Abdul Qadeer Khan Ghazi, hero of 1931 uprising
Abdul Qadeer Khan, a follower of Islamic ideologue Maulana Jamaluddin Afghani, delivered a speech at Khankahi Moula Shrine, asking people to revolt against the cruel policies of Dogra Maharaja. On that day, the Youngmen Muslim Association had convened a public meeting at Khankah-i-Moula. In this meeting Khawaja Saad-ud-din Shawl, Mirwaiz Moulvi Yusuf Shah, Mirwaiz Mujahid Hamdani, Chaudary Ghulam Abbas, Agha Sayyid Hussian Shah Jalali, Khawaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai. Munshi Shahab-ud-din, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Sardar Gohar Rehman were elected as representatives of the Kashmiri Muslims.
In his speech, Sheikh Abdullah, asked all Muslims to join together and demand their rights. He also appealed to the Pandits to join hands with Muslims for redress of grievances as well as for independence. At the conclusion of the meeting, a well-built Pathan, about 36-40 years old, rose up and delivered an inspiring speech.
He said, “The honour, respect and reverence of the Holy Qur’an are dearer to the Muslims than earthly kingdoms. They can never tolerate any interference in their religion or defilement of their Holy Book. The government of the Maharaja does not care for his subjects. It has no touch with the people, or any sympathy for the downtrodden. Oh, Muslims arise! Time has come when you should retaliate bricks with stones. I warn you that your representatives and memorials won’t rescue you, nor will these papers remove injustice and misery. You must stand on your own legs and fight against the autocratic force. Even if, you have no arms, fight with sticks and stones.”
People and the leaders listened to his speech in complete silence and amazement. No one dared to stop him and there was much commotion in the gathering, who felt bewildered because till that moment they had not heard anyone uttering a single word against the Maharaja. Now they shouted slogans of Allaha-o-Akbar and encouraged the speaker.
At the end of speech, the fiery speaker pointed towards the Shergarhi Palace of the Maharaja and shouted: “Demolish this edifice of injustice, cruelty and subjugation.”
People started to inquire about Qadeer Khan. It came to light that this man of wheatish colour, sharp eyes, big face and curved moustaches had come to Kashmir with a European tourist.
Later, it was learnt that he was a disciple of Maulana Jamal-uddin Afghani, a foremost Muslim philosopher of the 20th century, who had also visited Kashmir before his departure to Russia via Pahalgam.
For his speech Abdul Qadeer Khan Ghazi was arrested on the 25 June 1931 under section 124-A and 153 of the Penal Code. His trial started on the July 4 in the Court of the Sessions Judge, Srinagar. Large number of people would be present to witness his trial. Four hearings on the July 4, 6, 7 and 9, were held. The public presence forced the Judge to shift his court to Jail premises on the July 11, 1931.
This trial was the first case of a political nature in the State and attracted much attention of the people. The Muslims of the State were sympathetic towards the Ghazi and thousand of the people would assemble in the Court to know the fate of the prisoner. As such, there was an imminent danger of turmoil. It needs to be recorded that no lawyer came forward to defend Qadeer except Maulvi Abdullah Vakil.
In his speech, in the Jamia Masjid, Srinagar on the 10th of July, 1931 Sheikh Abdullah had said that “Maulana Abdul Qadeer Khan Ghazi has been prosecuted for the cause of Islam and for the Kashmiri Muslims. He asked the people to pray for his acquittal and show complete solidarity with him.” In his another speech, he had asked the Kashmiri Muslim to prepare themselves for sacrifices for the sake of Islam.
On the 13th of July 1931, the trial of Abdul Qadeer Khan Ghazi was held in the Srinagar Jail premises. The Deputy Inspector of Police came to the site of the trial with one Inspector, two Sub Inspectors, five Head Constables, and 44 policemen. Out of this force 22 policemen were armed with riffles and the rest with clubs, while the Inspectors had revolvers. In addition to the above reinforcement, the Jail forces comprised 119 policemen armed with bamboo canes and 19 policemen with rifles.
