The legacy of 13 July 1931 martyrs
Today marks the eighty-seventh anniversary of martyrs of 13 July 1931 whose heroic rebellion against the autocratic Dogra rule heralded a new revolutionary phase of Kashmir’s political awakening. It was on this day when thousands of Kashmiri Muslims took the state head-on that had pushed them into slavery, dispossession and expulsion in almost all domains of socio-political and economic life. This day indeed marks the birth of a new Kashmiri Muslim who had been enslaved and subjugated by various despotic regimes and had been ignominiously caricatured as a docile, meek, submissive and coward in the colonial narratives. This historical event was a reaction to the years of brutal suppression, injustice, alienation, and marginalisation policy; it was the blatant refusal to stay subdued and deprived of human dignity; it was a call for the public to welcome the dawn of a new beginning in Kashmir. It was the moment when the seeds of resistance against the oppressive state were sown and a pledge was made not to barter freedom at any cost. This very event imbibed among Kashmiris the sense of resistance which has strengthened to such an extent that it is impossible now for any occupational force to suppress it with whatever power and strategies they utilize.
The condition of Kashmiri Muslims throughout the Dogra regime was gravely pathetic. They faced oppression and were devoid of rights. The Dogra co-religionists (Kashmiri Pandits) were enjoying the government services and were exempted from payment of various taxes which Muslims were forced to pay. The Muslims reduced to land-tillers and labourers were forced to do menial jobs. Besides, the Dogra administration acted in such a way that Muslim population were impressed to believe that Kashmir- with its biotic and abiotic components- was the purchased property of Dogras. The interferences of the Dogras in the religious freedom of Muslims like ban on Eid sermon and desecration of Holy Quran actually became the immediate cause to give vent to the pent up anger against the oppressive regime that had been accumulating for years before it went off on July 13, 1931.
Abdul Qadeer Khan, believed to be from Peshawar, delivered a fiery speech against the Dogra high-handedness and reminded people not to bow down before the pressure of despotic regime. The speech at Khankah-i-Moula on Friday became the reason to ignite the political consciousness of Kashmiris for this historic uprising. Qadeer’s speech made the Dogra ruler completely restive and consequently he was arrested and tried in central jail Srinagar on the charges of sedition. Accordingly on the day of his trial thousands of Kashmiris were assembled at Central Jail and Jamia Masjid in a show of solidarity with their hero. The people demanded open and fair trial for Abdul Qadeer and shouted slogans in praise of him and against the Dogra regime. To silence the mass gathering, the Dogra army resorted to brute force which infuriated the peaceful protesters to the extent that they resorted to stone pelting. Dogra forces vengefully resorted to indiscriminate firing against the unarmed people in which more than twenty Kashmiris laid their lives and dozens and scores of others injured. This event sent shockwaves across the valley and Kashmir witnessed complete shutdown and traffic from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and to Jammu was halted from 13th to 26th July. Since then, this day is observed as “Kashmir Martyr’s Day”.
Bottom-line: The mission to liberate Kashmiris from the foreign occupation was started by these 13 July martyrs some 87 years ago. But the infamous bargain of Kashmir made by Sheikh Abdullah bartered the freedom for which sacrifices were made by those martyrs. The Dogras cease to control our destiny now but the dawn of freedom from Dogra occupation was eclipsed by the selfishness of Shiekh Abdullah, the ‘tallest’ leader. And height of irony is that Shiekh and his tribe never misses the opportunity to pay homage to the martyrs in full public view decades later. A chutzpah moment for the successors of the Dogra dynasty!