July 13 in historical perspective

Shiban Khaibri
Reminded of a proverb in respect of recording distortions and misinterpreting history , goes as “Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.” Recording historical events, therefore, should never look to be a Theatre of the Absurd. Unfortunately, much needs to be rewritten in respect of the correct history about Kashmir and taught to the younger and the coming generations to ‘set the records right’. July 13 , for instance , for many , is carrying a misnomer with it as the “Yaum-e- shouda” or the Martyrs’ Day, besides it is heaped with gratuitousness, for all intents and purposes, for Jammu as well as for Ladakh regions of Jammu and Kashmir State, being increasingly irrelevant for the people there, the way it has been projected . Let this day be critiqued in perspective for various reasons but importantly, to know what it is all about.
To start with, one does not get a hang of why should there be a public holiday in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir even under Negotiable Instruments Act on July 13. If it has certain political connotations for Kashmir valley and as a measure of appeasement or a policy to ‘respect local sentiments’ ,its official commemoration going on very regularly in contrast to naught in respect of Oct26 – the accession day, it is conspicuous of its relevance, if any. Congress Party owes an explanation about its efficacy for Jammu and Ladakh regions right from 1947 to decades down till it became an irrevocable part and parcel of Kashmir centric politics like Articles 370 and 35A. It is both amusing and quite surprising to watch Congress leaders mocking the present dispensation on their “failure” to have both these articles scrapped rather than expressing regrets for its very introduction.
This writer, all along, has been arguing for rescinding and revoking the public holiday in the state, at least in Jammu and Ladakh on July 13 and instead, declare Oct 26 as a public holiday to celebrate and glorify the historic accession which took place after lot of initial hiccups and later only after giving lot of sacrifices in the wake of the Kabayali raid (read Pakistani attack in disguise) in 1947. To call a spade a spade , the political leadership of both these regions right from 1947 did not ,even in soliloquies and in hush- hush manner, appear to oppose this “thrust ” holiday till early 1990s following hounding out of the ethnic minority community of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir. Most of those to whom July 13 is just a holiday to enjoy, must know what this day is all about especially in the context of the situation in the state , particularly in Kashmir valley on account of proxy war unleashed by Pakistani establishment since 1989-90.
Going back to 1930, things started changing in the valley for gathering public opinion and support to overthrow the rule of the Maharaja and replace it with local rule, purely on religious grounds. Since political parties were not allowed in the state , the aspiring ones started a Reading Room which later was known as Reading Room Party. All India Kashmir Muslim Conference had been formed in Lahore. Leaders with Communalist ideologies in Punjab had worked for many years to replace the Dogra rule in the state. The leaders of Reading Room “Party” wrote articles for two Dailies known as “Siyyasat” and “Muslim Outlook” published from Lahore. These papers were imported into the state and circulated widely, the impact of which was phenomenal. Another Urdu Daily “Inqalab” appeared with similar articles. It was followed by printing of fiery pamphlets printed in Lahore and then stealthily imported into Kashmir for distribution.
Reading Room Party went ahead with its “agenda” and enlisted the active support of two Mirwaizes or head priests of Kashmir, the Mirwaiz of Jama Masjid and the Mirwaiz of Khanqah-i- Mualla who, otherwise, were rivals with different approaches to achieve the same goal. Reading Room Party (RRP) continued its activities from Jama Masjid. They wanted to give a new shape to their activities and arrange a mammoth gathering which fructified soon when nearly 30000 or more people assembled ostensibly to celebrate a religious festival where young leaders of RRP appeared as heroes, and a political meeting ensued. On June 21, 1931 the RRP formally elected their representatives and this meeting proved to be a turning event in anti Maharaja Movement. Formally, leaders were elected namely Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, Mirwaiz Hamdani, Khwaja Said-ud-Din Shawl, Aga Syed Hussain Shah, Khwaja Gulam Ahmed Ashai, and others. The meeting, however, was peaceful and orderly. When people started dispersing and leaving peacefully, an unknown person named Abdul Kadeer (not Qadir)emerged from nowhere on the scene and took over the stage to deliver a venomous lecture. Kadeer had come to Srinagar all the way from North West Frontier Province with a European cook but with an obnoxious mission.
Abdul Kadeer delivered a highly frenzied, hateful and inflammatory speech targeting the Maharaja and the minority Hindu community. So much was it objectionable that the state government arrested and prosecuted him in the court from July 6 to 9 in the year 1931. His trial attracted huge crowds outside the court complex which disrupted traffic and resulted in frequent clashes with the Police. To ensure peace, law and order in the city, the state government ordered the trial of Kadeer to be continued in the Central Jail , Srinagar. Crowds, in large number, reached there on July 13, 1931, the first day of the trial in Jail premises. The crowd had ballooned into a huge mob which forced its entry into the jail and when Police resisted, stones were rained on them. Telephone wires were cut, police barricades were ransacked and set on fire. Warnings and warning shots did not deter the mob from trying to ransack the jail to set free other hard core criminals and the accused Kadeer, the new “hero”. Compelled under the circumstances, the Police used force by firing on the unruly crowd which resulted in the death of some people and injuries to many others.
The mob, infuriated with the Police action, carried the dead bodies on cots and marched through the city raising provocative slogans, more so, against the Dogra rulers. When the mob reached Maharaj Ganj, a busy trading centre, they targeted Kashmiri Hindu shops and houses and looted them to their full contents despite the fact that the innocent victims had got nothing to do with anything in the entire matter. At several places in the city, mobs looted hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit houses and killed five, besides wounding nearly 200. Since those days insuring the merchandise or the household properties was not in vogue, not even in the least, this loot broke the financial backbone of the targeted Hindus, several of whom were rendered penuries. Those days ex- gratia or compensation from the government were unheard of. Vichar Nag in down town Srinagar was predominantly a Kashmiri Pandit locality which was completely looted and vandalized forcing migration of the sufferers to “safer” places. Community centers were run in temples and other Hindu shrines mopping resources from within the community to provide relief and succour to the sufferers of frenzied mob violence.
July 13, in short, was a revolt against the then Dogra Ruler and fear waves were sent across the already frightened and suffering ethnic minority members of Kashmiri Pandits because of the synonymy of the religious factor .Shops were closed as a protest, Hindu shops closed too for fear of further reprisals. Sangam Bridge over River Veth (Jehlum) was burned. All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference was founded by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the first session of which was held from Oct15 to 17, 1932. However, Sheikh Abdullah had subsequently to choose between communalist and secular outlooks; he had to choose ‘secular’ ideology and rechristened the Muslim Conference as National Conference in 1939. In May 1946, National Conference led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah launched a “Quit Kashmir” agitation along the lines of “Quit India” movement across the country.
With this background of July 13, Kashmiri Pandits have been pooh- poohing it as Yaum-e- Shouda and instead are observing the day as the ‘Black Day’ remembering with gloom and indignation, the loot, plunder and physical attacks on them for no fault of theirs. Again, with this background, it looks farcical and inane to commemorate the day in Jammu as this day heralded the sounding of decisive bugle against the Dogra rule and dethroning of the Maharaja.