1924 – Agitation in Silk Industry in Jammu Kashmir

The labourers of this factory were paid daily wages of 41/2annas per head which was perceptibly too scarce, especially in view of the escalating of cost of living and the huge profit it grossed.

The Non-Cooperation and the Khilafat movement had a dominant landmark in the annals of Jammu and Kashmir history. Subsequently the Khilafat movement, the labour uprising of silk factory manifest another imperative milestone in the people’s history of Jammu and Kashmir. The Khilafat agitation had already permeated an essence of graciousness in the Muslim masses of Kashmir and they rendered for the evolution of other movements. The spirit of mobility was showed by the workers of the Government owned Silk factory in their struggle against socio–economic grievances. The Muslims of Kashmir had a number of grievances and feeling of restlessness due to the factor that other communities were progressing and advanced in education. The workers of the silk factory had constantly been complaining against the inadequacy of remuneration, the exploitation of the officials and the tyranny of the inspecting staff.

The labourers of this factory were paid daily wages of 41/2annas per head which was perceptibly too scarce, especially in view of the escalating of cost of living and the huge profit it grossed. The corruption was so widespread that the non-Hindus officials shamelessly pocketed even a part of their wages. The contention of these labourers was that in addition to their low wages, they were insulted by the officials who demanded bribes from them and made them work in their houses like servants. Besides, the silk factory of Srinagar also remained closed for two or three months in a year for which no wages were paid to the workers.

In order to cause the authorities to meet their demands, the workers of the factory struck work for many days in 1924. The programme of action included the holding of meeting and taking out of processions. On the 12th of July 1924, the Anjunman-i-Nusrat-ul-Islam (formed in 1905 by Mirwaiz Moulvi Rasool Shah for socio-religious reforms, mutual cooperation and unity) summoned a public meeting to pray to god for the welfare and good health of Raja Hari Singh who was confined to sick bed. On the same day, the labourers of the silk factory took out a procession with a view to joining this public meeting. No untoward thing happened, and the government took no action against the processionists. Even when in 1924, there was strike in the silk factory at Srinagar; the leaders of the agitation condemned the Maharaja by charging that one of the factors accountable for the strike was his educational policy. Maharaja Pratap Singh was the only target of attack of whom they considered a foreigner and exploiter.

In July 1924, when the members of the salary commission paid a visit to the silk factory, the labourers struck work and sat in front of the factory. The director asked them to go to their work and to allow the members of the above commission a chance to inspect the same, but all his warmth proved in vain . The labourers demanded immediate redress on their grievances. The members of the commission returned and all the labourers went to Hazuri Bagh Srinagar where, after due consultations, they went to Gupkar to approached the higher authorities for redress of their grievances. On July 19, 1924, the District Magistrate was told at Gupkar, Srinagar by the members of Commerce and Industries, that the situation had grown very serious in the silk factory and had actually resulted in breach of peace in the form of assaults being committed on sericulture officials and that their lives and property were in danger.

As the situation was reported to be perilous and the attitude of the labourers threatening, immediate steps were taken by the District Magistrate , Mr Glancy and the other members of the council to clear the factory of the labourers without to be moved to the Silk factory . The colonel Commandant was requested to place the Infantry and the cavalry in immediate charge of the factory, so that the labourers might create no further mischief. This action taken by the government was simply meant to prevent the workers from taking out a procession according to their schedule programme so that they should not join the public meeting which was to be addressed the same day by Khwaja Kamal-ud-din, the Head of the Ahmadiya community.

On 20 July, twenty-five persons out of twenty-seven were arrested quietly and without any demonstration. Out of those arrested, twenty one were taken to the central jail, in Srinagar, an only four were put in custody at the Sher garhi police station. In the morning, a crowd of two thousand people assembled opposite to the Sher garhi police station and attempted to enter the station by force in order to rescue the prisoners. They insisted on the immediate release of the accused. The cavalry troops were ordered to disperse the mob, as a result of which ten were killed and twenty were injured. The wounded were taken to the Mission hospital by the people and corpses of those killed were taken in a lorry by the sepoys. The entire city was handed over to the military. Some rioters were arrested and handed over by the military by the police, to be dealt with according to law.

The people were ordered to keep the peace. Mirwaiz Moulvi Ahmad Ullah Shah, Mirwaiz Hamadani , Munshi Assad- ullah , Mirza Ghulam Mustafa , Khawaja Shah Naqshbandhi, Doctor Abdul Wahid , Budhe Khan, Mohi– ud–din kawoosa,etc. were instructed to see that the peace and order was maintained by the Muslims. After the trouble was over, the British Resident desired some of the educated workers of the silk factory to be promoted to posts of responsibility. The Resident in Kashmir in its letter to political secretary to Government of India wrote; “the situation is well in hand and no further trouble is likely to occur. But it will be desirable that effective steps would be taken to remedy any real grievances and to promote some of the educated Musalman workers to posts of responsibility”.

The Muslim population of Srinagar sturdily objected to the action of the authorities and send a number of telegrams to the viceroy expressing their resentment against the government. On 22 July 1924, the Muslims of the state send a letter to the viceroy. The state government was condemned for its action against the silk factory labourers not only within the state, but also outside the state.

