The 13th of July in Kashmir has always been a popular day for paying homage to the martyrs who gave their lives in the first ever revolution against the foreign autocratic rule. One remembers right from the childhood what a festive and exciting day the 13th July used to be. Processions from all parts of the city as well as from outside used to go to the Mazar-i-Shuda to pay tribute. Those days the movement for Kashmir’s emancipation was still young and there was fervour all round. The long period of 82 years since the martyrdom of these brave souls of Kashmir has seen many ups and downs. The movement itself has witnessed many twists and turns.
Kashmir had seen many rebellions against the external rule but the events of July 13, 1931 were a turning point. It was the first mass awakening against the autocratic rule of the Dogra Maharajas. The events have been well documented by the local as well as foreign authors. The protests starting against the desecration of holy Quran in Jammu had turned into a mass movement against the Maharaja’s autocratic rule. The real trouble had started after the fiery speech of Abdul Qadeer, the butler of a British resident, at Khanqa-e-Mu’ulla. Qadeer was subsequently arrested and put on trial for sedition. In view of the popular upsurge his trial was shifted to the Srinagar Central Jail. The people were gathering near the Central Jail on the fateful day of July 13 demanding an open trial, when the Dogra soldiers fired on them killing 21 and wounding scores of others. The bodies were taken in a procession for burial and Maharaja imposed Martial law.
The events snowballed and thus started the movement for Kashmir’s emancipation. The movement threw up the 25 year old teacher Sheikh Abdullah to become the charismatic Lion of Kashmir. Thus, this day is symbolic for the rise of the first real revolutionary movement in Kashmir. The spirit of those revolutionary days still lives in the hearts of Kashmiris and they have not given up their struggle in spite of the numerous somersaults by their leaders. In fact, it is rather their leaders who have let them down from time to time. The mission, that the martyrs had started, is still incomplete. Unfortunately, due to the betrayal of their cause by some of the leaders, Kashmiris have landed in worse situation than the one which existed in 1931. Those days they had only one adversary, the autocratic Maharaja but now they have two nuclear powers in a situation of perennial conflict to contend with!
The turmoil of the last two decades has given rise to Mazar-i-Shuhada in every nook and corner of the State. However, there are also thousands of Kashmiris who are buried in unknown graves in many areas of the State including in the vicinity of the line of control. There is an obligation on the people to pay homage and remember these unknown martyrs. The ideal way would be for the people to renew the pledge to carry their mission forward. There is no need to take out processions or indulge in violence. The martyrs have sacrificed their lives for upholding the truth which has become the main casualty in the present day Kashmir. The first thing we need at the moment is to demonstrate that we do have a character. That can be shown if all of us pledge to speak the truth and stand by it regardless of the consequences. This would be paying the best homage to the memory of all those who have given their life for our future. That is the most sensible way to take their mission forward!
There is a strange dichotomy in regard to these martyrs. It may be pointed out that these martyrs had risen in revolt against the Maharaja who is supposed to have signed the document of accession of the State of Jammu & Kashmir to the Union of India. In fact, it was this agitation in 1931 which had culminated into Quit Kashmir Movement of 1946 against the Maharaja. There is a contradiction in the celebration of this day by the mainstream parties especially the ruling ones as they left the mission of these martyrs half-way. How can they honour the persons who had risen against the Maharaja because of whose subsequent actions they are now enjoying the power? However, the mission of the martyrs has not been given up by the common Kashmiris. The proofs of the continuation of their mission are the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris who sacrificed their lives during last 82 years for achieving the goal of total emancipation. The number has gone up from 21 to thousands upon thousands. It is still increasing with every passing day. The action of the authorities in preventing paying of homage cannot suppress the aspirations of the people. It has rather increased their alienation from India. The resort to such draconian measures clearly shows that the authorities have failed to change the minds of the people. All revolutions start in the minds. The present day authorities are scared of the popular upsurge. They have, therefore, put even the graves of these brave souls under curfew! That is the best tribute to these martyrs whose mission as shown by this act is still very much alive and being carried forward!