July 13, 1931: Not Martyrs Day but Black Day for the Hindu narrative in Jammu and Kashmir

On this day in 1931, Kashmir saw a revolt against the Dogra royals and Hindus. The day has been spun to represent Martyrs Day, commemorating Muslims storming a prison, forgetting the truth.

 |  11-minute read |   13-07-2019
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The terror industry in Jammu and Kashmir is well-funded in terms of men and material, and both internal and external agents have fed it to a point where it has become an ugly, poisonous serpent biting everything dead in its way.

There has been a shift in the current approach of the present government — and the recent National Investigation Agency (NIA) raids show its will to strike at the terror finance networks as a means to hack at the very source of terrorism and separatism in Kashmir. 

main_nia-raids-in-de_071119070830.jpgNipped by the NIA: Raids show the Modi govt’s will to strike at finance networks to cut terrorism in Kashmir. (Photo: ANI)

While this is fresh and laudable, the other war which has gone unchallenged in Kashmir is that of narratives — the Kashmiri victimhood narrative, which has been peddled for decades, is used to fill the Kashmiri minds with hate. The false sense of victimhood, and the dangerous insularity it gives rise to, makes the Kashmiri Muslim see everyone else as the 'other' and the other is always an enemy. This fear suits the Pakistani establishment who need Kashmir as an agenda to hide all their failings, to lie to their people and distract them from the real pressing concerns of a failed state.

The false narrative factory employs many to distort history, spin new and tall tales, and erase the voices of other stakeholders, so that the ongoing jihad for 'Azadi' is justified — not just to the Kashmiri people but also to an attentive international audience. It helps to recruit new members, both at home and abroad to the 'Azadi' brigade, and winning new global allies respectively.

Amongst the radical Kashmiri’s newest friends is Al Qaeda — which has promised to finish what Pakistan has been unable to do in Kashmir.

The successive Kashmir-centric governments have also played this game of soft-separatism, and the Indian state has been turning a blind eye to this. This pussyfooting with separatism has aggressively denied the truth and history of the other ethnic and religious minorities of the state because their truth is inconvenient and strips the victimhood label off the Kashmiri Muslims. The regional schisms have widened to the extent that the cracks have swallowed all other voices of J&K — Dogra, Pahari and Ladakhi — leaving only the Kashmiri voice to be heard again and again till it seems like the only and complete truth.

All this has had state patronage.

July 13, which is a state holiday and has been declared 'Martyrs Day', is a case in point.

main_farooq-abuduall_071119065304.jpgTurning a blind eye: Successive Kashmir-centric govts have played with soft-separatism, and the Indian state overlooked it. (Photo: Reuters)

In the absence of civic commemorations for public figures and historical events important to Jammu Province, this state holiday on July 13 blatantly promotes a certain political ideology — and a version of the history of only one people and one region. It denies with impunity other provinces and stakeholders an equal voice, the right to disagree — and their history.

The unfortunate events around July 13, 1931, saw pre-planned communal riots and eventually led to the unfortunate deaths of 22 rioters. The state, which has been governed by successive Kashmir-centric political parties, has chosen to remember the incidents of 1931 as Martyrs Day in memory of the 22 rioters who lost their lives during the clashes with the state forces. The J&K state forces were mainly made up of martial races of Jammu Province, both Hindus and Muslims in equal numbers. On the other hand, the Kashmiri rioters were allegedly pelting stones and attempting to break in and enter the Central Jail in Srinagar as a manner of protest. The rioters were all who died were Muslims from the Valley.

All this was apparently unleashed by non-state actors like Abdul Qadir and state actors like Sheikh Abdullah and his cohorts. It was reportedly masterminded by British officer Wakefield and aided and abetted by the Political Department of the British Indian Government.

July 13 was also a day which saw many acts of barbarism committed against Hindus in the Valley.

The seeds of hatred against the Dogra community were sown in the guise of an anti-monarchy movement which saw the call of “Quit Kashmir”. The series of events that day included what clearly looked like pre-planned rioting and mayhem — in which Hindus were targeted.

Hindu traders of Maharajganj in Srinagar were attacked and all Hindu shops from Bohri Kadal to Ali Kadal were raided. Vicharnag — situated five miles from Srinagar and inhabited by the minority community — reportedly saw bloodshed and riots, barbarism and alleged rapes of Kashmiri Pandit women.

Strikingly, this public holiday takes no note of the transgressions against Hindus of the Valley and the Dogra community.

Martyrs Day is really a black day for Kashmiri Pandits and the people of Jammu Province.

What July 13, 1931, did was to bring to a halt, the gradual process of democratisation that had been planned and initiated by a just monarch, Maharaja Hari Singh, keeping in mind changing times. It became a blot in the history of the state because it saw the use of religion and religious spaces for sedition, instigating riots and sowing seeds of hatred between communities and regions which had co-existed harmoniously for almost a century.

main_hari-singh-sard_071119061825.jpgA real reformer: Hari Singh (L) initiated several reforms in Kashmir, including in education. (Photo: Photo Division, PIB)

The premise of this particular day involves allegations of a despotic Dogra rule — which are unfair and blindside the many developmental and progressive works introduced by the Dogra Maharajas in Kashmir. There were some brilliant economic and educational reforms brought in. The opening up of education to the disadvantaged sections of society by Maharaja Pratap Singh and Maharaja Hari Singh in a way gave birth to the Muslim Reading Club in Kashmir and the desire of immediate social upward mobility in its members. The Reading Club went on to become infamous as a hotbed for sedition and communal politics, as its members like Sheikh Abdullah wanted immediate favourable returns for their education. New jobs could not be created instantly — and it became an excuse for the fomenting of an anti-Dogra sentiment.

