By S. M. Hali
Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control and across the world observe “Kashmir Martyrs’ Day” on July 13, every year. The day is commemorated in memory of the 21 Kashmiris who were shot dead, one after the other, outside the
Srinagar Central Jail by the troops of Dogra Maharaja, where they had gathered to witness the court proceedings against one, Abdul Qadeer, who was being tried for his alleged “crime” of instigating Kashmiri people to defy Dogra rule.
The genesis of the uprising lies in the incident on 19th April 1931, when the Dogra DIG Police, Chowdhry Ram Chand stopped Imam Munshi Muhammad Ishaq from rendering the Eid Khutba (Sermon) in the Municipal Park of Jammu. The incident sparked off widespread protest demonstrations in Jammu city. Ban onEid Sermon in Jammu was followed by desecration of the Holy Quran at the hands of Dogra troops, which further aggravated the situation throughout the State. In Srinagar, people gathered in Jamia Masjid Srinagar to denounce the act of desecration and demand severe punishment to the culprits. Inspired by the fiery speeches of Kashmiri leaders, a young Kashmiri Abdul Qadeer rose up and pointing his finger towards the Maharaja’s palace, he raised full-throated slogans “destroy its every brick”. He was immediately arrested on the charges of sedition. Later, he was to be tried in the court but due to possible public reaction, the venue of the trial was shifted to Srinagar Central Jail.
On 12th July, violent public demonstrations were held throughout the city against the shifting of the court to the Central Jail, Srinagar. On 13th July 1931, thousands of people thronged the central jail Srinagar to witness the trial of Abdul Qadeer. In the afternoon, one of the youth stood up and started reciting “Azan’ for Zuhar prayer. He was martyred by Dogra soldiers. Another youth stood up to continue the “Azan” but he too was shot dead. The process continued and one after the other, young men stood up to carry on the recitation of “Azan” and kept being martyred. In the process of completing the ‘Azan’, 21 youth embraced shahadat in quick succession.
This incident of brutal slaughter of the Kashmiri youth is a black chapter in the history of Dogra regime. The infuriated and shocked Kashmiris carried the dead and the injured with them, forming a procession and paraded the highways and 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 a halt from 13th to 26lh July. Since then, the day is observed as Kashmir Martyr’s Day.
It was the result of the above gory episode that Kashmiri leadership realized the need to form a political party i.e. Muslim Conference (MC) with a view to wage struggle for their freedom. Later in 1934, State’s first elections were held and MC won 16 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 result and tried to create division in the ranks of Kashmiri leadership. On 19 July 1947, MC after considering geographical proximity, majority of Muslim population (80%), religion, language and cultural relations, adopted a resolution to merge Kashmir with Pakistan.
It is heart-rending to observe that despite a period of 82 years, the Kashmiris are still struggling and sacrificing to achieve their alienable right under UN resolutions for the plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir Valley is one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world with 7 Lakh armed security forces, who indulge in indiscriminate killings, forced disappearances, rapes and maiming innocent youth and women.
In 1989, disappointed by successive Indian governments reneging on the promise to abide by the UN Resolutions, Kashmiris raised the flag of independence and engaged in an armed struggle. To crush the just movement, Indian forces cracked down with brute force and to-date, have martyred 93, 831 innocent Kashmiris. Custodial killings have amounted to 6,996, 1,20,506 suffer incarceration while thousands remain missing, whose bodies keep turning up in unmarked mass graves. 22,764 women have been widowed while 1,07,441 children have been orphaned and 10,044 women have been gang-raped.
Today Kashmiris are no closer to the fruition of their aspirations of a plebiscite to determine their fate as assured by the UN Resolutions. Let us hope and pray for their early redemption.