Y. R Gupta
Today, in Jammu and Kashmir, just as every year, the Black Day of 13th July is being observed as Martyrs’ Day knowingly or unknowingly pouring salt on the wounds of the biggest minority community in J&K which suffered untold atrocities at the hands of the majority during a completely communal movement which later spread to the farthest corner of the State that is Kotli and Mirpur and thus keeping this communal tension alive.
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The happening of that day is not likely to be taken as free from prejudice unless supported by authentic and impartial version available. An unavailable version that could leave the readers to form their own opinion, as to whether the persons who were killed as a result of the police/military firing during these communal disturbances, should have been merited by being officially declared as National Martyrs.
A British military officer helped one Abdul Qadir, a religious fanatic from Peshawar, to enter Kashmir in the guise of his cook. He was an excellent speaker and at a meeting at Khanqa-i-Mualla, he was invited to speak and he made a speech there of highly seditious and communal nature, quoting frequently from the Holy Quran in support of his inflammatory statements. He was naturally arrested and charged before the Court. The crowds not only resisted the arrest and shouted objectionable slogans, but also threatened to obstruct the work of the Court, which was then held within the premises of the Central Jail.
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On the 13th of July 1931, the day fixed by the Court for hearing of the case, communal disturbances of the worst type took place in Srinagar city and its suburbs resulting in the looting and burning of Hindu shops and houses on a large scale. At the Central Jail premises, an angry mob demanded entry, which, even the two lawyers fighting Abdul Qadir’s case requested against. When the mob did not pay attention, the authorities opened fire to disperse them causing the death of 21 persons on account of police and military firing.
In their memory, the governments that succeeded the Maharaja after Independence, and which claimed to be secular and nationalist, observe the black day of 13th of July as a National ‘Martyrs Day’ every year thus perpetuating pin-pricking to the other community which suffered untold atrocities at the hands of the Muslims during this completely communal movement, and keeping the communal tension alive.
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Here is how G. S Raghavan formerly Editor of the Hindustan Times, the Nation, the Sunday Times, and other papers, described these happenings in Srinagar in his book THE WARNING OF KASHMIR published in 1931.
He says: “The hearing in Jail fell on 13th July. On that day, a mob stormed the Jail and demanded admittance along with the Sessions Judge. When the Judge had passed the gates, the crowd also attempted to get in. The other gates had been forced and the inner gates were attacked, at the suggestion of the Judge, two muslim lawyers representing the accused, harangued the visitors to go out of the Jail precincts. Finding that there was no possibility of ingress, the crowd went out and started stoning officials and set fire to the police lines. The police force was then called in. All efforts to pacify the unruly mob proved futile. While there was commotion outside the Jail there was also disturbance inside, prisoners tried to force the iron gates. About this time, certain prisoners were being taken from the Court to the Jail. The crowd stoned the policemen and the prisoners were liberated. The prospect was by no means satisfactory. The District Magistrate’s order was defied, who had been summoned to the spot by the time, declared the crowd to be an “unlawful assembly” and ordered its dispersal. The order was defied and finding that the mob could neither be pacified nor dispersed, the District Magistrate directed fire to be opened. The crowd fell off but later it re-assembled and resumed stoning. It had to be dispersed with a Lathi charge. Part of the crowd, however moved towards the Hari Parbat Fort: the cavalry had to pursue it and disperse it again. A section of the recalcitrant proceeded towards a place called Maharaj Ganj which is a business locality and loot over an extensive area followed. From Bhori Kadal to Alikahl a long stretch, the Hindu shops were raided. Other localities such as Satakadal, Ganji, Khud and Nawakadal too formed the centers of loot. Bazaar streets were littered with property, books of accounts were burnt: the Hindu shopkeepers were molested, in short, pandemonium prevailed.”
“The Hindu merchants lost lakhs worth of goods. Mr. Wakefield has affirmed that the articles were so strewn about the roads that his car would not pass, it is also his testimony that not a single Mohammedan complained to him about his premises having been invaded by the looters”.
“The most extraordinary portion of the story was that almost simultaneously with the happenings at Srinagar, there was an uprising at a place named Vicharnag, some 5 or 6 miles away. It has been stated that untold atrocities were committed there; men owning lakhs were reduced to indigence and women were subjected to the worst possible and the most indecent assaults. A military force was despatched to the place, but by that time the havoc had been completed. Elsewhere, the Hindus were the victims of ambuscade. Some lost their lives and many suffered physical injuries. Stray assaults continued till long after”.
Such is the origin of the Martyr’s Day in Kashmir which is now being officially observed as a Martyrs’ Day by the ‘Secular’ government of the State.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was among the guilty persons. He was arrested, convicted and sentenced, but was released before completing his sentence as a result of amnesty granted by the Maharaja in 1932. He then established the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference and became its first President.
The story of this Black Day will be incomplete without narrating the happenings in the Jammu province. This communal frenzy then spread to the far flung areas of Mirpur, Kotli, Rajouri and other parts of this area giving it a new name and created havoc. Hindu/Sikhs properties, homes were looted and burnt. Innocent people were mercilessly killed and many were converted to Islam forcibly. Religious places of worship of Hindus and Sikhs i.e. temples, Gurudwaras all met with same fate. Many were completely damaged and desecrated, in other few cases, though buildings were not damaged yet sacred God idols, religious books including Guru Granth Sahib badly damaged burnt and desecrated.
These happenings known as ’88 NA SHAURASH’ (Riots of 1988 Bikram or 1931 Christian Era) are still in the memory of not only survivors of that time but also of their subsequent generations, now refugees of 1947 scattered throughout India and awaiting rehabilitation.
Correspondence exchanged between different official agencies/officers of the State Government and Indian (British) Government is preserved in the British Library in London. Only a few relevant reports out of the voluminous papers are being quoted here which are a proof in itself about the sufferings and atrocities suffered by the Hindu/Sikh community at the hands of Muslims.
This article has been published in Daily Excelsior, The State Times and various other platforms
The Views are of the author and do not reflect on the official policy of this publisher