Since July 13, 1932, Martyr’s Day is observed in remembrance of July 13, 1931 martyrs. It is observed with great fervor in occupied Kashmir, Pakistan, Britain, and in other countries by Kashmiri Diaspora and sympathizers of the Kashmir cause.
It is a tribute to Kashmiris’ indomitable spirit that they observed the day even while under the yoke of the Dogra’s tyrannical rule. India could not dare stop observance of the day until it abolished the special status of the state on August 5, 2019.
The day has great significance as it reflected that the dogra’s rule could not gag the Kashmiris’ resistance despite the dogra’s incessant reign of terror.
Let us have a glimpse of Dogra’s reign of terror in Kashmir. To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the Dogra punished even Kashmiri children who played with fork-slings (ghulail) and stones. Under the Dogra rule, the Kashmiri were treated no better than beasts of burden.
Instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used to transport goods across Gilgit, Leh, and Skardu. They carried luggage on their backs across glaciers as high as 17,000 feet. Thousands of them perished along the way each year owing to frostbites, fall from a precipice, and hunger or sickness. The Dogra caravans were not humane enough to stop for a while in the snowy passes to look after the injured porters (or ‘human beasts of burden’).
Besides performing the forced labor, the Kashmiri had to pay heavy taxes. The whole of their produce was confiscated by the Dogra. Little was left for tillers and their children to eat. On every item, the oppressed Kashmiri had to pay multiple taxes. Take shawls. Not only the shawl-makers were taxed, but also the other intermediaries like importers of pashmina (wool) from Ladakh, and storekeepers, whether wholesalers or retailers.
The regressive revenue system resulted in famine during the winter of 1877. People began to die of starvation. Instead of releasing grain stocks from the royal go-downs, the maharajah’s constabulary drowned the starved, crying people in the Wular Lake. Saraf writes: “Whole boat-loads of starving people have been conveyed by the maharajah’s officials to the Wular Lake, and there drowned.”
India regards Kashmir as chattel
The reign of terror by Indian forces (now estimated at about nine lac regulars and security personnel) who replaced the maharajah’s constabulary on October 27, 1947, is no less gruesome. International human rights organizations, as well as India’s National Human Rights Commission, have brought into limelight the Kashmiri’s mysterious disappearances, their custodial deaths, and countless rapes of hapless Kashmiri women.
Like the Dogra, Indian rulers are mercilessly exploiting Kashmiris’ economic resources. The bulk of locally generated electricity is being diverted to Indian states. The tourism industry is in shambles. Highly educated people have no jobs. With no inflow of tourists, the shopkeepers have no business. Unlike the occupied Kashmir, all the socio-economic sectors in Azad Kashmir are progressing by leaps and bounds.
Josef Korbel, in his book The Danger in Kashmir, recalls that not only the permanent but also the temporary members of the Security Council had sympathy with Pakistan’s point of view on Kashmir. Still, India regarded the Kashmiri as a chattel.
Congress ex-minister and Kashmiri politician Saifuddin Soz said that Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel was happy to let Kashmir go to Pakistan in exchange for Hyderabad. Lord Mountbatten took Patel’s offer to Pakistan on the exact day the Indian Army landed in Srinagar.
Read more: Kashmir, Gurdaspur & Mountbatten?
The trajectory of events culminating in Martyr’s day
A land-holder in Udhampur (occupied) Jammu converted to Islam of his free will. The Hindu Tehsildar in the area eliminated his share of ownership by transferring it in the name of his brother. The land-holder filed a suit for restoration of his title to the property. But the court deviously ordered that to get re-entitled the convert should revert to his old religion. The order was based on a decree issued by the Dogra ruler on December 31, 1882.
The court’s judgment was interpreted by common folk as interference by Hindu rulers into the religious domain of Muslims. As such, the Kashmiri Muslims began to hold rallies and processions despite a prohibition on assembly of persons and pronouncement of Friday sermon (Khutba).
The Muslims petitioned Additional District Magistrate under Section 296 Ranbir Penal Code against a Hindu inspector for disturbing a religious assembly, which was dismissed because the Hindu magistrate held that Khutba (sermon) was not a part of the prayers.
On April 19, 1931, the Dogra ruler banned even the Eid sermon. The prayer leader (Imam) Munshi Mohammad Ishaque was forbidden to deliver Eid sermons in the Municipal Park of Jammu.
According to Daily Inqilab dated July 1, 1931, Head Warder, Balak Ram Sub-Inspector Labhu Ram desecrated the Holy Quran while they were reprimanding constable Fazal Dad who hailed from Mirpur. On June 20, 1931, some mutilated pages of the Holy Quran were found in a public latrine in Srinagar.
The above events served as a catalyst to the fateful day 13th July. These included desecration of the Holy Quran, and also trial (in camera) of Kashmiri youth Abdul Qadeer by the Dogra’s kangaroo court. Qadeer’s offense was that he had pointed his finger towards maharajah’s palace and shouted: “destroy its every brick”.
Abdul Qadeer hailed from Swat. He was an employee of an English army officer, Major Butt of the Yorkshire Regiment posted at Peshawar.
While the trial was in progress, a young man arose to say azan. He was shot dead. Another person arose and he too was shot dead. Thus about 21 persons were shot dead in succession.
An important lesson for India
The July 13 event happened in spite of Dogra rulers’ efforts to gag Kashmiris’ voice during the preceding period (1846 to 1931). The struggle for freedom continued in the post-1931 period. It baffles one’s imagination how Kashmiris have sustained their spirit of resistance despite about 162 years of oppression (Dogra rule 1846-1947 to India’s raj, 1947 onwards).
India marched its forces into the Valley and annexed Kashmir on October 27, 1947. The self-conceited basis for India’s aggression was a fake instrument of accession. The world community does not recognize this so-called accession instrument. As such, the United Nations granted the right of self-determination to Kashmiris. This right is enshrined in the UN’s resolutions of 1948 and 1949.
Toynbee’s Challenge and Response Theory suggests that if the challenge is too strong, a nation becomes apathetic. Ibn-e-Khaldoon’s asabiya (spirit of national cohesion) also suggests that a nation’s spirit is likely to be smothered by a challenge that is too heavy.
Historical lessons do not apply to Kashmiri’s struggle. Neither Indians nor the Dogra could gag them. The struggle for freedom has continued unabated despite centuries of oppression.
The lesson from Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom is that repression or palliatives like elections in occupied Kashmir are no good. India will have to allow the Kashmiris to exercise their right to self-determination.
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing freelance for over fifty years. His articles are published in dailies at home (The News, Nation, etc) and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, et. al.). He is the author of eight books including Kashmir: The Myth of Accession. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.