Whither Kashmir Martyrs’ Day? 

Indian BrutalityBy S. M. Hali

“Kashmir Martyrs’ Day” is observed on July 13, every year to commemorate the sacrifice of the twenty one Kashmiris, who were killed outside Srinagar Central Jail by the troops of Dogra Maharaja in 1931. Kashmiris have been oppressed since 1846, when the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was created and despite having an over 95% Muslim population, the state was sold by the British East India Company to Hindu Maharaja Gulab Singh for Rs. 75,000,000. The Hindu monarch treated the Kashmiri Muslims as serfs and unleashed a reign of terror to tyrannize them. On April 19, 1931, the Dogras banned the Eid sermon, causing widespread outrage of protests. The Dogras tried to suppress the protest with brute force and even desecrated copies of the Holy Quràn, further infuriating the Muslims. In retaliation, a meeting was held in Khanqah-e-Muella, Srinagar which was attended by prominent Kashmiris. During the meeting, a young man Abdul Qadir, pointing to the palace of the Maharaja, shouted: “Destroy its every brick.” He was arrested under the charge of sedition and instigating the Kashmiris to defy Dogra rule.

Fearing disturbances and disruption, Abdul Qadir’s trial was held in the courtyard of Srinagar Central Jail where thousands of Muslims gathered awaiting the result of the trial. On July 13, 1931, while the trial was in progress, the time of Zuhar (afternoon) Prayers approached. A young man arose for “Azan” (call for prayers) but he was shot dead by Dogra policemen. Another young man tried to continue the “Azan”, but he too was shot dead. Till the completion of the “Azan” twenty one Kashmiris embraced shahadat in the process. The incensed crowd paraded their mortal remains on their shoulders, demanding justice but to no avail. The day is solemnly observed every year but justice to the Kashmiris continues to be denied.

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When India was partitioned in 1947, Kashmir was to be given the option to join either Pakistan or India. The majority population being Muslim, the option was a foregone conclusion thus Indian forces invaded Kashmir and forcibly occupied it. Pakistani mujahedeen and the Army tried to liberate Kashmir from the clutches of India, resulting in the First Kashmir War of 1947-48. When Indians sensed defeat, they approached the United Nations, seeking a cessation of hostilities. UN enforced ceasefire prevailed while the matter was deliberated by the UN Security Council, which ruled in favour of a UN sponsored plebiscite for the Kashmiris to opt for joining either India or Pakistan. Being cognizant of the sentiments of the Kashmiri Muslims, India has defied the UN Resolutions on Kashmir, reneging on its promise of plebiscite. Muslims continued to be oppressed in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

The 1965 and 1971 Pak-India wars failed to change the plight of the Muslims. In 1989, Kashmiri Muslims, took up arms demanded their freedom but Indian forces cracked down unleashing 700,000 Indian Army soldiers upon the poorly armed Kashmiris. The armed rebellion was crushed but the reign of terror continues.  According to various confirmed sources, in the last twenty five years, 93, 984 Muslims have been massacred. There have been 7,014 custodial killings while 10,086 women have been raped and 1, 07, 466 children orphaned. Thousands continue to languish in Indian prisons, without being charged, even more are missing, some of whose bodies are discovered in unmarked mass graves.

While another Kashmir Martyrs Day passed this July 13, observers should realize that for the Kashmiris trapped under the yoke of Indian tyranny, every day is a Martyrs Day since nary a day goes by that innocent Kashmiris are not targeted with impunity.  Draconian laws like Terrorist Activities and Disruptive Act (TADA), Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA), have been used to suppress the Kashmiris without fear of reprisal from the judiciary.

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Recently, Indian ruling party BJP and its mother organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have called for revoking Article 370 in Kashmir and rename AJ&K as “Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir”. Indian machinations are aimed at changing the demographic composition of Kashmir and to affect communal harmony of Jammu and Kashmir. The aim is to absorb IOK as another Indian state like Bihar and Punjab by revoking its special status granted under article 370 and govern IOK directly.

A Srinagar-based human rights defender group, Voice of Victims (VOV), recently revealed that a total of 471 torture centers are still operative in IOK which are established every 5 KMs in Jammu and Kashmir. The VOV official has also revealed that about 4,00,000 people have been subjected to inhuman torture. Like the incessant suppression of Palestinians in Gaza by Israel, India continues to repress Kashmir and world conscience must awaken to get Kashmiris their right or Kashmir Martyrs Day will continue to be observed in vain.