Kashmir: Martyrs’ Day Revisited
By Sajjad Shaukat
Every year, Kashmir Martyrs’ Day” is commemorated on July 13 in the memory of 21 Kashmiris who were martyred outside Srinagar Central Jail by the troops of Dogra Maharaja on July 13, 1931. This heinous incident took place on that day when people had gathered to witness the court proceedings against Abdul Qadeer who was charged for instigating Kashmiris to defy Dogra rule. The very day is observed on both sides of the Line of Control and all over the world by the Kashmiris to pay homage to these Kashmiris. The day is the milestone in the history, as it has given a new impetus to the Kashmir’s struggle for independence in wake of Indian state terrorism which has continued in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, and has converting every day into Martyrs’ day for the Kashmiris.
However, the history of Dogra rule (1846-1947) in Kashmir is replete with tyrannous treatment, meted out to the Kashmiri Muslims by Dogra forces. Under the Dogra rule, they were leading so miserable life that it was difficult to differentiate them from beasts. Slave labour, heavy taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, and living under constant terror was order of the day.
In this regard, Yousaf Saraf in his book, “Kashmiris Fight for Freedom” calls it “free forced labour” and “instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used for transportation of goods across the far-flung areas.” In this context, while describing the pathetic picture of the Kashmiris, in his book, “The India We Served”, Sir Walter Lawrence writes, “Army was employed in forcing the villagers to plough and sow, and worse still, the soldiers came at harvest time and when the share of the state had been seized” and “there was very little grain to tide the unfortunate peasants over the cruel winter.”
On April 19, 1931, the ban of Eid Khutba (Sermon) ignited widespread demonstrations in the Jummu city for a number of days. It was followed by desecration of the Holy Quran at the hands of Dogra forces, which resulted into outrage among the Muslims throughout the state. In Srinagar, people gathered in Jamia Masjid to denounce this blasphemy. One such get-together was held in Khankah-e-Muella Srinagar, which was addressed by prominent Kashmiris. When the meeting was concluded, a youth, Abdul Qadeer, pointing his finger to the Maharaja’s palace, raised slogans “destroy its every brick.” With the accusation of sedition, he was arrested forthwith. Abdul Qadir was to be tried in the court, but due to large public resentment, the court was shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.
On July 12, 1931, in response to the shifting of court, intense public protests were held throughout the city. The next day, on July 13, 1931, thousands of people thronged the Central Jail Srinagar to witness the in-camera trial of Abdul Qadeer. As the time for obligatory prayer approached, a young Kashmiri stood for Azan. The Dogra Governor, Ray Zada Tartilok Chand ordered soldiers to open fire at him. When he got martyred, another young man took his place and started Azan. He was also shot dead. In this way, 21 Kashmiris embraced martyrdom in their efforts to complete the Azan. The people carried the dead and paraded through the streets of Srinagar, chanting slogans against Dogra brutalities. Complete strike was observed in the city, which was followed by weeklong mourning. This incident shook the whole state and the traffic from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and Srinagar to Jammu came to halt from July 13 to 26, 1931. The 21 martyrs are buried in Martyrs’ Graveyard at Khawaja Bazar, Srinagar.
Consequently, upon these brutal killings, the Kashmiri leadership realized the need to form a political party, Muslim Conference (MC) with a view to waging struggle for their freedom. Later, in 1934, state’s first elections were held and MC won 10 out of 21 seats, and after two years in 1936, it succeeded in getting 19 out of 21 seats. Indian Congress was upset with this situation and tried to create division in the ranks of Kashmiri leadership. Afterwards, on July 19, 1947, MC passed a resolution to merge Kashmir with Pakistan, considering the geographical proximity—majority of Muslim population (77%), language and cultural relations of Jammu and Kashmir.
Ironically, despite a lapse of 66 years, Kashmiris are still struggling and sacrificing to achieve their alienable right under the UN resolutions for the plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir Valley is one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world with Indian 7 million armed security forces which are perpetrating various forms of state terrorism on the innocent Kashmiris. Since 1989, a deliberate campaign by the Indian army and paramilitary forces against the Kashmiris has been manifested in brutal tactics such as crackdowns, curfews, illegal detentions, massacre, targeted killings, sieges, burning the houses, torture, disappearances, rape, breaking the legs, molestation of Muslim women and killing of persons through fake encounter.
