The chapter of Kashmir’s history takes a significant turn in 1846 when Sikh rule comes to an end and the British left Kashmir to Dogra Maharaja Gulab Singh under the Treaty of Amritsar. The transaction occurs at a cost of 750,000 Nanak Shahi. Unfortunately, this marks the beginning of a troubled and tormented period for Kashmir. The 100-year span of Dogra rule becomes a controversial part of Kashmir’s history, particularly for the Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir, as they endure immense suffering. Throughout these years, Kashmiris have engaged in a genuine struggle for freedom.
On July 13, 1931, the Kashmir Martyrs’ Day, known as Youm-e-Shuhada-e-Kashmir, is observed annually to honor the 22 Kashmiris who were martyred in 1931 while fighting against the despotic Dogra rulers and their brutalities. This tragic day holds great significance in the history of Kashmir’s struggle against the Dogra occupation. The events leading up to the revolt on July 13 were ignited by five important incidents:
- The first incident involved a landowner in Udhampur, Jammu, who embraced Islam. The Hindu Tehsildar altered the land records to erase the landowner’s name and transferred the property to his brother, based on a decree issued by the Dogra Government in 1882.
- The second incident took place in Jammu City on April 29, 1931. During Eid prayers led by Mufti Mohammad Ishaque, the sub-inspector of police, Babu Khem Chand, interrupted the sermon, claiming that the imam had committed treason by speaking against a historical figure. This led to a confrontation and a subsequent protest meeting.
- On June 4, 1931, in Central Jail Jammu, a police constable named Fazal Dad Khan was reprimanded by a head warder, Balak Ram. In a fit of anger, Labhu Ram, a sub-inspector, threw away Fazal Dad’s bedding, which contained a copy of the Panjsurah from the Holy Quran. Fazal Dad sought support from the Young Men’s Muslim Association.
- The fourth incident occurred in Srinagar on June 20, 1931, when pages of the Holy Quran were found in a public latrine, causing deep offense and resentment among Muslims.
- The immediate cause of the uprising was Abdul Qadeer, who worked for English army officer Major Butt of the Yorkshire Regiment. Abdul Qadeer delivered a passionate speech at a gathering in Naseem Bagh, urging the people to rise against oppression and tyranny. His arrest and subsequent trial became a rallying point for the Kashmiri masses. (There are certain historians who put forth the theory that Abdul Qadeer was an agent intentionally appointed to manipulate people’s emotions, as the British had an interest in acquiring Gilgit Baltistan on a lease, and Maharaja Hari Singh was reluctant to relinquish control of the region).
The trial of Abdul Qadeer began on July 4, 1931, in Srinagar. The Muslim community gathered outside the court to witness the proceedings. However, tensions escalated, leading to clashes between the people and the police. The situation turned violent, and the police opened fire, resulting in the death of numerous protestors. The firing lasted for about fifteen minutes, claiming the lives of seventeen Muslims on the spot, with several others succumbing to their injuries later. The events of July 13, 1931, marked a turning point in the struggle against oppressive rule.
Among the martyrs of July 13, 1931, were individuals such as Khaliq Shora, Ghulam Nabi Kalwal, Ghulam Ahmad Bhat, and Ramzan Chola, among others. These brave souls were buried in the compound of Kanqah-i-Maula, which is now known as Mazar-i-Shuhada.
It is important to uncover the complete history and details surrounding Abdul Qadeer Khan, including his origins and the exact location of his burial, as there are varying accounts and claims about his identity. Retrieving and preserving this last page of Kashmir’s history is essential for a comprehensive understanding of the region’s struggles and sacrifices.