A black day in J&K

D R Bhagat
The Martyr’s Day is celebrated in the memory of those people who were killed in the police firing while protesting against the arrest and criminal proceedings against a Muslim youth who was charged with sedition. The unfortunate disturbances of 1931 were not as a reaction of a particular incident but were as a result of British conspiracy to create the problems for Maharaja of the State. Some economic and social reasons also contributed. Maharaja Hari Singh who took the reins of the State in 1925 was a liberal and progressive ruler. He made many social, political and economic reforms. His land reforms saved many hapless farmers from starvation. Due to his pro people reforms he remained popular among his subjects during early days of his rule but after some time his popularity began to decrease. This was due to heavy taxes levied on the people and growing unemployment. The attitude of the bureaucrats was also hostile towards the common people. The severe economic depression added to the miseries of the people. Many handloom weavers lost their livelihood. Some educated Muslim youth also started propagating that they were being discriminated under the rule of Maharaja. In Round Table Conference of 1930 held in London, the Maharaja forcefully advocated in favor of the independence of India and also boasted of communal harmony in his State where Hindus and Muslims were living like brothers. These two statements of the Maharaja could not be tolerated by the Britishers who immediately planned to create communal disturbances in the State to create trouble for the Maharaja. They started to give the active support to the organizations which were already busy in vitiating the communal atmosphere of the State in the name of discrimination with the people of the majority population. There were incidents of communal violence in both cities of Jammu and Srinagar. The annual session of the All Kashmiri Muslim Conference was held in Lahore where some Muslim youth from Jammu also participated. On their return they incited the Muslims of Jammu and nearby areas against the autocratic rule of the Maharaja and also against the Hindu population. Two unfortunate incidents took place in Jammu which gave an opportunity to the communal elements to spread communal violence in the area. In one incident a police officer stopped a moulvi to recite Khutba in a Jammu park on the occasion of Eid and the other pertaining to a police man allegedly showing disrespect to Holy Quran in central jail Jammu. These incidents were widely condemned in Jammu and Srinagar and also became the reason for some fanatics to vitiate the communal atmosphere.
In June 1931, a religious fanatic Abdul Qadir came to Srinagar in the company of a European military officer as his cook. The protest meetings were being held in mosques and other localities dominated by the majority community. The meetings were mainly being organized by the Reading Room Party whose members were some educated persons of the majority community including Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. One of these meetings was held on 21 June 1931 at Kanqahe-Moula in Srinagar. After some speakers, Abdul Qadir suddenly appeared on the scene and started delivering a fiery speech which was highly communal and seditious in nature. During his speech he even pointed his finger towards the palace of Maharaja and asked the audience to raze it to the ground. He was arrested under the charges of sedition and spreading communal violence. His arrest was strongly protested by the majority community. A trial began in the Court of session Judge. The first hearing was held in the premises of session court on 5 July and there was a mob of supporters of Abdul Qadir who created hindrance in the smooth functioning of the court. They were demanding the withdrawal of cases against Abdul Qadir. It was therefore decided to hold the next hearing in the high security central jail itself.
The next hearing was held in the central jail on 13 July 1931. But on this day also a big crowd flocked in front of the central jail. The crowd started sloganeering against the Maharaja and in favour of Abdul Qadir.They were also chanting the religious slogans to make the atmosphere purely communal. The people tried to break open the main gate of the jail and tried to enter the premises. Some people managed to enter the jail premises and also got some prisoners released from the jail.The security forces were trying hard to control the mob but the situation was becoming out of control.When all other measures failed, the magistrate ordered the firing to control the mob. As a result 21 persons were killed and about 60 of them were injured. The mob became infuriated on the death of their people. They kept their bodies on their shoulders and marched in the shape of a procession in main streets and bazars of the city. The angry mob started plundering, killing and destroying the properties of the minority community. Three persons of the minority community were killed and hundreds injured. Hundreds of their shops and houses were burnt. The reaction was also seen at Vicharnag which was about 10 Km from Srinagar where also the Hindu community was targeted.The dead bodies were taken to the Jama Masjid where they were cremated next day.
Those who support the day as ‘Martyr’s Day’ argue that it was a democratic uprising to uproot the autocratic rule of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. But the events of the day and also before and after the day point towards the Islamic rebellion against the Hindu Maharaja and were purely communal. The persons killed might be the innocent persons who were communalized by the religious fanatics. They lost their lives in the process of restoration of law and order by the authorities. Every human being must condole the deaths of innocent persons but how can they be regarded as martyrs when they were supporting a person who was charged with sedition and spreading communal violence. Also after the firing incident, the majority community targeted only the minority community and not a single Muslim was harmed by the mob. Moreover Abdul Qadir who was an outsider and totally unknown to the Kashmiris, how could he was concerned with the liberation of Kashmiris from autocratic rule of the Maharaja ?.  The day is observed as a Martyr’s Day only by a section of the Kashmir based majority community while in the eyes of a majority of people of Jammu and Ladakh provinces including the people of the majority community of the State, it is a black day in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Declaring it a public holiday and celebrating it officially is also questionable as it hurts the sentiments of a large population of the State.


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