They say, “It only takes a single voice to start a revolution”. Yes, and in the case of Kashmir, this voice is of Abdul Qadeer Khan. Mere words flew, not bullets or bombs; it was a cry, and the people around said ‘yes’ to the call. A revolution took place. It awakened the people who were in deep slumber till then, and were voiceless under the terrifying Dogra rule, where it was a crime and a punishable act to speak against the Maharaja or any other official. And there, a man of courage stood up and sowed the seeds of revolution.
In his fiery speech, on 21st June, 1931, Abdul Qadeer roared: “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 the tyranny, and it will not end the desecration of Qur’an. Stand up upon your legs and fight the tyrant rulers.” He pointed towards Raj Mahal (the palace) and said: “Raze it to the ground!”
Abdul Qadeer’s son, Abdul Saboor Khan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, talked to a Valley-based columnist, Peer Mairaj-ud-Din, in 2007. He said: “A function was held at Khankah-e-Moula on 21st June, 1931. Muslims from all schools of thought participated. A large number of women also attended the function. The Muslim leadership forged unity. A committee comprising of seven members was formed, to take the struggle forward. The members included Saad-ud-Din Shawl, Mirwaiz Moulvi Yusuf Shah, Mirwaiz Ahmadullah Hamdani, Aga Syed Hasan Jalali, Khawaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Munshi Shuhab-ud-Din. When the leaders dispersed, my father appeared on the podium and started chanting slogans against Hindus and started his fiery speech.”
These words were not only the start of the revolution, but they also changed history. Kashmir saw a new dawn. People braved the bullets, and the world now watches how the youth of today, in Kashmir, say no to the illegal occupation of their land by India. These seeds of revolution were sown in the barren lands of Kashmir, by none else than Abdul Qadeer Khan and his supporters, who were martyred on 13 July, 1931, and flowers of which are blooming today in every household of Kashmir. Memory became history.
What actually happened on that day:
Soon after delivering the speech, Abdul Qadeer was arrested on 25 June, 1931. The offences like section 124(A) (Anyone who, by words or expression of any kind, brings or attempts to bring or provoke a feeling of hatred, contempt or disaffection towards the government established by law, is culpable under the section of imprisonment from 3 years to lifetime, with or without fine) and 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot- same if rioting be committed – or not) of the Penal Code were charged on him in the Court of the Session Judge on 4th July, 1931.
Sensing the trouble, due to the sympathy of Muslims towards Abdul Qadeer Khan, the trial was arranged to be held within the premises of Srinagar jail. But, even so, hundreds of Muslim supporters had already gathered outside the jail premises. On that fateful day, some 22 people were martyred. The day of July 13, 1931, triggered a series of events throughout Kashmir and the Muslim parts of the Jammu province. The protesting and oppressed people fell to the bullets of Maharaja’s forces in all major towns of Kashmir like Islamabad, Shopian, Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara, etc. Similarly, in the following months, a volcano of protests erupted in the Jammu region from Rajouri to Mirpur, in which more than one thousand people were killed. The people’s movement was crushed with the help of military aid from the British, when the army was called in from the Jalandhar cantonment.
The inhabitants of this beautiful valley were facing hardships during the Dogra rule. It was a grave plight for the Kashmiris, that in spite of comprising mainly of Muslims, the British unjustly handed it over to those religiously opposed to the population – Maharaja Gulab Singh – in return for a sum of money, in accordance with the Treaty of Amritsar in the year 1846. The rulers came down on their peaceful population with utmost oppression. In the words of Sir Walter Lawrence: “Almost everything save air and water was taxed in Kashmir.” Younghusband further describes the plight of a section of the oppressed class: “The poor coolies, who were engaged to carry load for travellers, had to give up as tax half of their earnings.” In fact, July 13, 1931, helps contextualize our long history of the tyranny of a double colonialism, i.e., British colonialism and Dogra Hindu colonialism. In its real sense, the Treaty of Amritsar was a treaty for dispossessing the native population. The people lost everything “legally”, as the Maharaja (Gulab Singh) and his heirs became the sole owners of land and property. The people lost their religious rights as well as the right to buy and sell during the ensuing century-long process of Hinduisation of authority.
July 13, 1931, was a watershed event in the history of Kashmir. It was followed by the rise of Sheikh Abdullah to national prominence as a leader of the liberation movement (Muslim Conference) against the Dogra tyranny. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, visited Srinagar in 1935 to extend his support to this liberation movement. In 1938, the Muslim Conference was converted into National Conference by Abdullah, to appease the pro India elements. Mr. Nehru visited Srinagar and appealed to the Pandits to join the National Conference, in order to strengthen Abdullah who had come under the influence of the Indian National Congress. A web of intrigues and conspiracies, with the ultimate capitulation of Sheikh Abdullah to the nefarious designs of the Hindus, became the prelude to what followed: end of the British rule in India, partition of the Subcontinent and active agitation by the people of Jammu and Kashmir forcing the Dogra King, Hari Singh, to flee to Jammu – the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mountbatten, Nehru, Menon and Abdullah were the architects of a concocted piece of paper called the ‘Article of Accession’, flouting the principle of association of various states of the Subcontinent either with India or Pakistan according to their free will. They committed a treacherous act of enslavement of a nation against its wishes. After seeing that the majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir were eager to join Pakistan, Nehru, with the help of his intimate friend Mountbatten, invaded Jammu and Kashmir on October 27, 1947, thereby laying a precedence for the preemptive invasion of a sovereign nation, the occupation of its land and oppression of its people.
A valiant resistance by the Kashmiris, threatening India`s colonialist designs, forced India to go to the UN Security Council for intervention. The Council passed multiple resolutions on different dates regarding Kashmir. The Resolutions promised that the people of Jammu and Kashmir be given the right to self-determination to decide their future.
But Indian democracy proved to be more treacherous, terrifying and brute, though claiming to be one of the greatest democracies. Right from 1947, lakhs of innocent Kashmiris got martyred, hundreds of women were raped, thousands of children living the life as orphans, hundreds of half widows, thousands disappeared, numerous unknown graves; and the cycle of terror and havoc by the Indian authorities is still going on. But Kashmir has its own history of fighting back. And fight it will, until freedom.