13 July 1931

13 July 1931 is an important date in the political history of Kashmir because it had a long-lasting effect on the subsequent history of Kashmir. There were many causes responsible for this. However, there are many versions regarding this incident that make it difficult to get the clear picture, as said by Alastair Lamb.

Moreover, there were many developments going in and around the world, which caused political consciousness in Kashmir. Furthermore, people began to study outside Kashmir, which opened their mental horizon.

Keeping this thing in mind, here we will discuss the narratives of two authors that, apart from clearing the picture, argue how this day is important.

The first narrative is by Alastair Lamb. In his book, “Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy 1846-1990”, he says, “In 1924, the Vale of Kashmir experienced a crisis which was to mark another important stage in the evolution of political opposition to the Maharaj’s rule. Labour unrest hit the State Silk Factory in Srinagar. This had been established by the Maharaja’s Government in 1907; and by 1924, it employed some 5,000 workers, the overwhelming majority of them Muslims, whose average wage (when the Kashmiri Pandit management did not pocket a portion of it for itself) was a mere four-and-a-half annas per day.

The Jammu and Kashmir Government reacted with considerable violence and though the silk workers gained a minute increase in pay, the strike movement was effectively suppressed.

In 1931, one event more than any other seems to have turned a general dislike of the Maharaj’s rule in the Vale of Kashmir into an organised opposite movement. There are various versions of the story; and there may well have been more than a single incident involved. It was reported, among other happenings, that a mosque in Reasi in Jammu Province had been demolished by Hindus with the approval of the Maharaj’s Government; that at another place in Jammu, Muslims had been prevented from saying their prayers; that the Imam of a mosque in Jammu had been stopped by the authorities from giving his sermon (Khutba) before Friday prayers; even that pages of the Holy Quran had been found discarded in a public latrine.

The essential point common to all these stories is that in early June 1931, it was reported that in Jammu Province the Maharaj’s Government, or officials in its employ, had caused Muslim worship to be disrupted and the Holy Quran to be insulted. When the news of all this reached Srinagar, it caused great outrage.

There were fiery denunciation from mosque pulpits, processions and public meetings. Qadeer (he apparently came from the North-West Frontier region), made a particularly vehement speech, advocating violence against the Maharaj’s rule. He was promptly arrested. This provided a fresh focus for public demonstration and protest.

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Abdul Qadeer was put on trial at the Sessions Court, Srinagar, on 6 July 1931; but so great was the assembly of Muslims gathered outside the building that the proceedings had to be moved to the secured environment of the Srinagar Central Jail. It was outside the Jail, on 13 July 1931, when the trial of Abdul Qadir was reopened, that a crowd gathered only to be met with police baton charges. The police were resisted, stones were thrown and even so, some reports indicate shots were fired at them. The Police then opened fire.

Some 22 demonstrators were killed as were as at least one member of the police (who was shot). 13 July 1931 became known in Kashmiri history as “Martyrs Day”, the official beginning of a struggle for independence from alien rule. It immediately produced Muslim protests and clashes between Muslim demonstrators and the State Police throughout the Vale of Kashmir and in nearly every District in Jammu.

In the above text, one thing which is apparent is that Kashmiris, particularly Muslims, were subjected to harsh treatment. There was a volcano of grievances which needed a spark and that spark came in the form of Abdul Qadeer Khan. However, it should be kept in mind that Abdul Qadeer Khan was called a British agent as written by Alastair Lamb in the above-mentioned book.

Now, let us talk about the narrative of Zahir-Ud-Din regarding this date. In his book ”Flashback“, he says, “On July 13, 1931, 22 people fell to bullets outside Srinagar Central Jail. A large number of people had gathered outside the jail to express solidarity with Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was arrested for delivering a fiery speech against Maharaja Hari Singh at Shah-e-Hamdan’s shrine on June 21, 1931. His trial was held inside the premises for security reasons.”

July 13 is considered a turning point in the State’s history. It, therefore, becomes necessary to have a clear understanding of the incident. Historians and commoners believe Kashmir erupted when the Holy Quran was desecrated by a constable at Jammu. But was the Holy Book really desecrated?

On April 19, 1931, when an Imam was delivering the Eid sermon in a Municipal Park at Jammu, a police constable, Chowdhury Ram Chand intervened and directed the Imam to refrain from delivering the sermon. The Muslims took it seriously and registered strong protest. The incident, however, went unnoticed in Srinagar. But when the news reached Srinagar, the situation in Jammu had pacified.

Late Professor Noor-Ud-Din has written in his diary that the leaders of the Reading Room Party, founded at Fateh Kadal, pondered and decided to stage a similar drama at Srinagar. Noted historian, Shabnam Qayoom also makes a mention of Noor-Ud-Din’s diary in his book “Kashmir Ka Siyasi Inqilaab”, Page 50, Volume 1: “A plan was devised to stage a similar drama to evoke strong public reaction in Srinagar. A Muslim constable was taken into confidence by the members of the Young Man’s Association, Jammu. Posters were kept ready. Constable Sheikh Muhammad Ismail accused his Hindu colleague of desecrating the Quran and violent protests broke out in Jammu and Srinagar.”

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The Reading Room Party and Young Man’s Association authored drama evoked the desired reaction in Srinagar. A series of lectures were delivered by Molvi Abdullah Vakil, Munshi Naseer, Molvi Bashir and Ghulam Nabi Gilkar. A few days before delivering his famous speech at Khankahi Moula, Qadeer was riding with Major Abet, the British Army officer and the former British Resident in Dal Lake in the Kashmir Sunflower houseboat, owned by Aziz Wangnoo. As they were nearing Hazratbal, Qadeer saw people rushing towards the Shrine and requested Major Abet to drop him on the bank so that he could join the Friday congregation. Major Abet is believed to have said to Qadeer, “Tell your God to free Kashmiris from this oppressive rule.” The British officer’s words inspired Qadeer to deliver the fiery speech.

On June 21, 1931, hundreds of Muslims from different schools of thought assembled at a function at Khankahi Moula, where the Muslim leadership forged unity and constituted a seven-member committee to take their struggle forward. The members were Saad-Ud-Din Shawl, Mirwaiz Molvi Yousuf Shah, Mirwaiz Ahmadullah Hamdani, Aga Syed Hassan Jalali, Khwaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Munshi Shihab-Ud-Din.

When the leaders dispersed, Qadeer appeared on the podium and shouted slogans against the Hindus. He said: “Listen, time has come when we have to act. Requests and memoranda will serve no purpose at this point of time. It will not end tyranny and it will not end desecration of Quran. Stand up and fight the tyrant rule.” He pointed towards the Raj Mahal and said, “Raze it to the ground.”

Qadeer was arrested and put on trial. On July 13, 1931, when a lot of people assembled outside the Central Jail to express solidarity with Qadeer, the Dogra soldiers opened fire and killed 22 men on the spot. Scores sustained injuries.

These are the two narratives of authentic authors that have highlighted the importance of 13 July, 1931. As said earlier, there are many versions of this incident that make it difficult to reach a conclusion. However, one thing is clear that the Muslims were subjected to the harshest treatment, while the Brahmins and the Punjabis enjoyed the luxurious lives. So, it was but natural for the Muslims to rise against and fight for their rights because at that time consciousness had slowly but steadily crept in the minds of people.

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