By S M Hali

Kashmir ‘Martyrs’ Day’ is observed every year on 13 July to commemorate this day in 1931, when 21 Kashmiris made the supreme sacrifice of their valuable lives for the supreme cause of freedom of Kashmir from the clutches of despotic Dogra rulers.

Dogra rule (1846-1947), which is considered the darkest period in the history of Kashmir, is replete with tyrannical and oppressive treatment of Kashmiris by Dogra forces. The subjugated and downtrodden Kashmiris, under the yoke of repressive Dogra rule, were leading a life worse than that of animals. Throughout Dogra regime, slave labour, capital punishment for cow slaughter and living under terror was order of the day. The Kashmiri Muslims had no self respect and even their religious freedom had been snatched away. 

It was on 19th April 1931 that the Dogra DIG Chowdry Ram Chand barred Imam Munshi Muhammad Ishaq from giving Eid sermon in the Municipal Park of Jammu. This incident sparked off widespread protest demonstrations for many days in Jammu city. Ban on Eid sermon in Jammu was followed by desecration of the Holy Qurán at the hands of Dogra troops, in Jammu. This outrageous act sparked extensive resentment throughout the state. In Srinagar, people gathered in Jamia Masjid Srinagar to denounce this ultimate sacrilege and demanded punishment for the culprits and realization of basic rights for Kashmiris. One such gathering was held in Khankah-e-Muella Srinagar, which was addressed by prominent Kashmiris. A youth, Abdul Qadeer was also listening to the speeches of the Kashmiri leaders. When the meeting was concluded, Abdul Qadeer, pointing his finger to the Maharaja's palace raised full-throated slogans "destroy its every brick". He was accused of sedition and arrested instantly. Abdul Qadir was to be tried in the court but due to large public resentment the court was shifted to Central Jail Srinagar. On 12th July, intense public demonstrations were held against the shifting of the court to the Central Jail, throughout the city.

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On July 13, 1931, thousands of people thronged the central jail Srinagar to witness the in-camera trial of Abdul Qadeer. At Zuhar time, people surrounding the Central Jail, demanded an open trial of Abdul Qadeer. To disperse them, the Dogra Governor, Rai Zada Tartilok Chand ordered his soldiers to open fire. As a result, an indiscriminate slaughter ensued in which 21 demonstrators embraced shahadat on the spot and scores of them were seriously wounded. Enraged Kashmiris formed a procession and paraded the highways and streets of Srinagar, carrying the Shaheeds on their shoulders, chanting slogans of protest 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 complete halt from 13th to 26th July. Since then, the day is observed as Kashmir Martyrs' Day.

Unfortunately, Kashmir's agony is far from over.  Dogra rule was replaced by a more repressive Indian rule. No less than 70,000 people have laid down their lives for the cause of freedom since 1989 when open rebellion broke out against Indian occupation. To suppress this struggle, New Delhi has deployed more than 700,000 troops in the limited space of Kashmir where, as noted by Amnesty International and other world organizations, wanton human rights violations and atrocities, including burning of villages, mass rape of women, summary executions and torture, are of routine occurrence. All this is a direct result of India's brazen refusal to give the people of Kashmir their right of self-determination. This is not only unjust and immoral, but is contrary to India's own pledges to the United Nations and to the world community to resolve the Kashmir issue with reference to the people's freely expressed wishes all these from the country which claims to be the world’s largest democratic secular state.

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India's first head of state, Lord Mountbatten, is on record having said on Oct 27, 1947, that since the "question of accession [of Kashmir] should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the state, it is my government’s wish that as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir… the question of the state’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.” Again, one of India’s founding fathers and first prime minister, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, whose government took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations, told the Indian Constituent Assembly on Nov 25, 1947, “In order to establish our bona fides, we have suggested that, when the people [of Kashmir] are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations.” On June 26, 1952, Mr. Nehru told Indian parliament, “If … the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means; we will not keep them against their will, however painful it may [be] for us."

Against these solemn words and relentless struggle of the people of Kashmir, New Delhi today has only two lame excuses: one, the pledges and the UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir have become outdated; two, what is going on in the Kashmir valley is not a people's revolt but the result of "cross-border terrorism." Both arguments are as self-serving as they are laughable. Time cannot abrogate moral values nor invalidate the international community's right to intervene in flash-points of conflict arising from denial of freedom and involving tyranny and persecution. We have the recent example of East Timor, where a dispute was settled through a reference to the wishes of the people under UN supervision. Indonesia upheld the people's verdict, however "painful" it might have been to it.

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Kashmir continues to be a flashpoint of conflict as both South Asian neighbours are armed with nuclear weapons; another conventional war on Kashmir has the potential to turn into a nuclear exchange that could be disastrous not only for South Asia but for the world at large.

India has scuttled the Composite Dialogue Process on the plea of Mumbai attacks and continues to grow more obdurate because of its rising stature in the eyes of the US and its allies as they are more interested in its large market and perceive it suitable to carry on their reprehensible agenda in Afghanistan. In light of these developments, the future of Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir remains bleak and devoid of hope. May Allah Help the Kashmiris (Ameen).