Before the arrival of the Session Judge, a large gathering of the Muslim had gathered on the road leading to the Jail compound. When the Judge arrived in his car, escorted by the police they shouted these slogans: ‘Our brother from Raibareli! Release Abdul Qadeer!Our brother from Rawalpindi! We will go to the jail. Imprison us instead’
The Jailor told the Judge that the people wanted to have glimpse of the Ghazi but the Judge refused. The prisoner was brought out of the Jail to the court at 2 PM and people were highly excited, shouting Allaha-o-Akbar. The Sessions Judge ordered the people to disperse but they requested for permission to offer prayers. The police arrested five men and this incensed the people further. One of them, named Khawaja Abdul Khaliq Shora, stood up and recited the Azan loudly. A policeman promptly shot him dead. Now the people got much agitated and they started pelting stones on the police. Two rows comprising five policemen each fired on the people. The magistrate ordered policemen to fire three rounds in air but the people shouted Allaha-o-Akbar and Islam Zindabad. Many were injured in this firing and the police arrested many protesters. The first man to be arrested was Khawaja Muhammad Yahya Rafiqi. Some of the protestors entered the Jail Office and picked up charpoys to carry Martyrs and the wounded men. The police had used about 200 rounds of ammunition and arrested 32 persons in the initial stages. In the meanwhile, the military and the cavalry forces had arrived and they mercilessly beat up the people with spears and sticks. They wanted to snatch away the dead bodies from the people but they confronted them bravely and proceeded towards the Jamia Masjid. The wounded were carried towards the nearby Mission Hospital Rainawari and some towards the clinic of Dr. Abdul Wahid. In all 22 persons had died due to firing in the first instance while 6 more died of police firing later. In the meanwhile, the military took over the city and killed three men in Nawabazar who were shouting slogans against Dogra Maharaja. The troops looted houses of some Muslims.
The bodies of the Martyrs were laid in the compound of Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. Sheikh Abdullah, Mir Waiz Maulvi Muhammad Yusuf Shah and others leaders started delivering speeches against the Maharaja. At the suggestion of Khawaja Noor Shah, all the martyrs were buried in the compound of Ziarat Naquishband Sahib, Khanyar. The soldiers arrested about 700 Muslims in the city. The next day the leaders of the Muslims, namely Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Chaudary Ghulam Abbas, Moulvi Abdul Rahim, Sardar Gohar Rehman were arrested and Sheikh Sahib was locked in a solitary cell of the Hari Parbat Fort. As a protest against these atrocities the whole valley of Kashmir observed Hartal for 19 days. The people shouted slogans against the Maharaja from their rooftops. At many places, the police and the military resorted to firing and killed several Muslims in Maisuma, Habakadal, Nawakadal and Jamia Masjid area. For the first time the Kashmiri Muslims had risen from deep slumber and now, none could stop them from their onward march towards the freedom from the autocratic rule of the Maharaja. Women composed songs in Kashmiri in praise of Sheikh Abdullah who had emerged as their leader, conferring on him the title of Sher-e-Kashmir.
The Maharaja had failed to curb this upsurge and as such he decided to make changes in the administration. He appointed Pandit Hari Kishan Koul as the new Prime Minister of the State and issued orders for the release all political prisoners except Abdul Qadeer Khan Ghazi who was given five years rigorous imprisonment. A compromise was reached between the leaders of the Kashmiri Muslims and the Maharaja through the efforts of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. At a public meeting in Jamia Masjid, the Muslims cursed both Shiekh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Yusuf Shah, accusing them of compromising the sacrifices of 1931 Martyrs. But both of them explained in their speeches that they will not serve as traitors and will shed their blood, in case the Maharaja fails to redress their grievances within a month.
Kashmir in Crucible
By Prem Nath Bazaz.
“in July 1931, the Kashmiris rose in rebellion and turned the corner. It was an unprecedented elemental upheaval, almost a revolution which shook the state and brought the Dogra Raj to a realization of the stark reality,”
“1931 rebellion was a grand success as most of the demands had to be conceded by Dogra rulers. The proprietorship of the land, lost in Mughal days, was resolved; the confiscated mosques were handed back to Muslims; freedom of expression and association with certain limits was granted and legislated assembly established, though the majority of its members was nominated by the Maharaja; more opportunities were afforded to the Muslims to enter state services”
In the course of sporadic uprising throughout the later half of 1931, the Dogra army was busy employed in quelling the disturbances; the Kashmiris bared their breasts to the bayonets and guns of the army man. It was reported that not a single bullet had been found in the back of scores of dead bodies examined and postmortem”
Kashmiris Struggle for Independence
By Muhammad Yousuf Ganaie
“The Dogra demonstrated their bias when they promulgated a law, according to which if any Muslims would embrace Hinduism he was within his rights to inherit property and enjoy guardianship over his children where as in case the Hindu became a Muslim, he was deprived off all such rights. This discriminatory attitude of the state against the Muslim community of Kashmir considerably boiled the blood of Muslims which is amply clear by the fact that it was one of the main grievances of Muslim community which they submitted to Maharaja Hari Singh through a memorandum in 1931 and repeatedly asked for abrogation in annual sessions of Muslim conference.”
Culture and Political History of Kashmir, Vol 3.
By P N K Bamzai,
“It is from that date that the people took upon themselves the task of securing for themselves the right of democratic self-rule”
(This article was originally published by Greater Kashmir here.)