Kashmir: The 1931 movement

Views from Srinagar


THE fight of the people of Jammu Kashmir against the Dogra rule is unparalleled. Massive sacrifices were offered by the defiant people but the cherished dream could not come true. The quest for freedom continues and so does the process of offering sacrifices. Historians and political experts have come out with a host of reasons for ‘failure’ of the struggle. Some accuse the leadership of betrayal while others put the blame on both India and Pakistan. Amid all this, the son of a political worker after carefully studying his father’s memoirs once remarked that Kashmir would have won freedom in 1947 but for the 1931 movement.
The person who made this statement has keenly watched his father’s political struggle spread over several decades says with authority that the 1931 movement was not for freedom. According to him, it was launched for seeking rights of the Muslims. “It became a movement for freedom in early 40s when the Muslim Conference passed the accession to Pakistan resolution and when National Conference launched the Quit Kashmir Movement,” he said. This statement merits an in-depth analysis. It is an established fact that the 1931 movement strived for responsible government. The leadership wanted representation in government services and some rights. The wording of the memorandum submitted by the chosen representatives of the people while included Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Chowdhury Abbas and Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah reflects their mindset. Adjectives like Sir, Bahadur, Rajeshwar, Raja Adheraj, His Highness, JCIE, KCV, OADC, Inder Mahinder have been used to convey that the movement was not a rebellion against the Dogra ruler. The opening words of the memorandum read (translation): “Your Highness we are highly thankful to you for being gracious enough to grant permission to submit this memorandum. We know your Highness is concerned about the plight of your Muslim subjects……. .”Apparently there was nothing wrong in such a movement. Some of the grievances were even addressed. But, this movement attracted the attention of the Congress and the Muslim League especially after the July 13, 1931 massacre outside the Central jail. The Punjab press highlighted the massacre and took the Maharaj to task for his record of human rights. The Ahrar also got involved. The Mirwaiz called for Jehad but the Maharaja managed to crush it on the very first day.
The results were disastrous. The Muslim Conference was the first casualty. It was rechristened as National Conference which created a wedge in the society. The political divide triggered violent clashes in the Srinagar city and people fought and even killed each other. The hatchet was buried by Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mirwaiz Moulana Farooq in early 80s but the bitterness, though mild, continues to this day. Had the movement not been launched, the Congress, the Muslim League would have stayed away from Kashmir politics and what happened in the coming years would not have happened.
The Quit Kashmir Movement of 1946 created a stir across Kashmir. Some staunch Muslim Conference workers like Qureshi Muhammad Yusuf were impressed and virtually joined the movement. The timing of this movement was very crucial. Advocate Late Ghulam Nabi Hagroo in an interview with the author a few days before his death in 2005 said the movement was ill timed. “The movement was launched when the sub-continent was going to be partitioned. Like other princely states Jammu Kashmir would also have exercised its option and acceded to Pakistan. Had it happened the way it was supposed to happen, there would be no dispute between India and Pakistan today,” he said.
Sher-e-Kashmir was arrested for launching the Quit Kashmir Movement. Nehru was getting impatient. He desperately wanted the Sheikh out to fulfil the Indian agenda. He wanted to visit Kashmir but Lord Mountbeton did not allow him. Instead, he offered to visit Kashmir.
The Maharaja, however, did not discuss the future of Jammu Kashmir with him. He sent him on fishing trips. Frustrated, the Lord one day took off all his clothes to sun bath in nude. Finally, Gandhi visited Kashmir on July 31, 1947 a few weeks ahead of the partition when he should have been in India. Gandhi managed to persuade Maharaja to release Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.
He was released on September 29 after he tendered a written apology. On October 2 the National Conference convened a special meeting of the executive council and decided to accede to India. The tribal invasion had not started yet. The decision was not made public. However, a Kashmir Pandit Mr Kachroo (Nehru’s man) informed a delighted Nehru of the important decision.
Some people say that Maharaja wanted to remain independent. But the post Gandhi visit developments narrate a different story. Josef Korbel in his Danger in Kashmir writes that the government of India constructed roads connecting Punjab to Jammu, telegraph lines were also laid, bridges were constructed and other measures taken. For what? And, who allowed government of India to do all this? The Maharaja had earlier arrested Nehru for violating the state’s borders. Now, the same Maharaja is allowing plunder of the same borders. Wasn’t he, therefore, involved in the process.
Further, Indian troops (Patalia forces) landed in Kashmir in on October 18, four days before the tribal invasion. Most of them were deputed around the airport. So, Maharaja knew on October 18 that the airport is going to play a vital role in the coming days! And as far as the Stand Still Agreement with Pakistan is concerned, it was to keep Pakistan in good humour for some time. But why did all this happen? Why was Jammu Kashmir denied the right to decide the way other states did? Did it happen because of 1931 movement?
—Courtesy: GK

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