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 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. 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. Consequent 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. 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 plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of accepting the existing reality, New Delhi resorts to implicating Pakistan for Kashmiri uprising. Indian allegations against Pakistan are ploy to hoodwink the international community on Kashmir issue and a blanket to hide state sponsored atrocities on innocent people of Kashmir. International community must realize that Kashmir has been under unlawful Indian occupation since October 1947.
Nevertheless, various forms of state terrorism have been part of a deliberate campaign by the Indian army and paramilitary forces against Muslim Kashmiris, especially since 1989. It has been manifested in brutal tactics like 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. In fact, Indian forces have employed various draconian and controversial laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act etc. in killing the Kashmiri people, and arbitrarily arrest of any individual for an indefinite period. 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 Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act, security forces personnel have extraordinary powers to shoot suspected persons.” 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. 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.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.