind.
Recalling the incident, he said: “While on my way to home, I saw scores of persons falling to Dogra bullets. Scores sustained injuries. After some time the dead and the injured were brought to my house. Our lawn was reddened with their blood. By this time fifteen people had died down. I heard the painful screams of the injured.”
Bhat said the incident evoked severe reaction from the people. “They rushed to the residential quarters of the jail staff situated just outside the jail. The quarters were set ablaze. The protestors also decamped with charpoys from the quarters. The martyrs and the injured were laid on the charpoys and taken in a procession to the Jamia Masjid.”
Muhammad Subhan Khan of Ashraf Khan (KathiDarwaza) was known to Bhat. He had sustained bullet injuries in his legs. Somehow he managed to reach his home and was rushed to hospital next day. He survived.
Soon after hundreds of Dogra soldiers arrived and cordoned the area. “They made people chant pro-government slogans. People were asked to chant Maharaja ki jay. Those who defied the orders were taken to task”, he said.
“The people were also frightened by the fire engines that had arrived to extinguish the flames in the staff quarters”, he said.
Next day proved a nightmare for the Bhat family. Bhat’s brother had sustained a serious injury most probably while running away for his life on July 13. “My father asked me to take him to the Maharaja hospital. I picked him on my back and my father accompanied me. I saw soldiers everywhere. They ordered everybody to chant Maharaja ki jay”, he said.
Mourning and Martial law
July 14, 1931: Valley is tense
Srinagar remained tense and so did rest of the Valley. The news of Central Jail massacre had spread like wildfire across Kashmir. The Valley people observed weeklong mourning. Traffic on Jhelum Valley road remained suspended from July 14 to July 26. No vehicular movement was reported on the road on July 14, especially.
The government placed the city under Martial law for three days. Therefore, for three days everything in Srinagar came to standstill. Jamia Masjid, Srinagar remained the focal point of Kashmir’s political, religious and social life. Sheikh, who had not yet become the ‘lion of Kashmir’, seemed genuinely concerned about the plight of Kashmiri Muslims. The incident had bound Muslims in strong bonds. They started caring for each other. People living in the vicinity of Jamia Masjid tried their best to comfort the stranded people despite the imposition of Martial law.
However, the unity displayed by Muslims on July 14 onwards proved short lived. Muslims got divided soon into two groups; one headed by Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah and the other by Sheikh. The divide had a serious bearing on the future of Kashmir.
July 14 was the day when the people and the leadership discussed future strategy unmindful of the troops that had cordoned off the Masjid.
Burial of martyrs
The important problem that now confronted the leaders was about the burial of these martyrs. They desired to bury them in a single graveyard which could be treasured as a place of national pilgrimage, thereby not only preserving the sanctity of the day but also to enshrine it as a reminder to the coming generations that national salvation lay through sacrifice. The credit for this decision must go to Khawaja Noor Shah Naqshbandi because it was he who put forth the idea. When the matter was taken up with the Dogra government, there was resistance but Noor Shah very cleverly prevailed upon the Governor and the military authorities. He argued that if so many persons were to be buried in their family graveyards, it would create a serious law and order situation for Dogra administration. At the same time, he offered the compound of Khanqah-i-Naqshband of which his father was the Muttawali. On the third day, they were buried there amidst scenes of a national mourning. Almost the entire Muslim population of the city was there. Thousands had also come from adjacent areas of the city. Most of them broke down under the strain of emotions. (Kashmir’s fight for freedom by Yusuf Saraf)
The July 13 massacre evoked massive response across the subcontinent. Muslims held demonstrations at Amritsar, Lahore, Lucknow, Delhi and at other major cities.
The Kashmir Committee headed by Dr Muhammad Iqbal worked hard to muster support for the freedom movement. Blood stained clothes of some of the July 13 martyrs had been sent to Kashmir Committee which were displayed at various places. The Committee urged the Muslims to observe August 14 as Youm-e-Kashmir. Processions were taken out at Lahore, Sialkot, 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 in the Naqshband Sahib shrine in large numbers. Sheikh, Chowdhary Abbas and Mistri Muhammad Yaqoub addressed them. Blood soaked clothes of martyrs were displayed here as well. Soon after, a rally was held at Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. The kith and kin of the martyrs were introduced to the people. Amid sobs, people expressed determination to continue the struggle despite odds. Sheikh after reciting a few verses of the holy Quran addressed the rally.
Ahrar’s visit to Kashmir
The Majlis-e-Ahrar was considered a fundamentalist group even in Kashmir. Sheikh did not like them, and in his statement issued from jail flayed their involvement in Kashmir affairs. However, Maharaja Hari Singh allowed Ahrar team to visit Kashmir to probe July 13 massacre.
On August 18, the Majlis-e-Ahrar passed a resolution seeking enforcement of rights of Kashmiris irrespective of their religion. It was also decided that Ahrars would help Kashmiris through peaceful means. A few days later a massive rally was held at Delhi Gate, Lahore. Dr Iqbal presided and urged the Majlis to violate the ban on entry into Kashmir. The prime minister of Jammu Kashmir had banned entry of outsiders into Kashmir. In his order he said: “Since Maharaja has ordered an enquiry into the incident, therefore, no outsider must come to Kashmir.”
On August 31, the Majlis announced that a fact-finding team headed by Moulana Mazhar Ali Azhar would visit Kashmir onSeptember 2. This statement created a stir in Kashmir. The PM sent a telegram to Moulana Azhar requesting him to meet his governor for Jammu at Sialkot. Moulana agreed and a meeting was held at deputy commissioner’s residence. The fact-finding team was allowed to visit Kashmir on the following conditions:
–No demonstration shall be held in Kashmir
–Fact-finding team will act objectively
– The team shall be state guests
The local leaders ridiculed the Ahrar team for accepting government hospitality. The mission failed.
Mirwaiz calls for Jihad
During those days Kashmiris used to read newspapers published from Lahore and elsewhere. Kashmiris were pleased to read about the rallies held in various Indian cities. This added fuel to the already explosive situation in Kashmir. The agitation turned violent in September with the arrest of Sheikh and other leaders. Mirwaiz Yusuf called for Jihad. On September 24, people from all parts of Srinagar assembled near the Peer Dastgeer shrine at Khanyar. Most of them were armed with knives, axes, shovels and spades. Some brandished guns as well. The Maharaja responded with brute force. A massive military parade was held in Srinagar. People were arrested and flogged in four flogging centres established at Central Jail, Exhibition grounds, police stations Maharaj Gunj and Kothibagh. Three persons died as a result of flogging. The most notable among them was Moulvi Ahmadullah of Baramulla. One Ghulam Bhat of Srinagar died in Kothibagh police station. Similarly Ahmad Bhat of Srinagar died in Central Jail.
Maharaja appointed the Galancy Commission to look into the grievances of Kashmiri people and make recommendations. An Indian Civil Service officer Sir BJ Galancy, himself an Englishman, was its chairman. Kashmiri Muslims were represented by GA Ashai, Kashmiri Pandits by Pt. PN Bazaz, Jammu Muslims by Chowdhary Abbas and Jammu Hindus by Lok Nath Sharma on the commission.
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 Bazaz from the presidentship of Sanatan Dharam Yovak Sabha. Jialal Kilam became the new president. In April 1932, Kashmiri Pandits launched a vigorous agitation called `Bread Movement’, asking the Maharaja not to implement the recommendations of Galancy Commission. Hundreds of Hindus courted arrest to press forward their demands. Kilam, Kashyap Bandshu and other prominent Pandits supervised the agitation.