The allegations, alluding to a rule that discriminated based on religion, are malicious and conveniently miss the fact that there was no demographic change, forced conversions or exodus during the 100-year Hindu Dogra rule — a credit to the state’s inclusive policies and governance.

July 13, 1931, changed the state forever and is a Black Day.

Marking it as Martyrs Day — whilst ignoring its complete truth — upholds a certain behaviour which has only spelt trouble for Kashmir and the rest of the state. The day was about violent protests which had a clear communal and regional angle. It saw the use of religious spaces to make political and seditious speeches. Both Sheikh Abdullah and the non-state planted agent apparently gave seditious speeches and called for mutiny from the precincts of a Mosque. The day saw frenzied crowds pelting stones and attacking military and police pickets, snatching firearms from the police personnel, and indulging in arson and loot of public property.

What it was is not a freedom struggle against “foreign occupation” or monarchy, as is touted by the popular Kashmiri narrative — this false narrative is supported by Pakistan. The official Pakistani defence website carries a voluble blog on this very subject, making the agenda behind such a claim very clear.

What was set rolling in 1931 never stopped and only strengthened — the day has had deep repercussions. The call of Quit Kashmir movement for the Dogras, based on concocted lies of a despotic rule, is mirrored and magnified in the complete lack of diversity in the Valley today. The Kashmiri Hindus have been driven out of the land of their ancestors. Hindu Dogras and Ladakhi Buddhists are not welcome anymore. The Indian state is the enemy — and all Indians can visit the state only as tourists. 

main_sheikh-abdullah_071119064419.jpgGuess who started it: Sheikh Abdullah called for mutiny from a pulpit in 1931. The trend continues even today. (Photo: Twitter/FeatOfStrength)

1931 saw Sheikh Abdullah calling for mutiny from a pulpit in the mosque — today, scores of Kashmiri youth pelt stones after every Friday prayer. More and more Kashmiri youth are getting radicalised as many more Madarsas mushroom to speed the process. The Islamic State (IS) flag has made many appearances when these frenzied mobs pillage, pelt stones and burn the Indian flag. The lynching and murder of a Kashmiri Police Officer, Ayub Pandit and the abduction and brutal killing of Kashmiri army personnel Lt Ummer Fayaz, doesn’t invoke more than a whimper.

However, the funerals of dreaded Islamist militants like Burhan Wani and Zakir Musa get crowds of more than 10,000 people.

If the poor Kashmiri is being sacrificed at the altar of personal ambitions, greed, Islamist and Pakistani agendas (like the 22 rioters of 1931), the elite Kashmiri can well be an opportunist who fans this hate and toxicity for his own vested interests — to my mind, even the seemingly secular, intellectual Kashmiri Muslim might be a closet jihadi.

A recent tweet of a well-travelled, educated Kashmiri Muslim woman, which was later deleted, eulogised the Islamic militant Burhan Wani.

The tweet said, “8.7.2016 you killed him. 3 yrs later he continues to haunt you from his grave.” She goes on to say, “Your guilt & need to erase him from history keeps him alive for Kashmir. What did you kill” 

One has to remind oneself that this lady, who is followed on Twitter by media persons, bureaucrats and even police personnel from J&K, is talking about a gun-toting militant, belonging to the militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen.

Such is the rot in Kashmiri society — and it cuts across classes.

There has to be space for people’s heroes, but most of all, Kashmir must get its heroes from villains right

Martyrs Day is a glaring example of the half-truths and one-sided stories the popular narrative on Jammu and Kashmir rests on.

The tacit state support of the same with a complete disregard of all the rightful stakeholders has been a trend which is proving dangerous for the state and its pluralistic fabric. The political dynasty of the Abdullahs and Muftis left no stone unturned to institutionalise false victimhood, hate and regional discrimination. Communal and region-centric politics has been the rule of the day in the state, for the last seven decades. Successive state governments have not been “of all the people” and “for all the people”.

main_burhan-wani-fun_071119063127.jpgEulogising terror: Thousands of people attended the funeral of Islamist terrorist Burhan Wani. (Photo: Reuters)

The spin on the July 13, 1931 incidents, and the holiday on December 5, which celebrates Sheikh Abdullah, in the absence of similar celebrations for the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh, the coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh and the founding of the state, or celebration of the day the Instrument of Accession was signed, is a clear indication of which way the cookie crumbles. The religious and ethnic minorities of the state have been purposely stripped of their sense of identity, history and legacy. Civic commemorations, vital for community cohesion, remain exclusive. History has been distorted and through these celebrations, all stories and identities have been blurred into one, and the very people who built this state are disassociated from its past, present and future.

All of the above has not been called out. This has given birth to a monster that only grows stronger in the face of reward and lack of punishment. The evil born has eaten away the Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland, oppressed the people of Jammu Province and does not stop from snuffing out dissenting voices from the Valley.

The encouragement of dangerous patterns of behaviour must stop. An inclusive approach must be adopted, while skewed agenda-driven narratives must be challenged.

Any discussion on the state of Jammu and Kashmir is incomplete and untruthful without all its stakeholders. We play into the hands of the separatists when we do not widen the discourse to include the nationalist regions of Jammu and Ladakh. The good must be empowered — and the evil isolated, not fed.

The war on terror in Jammu and Kashmir is critical — but so is the battle of narratives.

Also read: When it comes to terrorism, it’s all about the money in Kashmir

Writer

Manu Khajuria Manu Khajuria @khajuriamanu

She is a community worker and freelance writer seeking answers with special focus on Dogras and the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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