On August 5 1924, the secretary of Muslim Kashmiri conference in its telegram to the Resident in Kashmir expressed. Distressing news about Srinagar disturbances caused widespread alarm. Muslim Kashmiri conference requested appointment of enquiry committee immediately consisting of officials and non-officials including conference representative to investigate and report into causes and results of disturbances. The local Khilafat committee Lahore summoned a public meeting in this connection on August 13, 1924 under the Presidentship of Gulam Mohi-ud-din Qasuri. The meeting was attended by the thousands of people. The meeting had been held to sympathise with the labourers of Silk factory of Kashmir who died in the agitation.

The committee condemned the action of the government and demanded the appointment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the real causes of the affairs and circumstances to open fire on peace–loving and innocent labourers. As a result the Kashmir Muslim submitted a representation to Lord Reading, the then viceroy of India who visited the state in 1924.

The memorandum contained the demands as follows;
1. The grant of proprietary rights of the land to the Muslim peasants that were forcibly snatched from them.
2. The proportionate representation of the Muslims in the state council according to their population.
3. The grant of adequate representation to the Muslims in the state services in order to give to them effective representation. In future, all vacancies are made available to them, and in case the Muslims were requisite qualifications were not locally available, the opportunity should be made available to the outsider Muslims of the adjoining states till such time as the local talent was available.
4. The appointment of an important tribunal to enquire in to the complaints and to award punishment to weird out corruption from state services.
5. The appointment of the Muslims on the important posts of the governor, superintendent of police, Assistant superintendent of customs and in case the Muslims with requisite qualifications were not available, the Englishmen be appointed on these posts. The appointment of a tribunal consisting of at least two judges, one of whom was to be an English to conduct the trial of the labourers of the silk factory.
7. The liquidation of the department of shali (unhusked rice) and the removal of restrictions on the import of food grains and restriction of food rationing to the poor people in Srinagar in order to reduce the burden of the peasants who were to pay the revenues in the form of shali.
8. The appointment of the Muslims or the English expert in education, introduction of compulsory free primary education, appointment of the more Muslim teachers, inspectors then the Hindu and the grant of scholarships to the Muslims for acquiring higher education in India and abroad.
9. The abolition of the forced labour and its replacement by the contractual labour.
10. The restoration of land of their respective owners from whom it was illegally seized.
11. The appointment of an elected legislative assembly for drafting a constitution for the state and the grant of adequate representation to the Muslims in it.
12. The grant of contracts, particularly those relating to forests, roads and construction to state subjects national in general and to the Muslims in particular.
13. The restoration of mosques and religious properties to the Muslims, which was hither to under the control of the Government and, thus, protection from encroachment by the non-Muslims.
14. The appointment of a board consisting of the Muslims to administer the funds spent on the repairs of Jama Masjid and other historical shrines.
15. The appointment of a commission composed of the European officers to inquire into the grievances of the Muslims concerning the Zuljinnah procession, the incident at Khangah-i-shah Hamadan and those relating to Islamabad and Baramullah.
16. The state Resident was responsible for the plight of the Muslims as their rights were insecure and trampled down by the local authorities.

REPERCURSSIONS OF UPRISING:

Lord Reading forwarded the memorandum to the State Government. The Maharaja presented it to the State Council for its consideration. The council appointed a three members committee of the British civil services to enquire into the allegation and demands of the memorandum envisaged. Mr B.J.Glancy headed the commission besides a Muslims and a Hindu member. The commission enquired and reported against the demands of the Muslims and founded that the grievances were baseless and because representative institutions were at the time considered beyond practical politics. The limited availability of the qualified Muslims resulted in their restricted admission to the state services. Their demand for proprietary rights was dismissed. This memorandum achieved nothing for the Muslims. However, it certainly gave a fillip to their movement to put forth their demands in an organized manner. The signatories of the memorandum such as Mirwaiz Ahmaddullah, Mirwaiz Hamadani, Mufti Sharif-ud-din, Saad-ud-din Shawl, Hassan Shah Jalali, and Khawaja Hassan Shah Naqshabandi were taken to task. The memorandum did not serve any useful purpose; on the contrary, it earned the displeasure of the members of State Council for their signatures. The Government exiled Khwaja Saad-ud-din shawl to Rawalpindi on the ground of treason. The expulsion of Khwaja created a considerable reaction and much resentment among the Muslims and they sent another representation to the Viceroy. The Government dismissed Noor Shah Naqashbandi, a Tehsildar on the charges of intrigue. The Jagir of Hassan Shah Naqshabandi was confiscated and was deprived of a cash assignment earlier made to the family for working in Bukhara and Hassan Shah Jalali, the secretary of the group was deported. The punishment given to the participants to the memorandum aroused outrage and antagonism within the state and outside it.

The Youngman’s Muslim association, Jammu held its annual conference on the 7th march to 9th march 1925. The persons who attended the meeting were Hassan Nizami of Delhi, Moulvi Azamatullah of Lahore and Moulvi Mohd of Kashmir. The meeting condemned the action taken by the State Government against the memorialists. The Anjuman-i-Kashmiri Musalmanan, Gojranwala, criticised the State Government for its action against the memorialists. Similarly, the Youngmen’s Muslim Association of Gujarat expressed its anger and regret at the action of the State Government. In the meantime, on 23rd September 1925, Maharaja Hari Singh succeeded to the throne after the death of Maharaja Partap Singh. Immediately after his accession to the throne the young Maharaja started taking independent decisions. He lifted the ban on Saad-ud-din Shawl and permitted him to return home, the jagir (A land given by the state to an individual, called a Jagirdar, for a limited time period and held the right to assess and collect land revenue and other taxes of this land) of Naqshbandi was restored and the ban on the other memorialists was also lifted

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