Obscurity of July 13

Shiban Khaibri
Attempting to put in perspective, the crux of all that  for which July 13 is “remembered” in Kashmir valley and Jammu and Ladakh  are  “enjoined” to follow suit, albeit  a public holiday, where  not only the younger generation but even the elders in most of the cases, do not know what for a state holiday is observed on July 13 all these 67 years, an apt piece on History is worth quoting:-  “History fades into fable; fact becomes clouded with doubt and controversy; the inscription molders from the tablet; the statue falls from the pedestal; columns, arches, pyramids, what are they but heaps of sand; and their epitaphs, but characters written in the dust…………”  Why events and incidents should not be recorded in truer form instead of projected in a manner that amounts to doing injustice with the very purpose of writing history? If things are judged and written subsequently, applying the yard sticks of what suits the prospective broader political manipulations and evaluating incidents under a particular political climate prevailing then, not only across the country but in most of the other countries as well, by employing political phraseology of democracy, liberty, freedom of expression and the like which then were concepts considered taboos, it is tantamount to deception. In other words, all the states of India during the period under reference were either under the British rule direct or under the rule of Rajes and Maharajes and other similar authorities. When in other states of the country, the concepts of independence and democratic rule were merely theories, to be precise, how come can the incident of July 13, 1931 be termed as a struggle for independence? That is a non reality and craftily tried to put forth or rather thrust on the people especially those who were either the sufferers or the victims of the incident.
To put records of events in proper limelight, around 1930, due to the innovative policies of the Maharaja especially on spreading education, people of all communities benefitted which included many young Muslims from the valley who had opportunities to pursue education in places outside the state as well like  other fellow citizens  and when some of them returned to Kashmir, political activities started getting  inspired mainly at the hands of  some activists from the two sectarian Parties known as Majlis-i-Ahrar and the Ahmadia Party operating from and confined  to Punjab and some parts of the United Provinces. It was a group of nationalist Islamists, who prima facie wanted to push the local majority community against the Maharaja. While political activities with intent to advocate dissatisfaction and dissent were generally not allowed, protests and agitations likewise, a novel idea of starting such activities were undertaken, in apparent limits, under the aegis of “Reading Room Party” where political points were discussed . Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah emerged as a leading protagonist of the Reading Room and  one who emerged to determine the direction and the planning of politics in Kashmir for the next more than 50 years.
Sheikh Sahib had studied at the Islamia College in Lahore as well as Aligarh Muslim University where he came in contact with “progressive political ideas” and thus the setting up of the Reading Room Party. Write ups were published in two periodicals known as “Siyassat” and “Muslim Outlook” which were published in Lahore. One more paper known as “Inqalab” also found articles written by many educated Kashmiris. These were smuggled into the valley and widely distributed to prepare a base to start a movement and also enlisted the support of the two Mirwaizes as well. The Reading Room Party on two occasions deliberately violated the law of converging of a huge gathering of nearly 30000 and then on another occasion to hold meeting to elect office bearers on June 21, 1931 amidst a huge gathering in downtown which turned out to be the most decisive in anti -Maharaja agitation. In this meeting, seven leaders were elected namely – Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah, Mirwaiz Hamadani, Khawaja Said-ud-Din Shawal, Agha Syaeed Hussain Jalali, Gulam Ahmed Ashai, and Munshi Shahab-ud-Din.  When this meeting concluded and  people started leaving, an unknown Pashtun cook employed with a European, emerged and took over the stage to deliver an inflammatory speech denouncing the minority community and Maharaja Hari Singh. His name was Abdul Qadeer  and had come all the way from the North West Frontier Province which later merged in the new theocratic state of Pakistan.
The speech of Qadeer was so much inflammatory and rabidly sectarian that it is said that all the newly elected leaders found their position dwarfed looking to how Qadeer  in lightening speed mobilized and infused rebellion in the psyche of the largest ever gathering there. The law took its own course and Qadeer was arrested and tried in the Sessions Court in Srinagar from July 6 to July 9, 1931. The effect of his inflammatory speech was such that large crowds started gathering outside the court disrupting the normal life, traffic movement and the like. Many clashes with the police also took place outside the court premises. Under these circumstances, the administration decided to proceed with the ongoing trial of Qadeer inside the Central Jail, Srinagar. However, learning about it, the crowds gathered outside the jail premises on July13, 1931, the number was nearly 10000 and wanted to enter the jail to free Qadeer, the District Magistrate ordered the arrest of some leaders of the agitating crowd on which the mob turned violent, furiously pelting stones at the Police and other jail officials, cutting all telephone lines, ransacking police barriers and setting them on fire. Many prisoners were freed. It was a free for all scenario and breakdown of law and order. Police had to resort to firing as a last resort in which some deaths took place. No one, however, can justify people getting killed in Police firing but nobody can equally condone violence and holding law and order to ransom. The crowds carried dead bodies and marched towards the city in a procession raising provocative slogans. When the infuriated mob reached the main busiest business and commercial hub of Srinagar city, known as Maharaj Gunj, they broke almost all shops and business establishments of the minority Kashmiri Pandit  and the Punjabi trading communities for the “fault” of  their faith synonymous  with the ruling Maharaja and looted them .The mob did not stop at that but attacked minority KP houses at many places and killed three and wounded nearly 180,  some even   succumbing to injuries later.
In addition to Maharaj Gunj, Vicharnag also witnessed massive loot. Kanikot in Budgam district witnessed massive violence against the members of the minority community for no fault of theirs. The eye witnesses many of whom lived until a few years back, revealed the extent of loot: everywhere, streets, lanes and even drains all were strewn with the looted turmeric and other items of loot. This turn of events made the victim minority community scare and the shop keepers reduced to abject penury as insurance facilities and ex-gratia aid from the governments were then unheard of. What followed was the formation of the Muslim Conference in 1932 which later was converted into or renamed as National Conference in 1939 both under the leadership of Sheikh Sahib.
Two political forces emerged , one under Sheikh sahib and the other under the then Mirwaiz who got a support from the government  so much so that the Mirwaiz presented an address of welcome to Maharaja Hari Singh when he returned to Srinagar earning him a grant of a jagir from the Maharaja .  The political tussle between the two factions continued for decades. Due to the constraints of the space, it may be summed up that the Kashmiri Pandits remember July 13 as a “black Day” mourning and praying every year for those of the members of their community who were killed by the mobs on this day. It is also wondered that a holiday is declared on this day and not on the day of state’s accession with India while this day is thrust on Jammu and Ladakh which have got nothing to do with this day or its commemoration.