According to a report on human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, since 1989, there have been deaths of 1,00000 innocent Kashmiris, 7,023 custodial killings, 1,22,771 arrests, 1,05,996 destruction of houses or buildings, 22,776 women widowed, 1,07,466 children orphaned and 10,086 women gang-raped/molested. Indian brutal securities forces have continue these atrocities.
Besides Human Rights Watch, in its various reports, Amnesty International has also pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian controlled Kashmir, indicating, “The Muslim majority population in the Kashmir Valley suffers from the repressive tactics of the security forces. Under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, security forces personnel have extraordinary powers to shoot suspected persons.”
In its report on July 2, 2015, the Amnesty International has highlighted extrajudicial killings of the innocent persons at the hands of Indian security forces in the Indian Held Kashmir. The report points out, “Tens of thousands of security forces are deployed in Indian-administered Kashmir…the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) allows troops to shoot to kill suspected militants or arrest them without a warrant…not a single member of the armed forces has been tried in a civilian court for violating human rights in Kashmir…this lack of accountability has in turn facilitated other serious abuses…India has martyred one 100,000 people. More than 8,000 disappeared (while) in the custody of army and state police.”
In this respect, European Union passed a resolution on May 11, 2011 about human rights abuses committed by Indian forces in the Indian held Kashmir.
Particularly, in 2008, a rights group reported unnamed graves in various regions of the Indian occupied Kashmir. In this connection, in August, 2011, Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) officially acknowledged in its report that innocent civilians killed in the two-decade conflict have been buried in unmarked graves. Notably, foreign sources and human rights organizations including Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) have disclosed that unnamed graves include thousands of persons, killed by the Indian forces in the fake encounters including those who were tortured to death by Indian secret agency RAW.
In its report China’s leading News Agency Xinhua has unearthed more gruesome details on world-stunning unmarked graves in Poonch of the Indian occupied Kashmir. The report revealed the statement of Sofi Aziz Joo, caretaker of a graveyard as saying, “Police and Army used to bring those bodies and direct me to bury them. The bodies were usually bullet-ridden, mutilated, faces disfigured and sometimes without limbs and heads.”
It seems that non-condemnation of these Indian massive human rights violations and non-interference for the settlement of this issue by the so-called civilized international community, especially the US have further encouraged New Delhi to keep on going with its state terrorism on the armless Kashmiri masses. Ignorance of the issue by them involves the risk of nuclear war between Pakistan and India.
Indian authorities are not willing to talk with Kashmiri people on political grounds. New Delhi reached to a conclusion that only bullet is the right way of dealing with Kashmiris, demanding their right of self-determination. Surprisingly, Indian successive governments are trying to ignore the dynamics of the freedom movement of Kashmiris for the sake of their alien rule.
It is notable that dialogue between India and Pakistan took place on a number of occasions, but produced no outcome, prolonging the agony of the subjugated people of the occupied Kashmir due to Indian intransigence.
Nevertheless, observance of Kashmiris’ freedom struggle during the Martyrs’ Day, every year is reaffirmation of the fact that Kashmiris will continue to fight against Indian illicit occupation. In this context, Youme Shuhada-e-Kashmir is an ideal day for Kashmiris to seek inspiration to take their war of liberation to its logical end. At this time of distress, the people of Pakistan’s side are sharing the grief of Kashmiri freedom lovers. Pakistan also observes Youme Shudaha-e-Kashmir on July 13, launching a protest against the oppressive polices of Indian occupation, which have continued against the hapless Kashmiris.
Nonetheless, on July 13, all over the world, Kashmiris renew their pledge to continue the ongoing war of liberation for the accomplishment of their right of self-determination and for the independence of Kashmir from the despotic Indian rulers who continue state terrorism in the Indian-controlled Kashmir like the Dogra rulers. In these terms, every Day is Martyrs’ Day in Kashmir.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations