July 13 is an important date in Kashmir. In 1931, on this day in Srinagar, and later on for months elsewhere too, the first ever organised communal carnage in the recorded history of modern Kashmir took place. Hundreds were murdered, burnt alive, tossed into the river, maimed, molested, raped, robbed and even forcibly converted to Islam.
When the rioters were challenged and sought to be controlled by the police, a few of them died. The dead rioters were hailed as martyrs by their cohorts. It was only later, in independent India no less, that the state government of Jammu and Kashmir formally sanctified those criminals and decided to commemorate the dead rioters as fallen heroes, every year on July 13. Politics apart, it is important to know the facts of what happened then.
In 1931, Maharaja Hari Singh was the sovereign ruler of the Jammu and Kashmir, which included Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, Muzaffarabad-Mirpur, Aksai Chin and Saksham Valley. The British wanted him to lease them the Gilgit agency. The Maharaja was reluctant. The British knew his Achilles' heel. He was a rare Hindu king who ruled over his predominantly Muslim subjects.
They decided to turn a few screws. A rabble rouser Ahmadi from Peshawar, Abdul Qadir, was brought into Srinagar by the British intelligence in the garb of a cook for the local British resident. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, then a recent discard from the Aligarh Muslim University and politically active and ambitious, was also roped in.
A public meeting was organised at the Shah-e-Hamdaan, Khanqah Mohalla. There, Abdul Qadir, the rabble rouser, delivered a fiery speech. He quoted liberally from the Quran to incite the Muslims against the Maharaja. Spewing communal venom and inflaming passion, he asserted that the book forbade Muslims to subject themselves to an infidel Hindu ruler.
He also incited them to cow slaughter, which was forbidden under the law. Qadir was ordered to be arrested for sedition. His arrest was resisted. Later, his trial too was sought to be disrupted repeatedly. It was then decided to hold his trial in the jail premises itself.
This is how GS Raghavan, former editor of some leading dailies like Hindustan Times, The Nation, and The Sunday Times described the instances of July 13, 1931, in his book The Warning From Kashmir:
"The hearing in jail fell on 13th July. On that day, a mob stormed the jail and demanded admittance along with the Sessions Judge. When the Judge had passed the gates, the crowd also attempted to get in. The other gates had been forced and the inner gates were attacked. At the suggestion of the Judge, two Muslim lawyers, representing the accused, harangued the visitors to go out of the Jail precincts. Finding that there was no possibility of ingress, the crowd went out and started stoning officials and set fire to the police lines. The police force was then called in. All efforts to pacify the unruly mob proved futile. While there was commotion outside the jail there was also disturbance inside, prisoners tried to force open the iron gates. About this time, certain prisoners were being taken from the court to the jail. The crowd stoned the policemen and the prisoners were liberated. The prospect was by no means satisfactory. The District Magistrate's order was defied, who had been summoned to the spot by the time, and had declared the crowd to be an "unlawful assembly" and ordered its dispersal. The order was defied and finding that the mob could neither be pacified nor dispersed, the District Magistrate directed fire to be opened. The crowd fell off but later it re-assembled and resumed stoning. It had to be dispersed with a Lathi charge. Part of the crowd, however moved towards the Hari Parbat Fort: the cavalry had to pursue it and disperse it again. A section of the recalcitrant's proceeded towards a place called Maharaj Ganj which is a business locality and loot over an extensive area followed. From Bhori Kadal to Alikadal a long stretch, Hindu shops were raided. Other localities such as Safakadal, Ganji, Khud and Nawakadal too formed the centers of loot. Bazar streets were littered with property, books of accounts were burnt: the Hindu shopkeepers were molested, in short, pandemonium prevailed."
"The Hindu merchants lost lakhs worth of goods. Mr. Wakefield has affirmed that the articles were so strewn about the roads that his car would not pass, it is also his testimony that not a single Mohammedan complained to him about his premises having been invaded by the looters".
"The most extraordinary portion of the story was that almost simultaneously with the happenings at Srinagar, there was an uprising at a place named Vicharnag, some 5 or 6 miles away. It has been stated that untold atrocities were committed there; men owning lakhs were reduced to indigence and women were subjected to the worst possible and the most indecent assaults. A military force was despatched to the place, but by that time the havoc had been completed. Elsewhere too, the Hindus were the victims of ambuscade. Some lost their lives and many suffered physical injuries. Stray assaults continued till long after."
A myth is sought to be propagated that it was a "democratic" uprising, to uproot the prevailing "feudal" order. None whatsoever. It was an Islamist rebellion against the Hindu king. Sheikh Abdullah too was found complicit in the uprising. He was arrested, tried, convicted and sent to prison.
But soon, in 1932, he was pardoned by the Maharaja and released within a few months without completing the sentence. Soon after, Sheikh founded All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference and became its founder president.
The black day of July 13, 1931, continued over into weeks and months. It also wrecked havoc in far flung Rajouri, Kotli and Mirpur. Among the Hindu refugees from Mirpur, the year 1931 is singed in the popular memory as "Atthassi na Shaurash" - the massacres of 88- because the Vikrami almanac is 57 years ahead of the CE.
In the words of an octogenarian Yuv Raj Gupta, a refugee from Kotli and now a resident of Jammu:
"Innocents were mercilessly killed and many were converted to Islam forcibly. Religious places of worship, of Hindus and Sikhs, that is. temples and Gurudwaras, all met with the same fate. Many were completely damaged and desecrated. In other few cases, though buildings were not damaged, yet the sacred idols and holy books, including the Guru Granth Sahib, were badly damaged burnt and desecrated.These happenings known as "88 NA SHAURASH" (Riots of 1988 Bikram or 1931 Christian Era) are still in the memory of not only the survivors of that time but also of their subsequent generations, and the refugees of 1947, scattered throughout India and awaiting Rehabilitation."
There is a wealth of archival material to verify claims. Mercifully, many of the records were kept by the British as they were in control, real or virtual, almost everywhere.
Hence, the chances of a partisan communal bias creeping in are relatively low. Voluminous correspondence exchanged on the matter between different official agencies/Officers of the State Government and Indian (British) Government is still preserved, mostly in London.
To sample a few, let me quote:
From Mr. Jardin Wazir Khazana(Finance Minister), J&K
To Mr. R.L. Waltiner, Dy. Sect. Govt. of India
Thirty One places of worship were completely destroyed and looted. Cases of forced conversions, reported by the Admin Officer, are detailed below.Tehsil: Rajouri-120, Seri-12, Bhimber-206, Kotli-224Details of movable and immovable properties have not been found, so far. However, it may be pointed out that the loss of non-muslim properties destroyed was very high.
Ref. No. PB 238-DE Dated 30th June, 1932
From Mr EJI Colin, Prime Minister
To Mr Latimer, Resident in Kashmir
Hindus of Sukkchainpur and Samwal (Mirpur) whose houses were completely damaged and burnt suffered the most. Sukhchainpur has even taken the shape of a completely deserted village. Losses were much more in Tehsil Kotli as compared to Tehsil Mirpur. The riots were centred around Village Solahn in Tehsil Kotli. Rioters were joined by the locals wherever they went and with their help, houses of Hindus/Sikhs were looted and burnt. Hindu villages of Seri, Rajoa, Khui Rata and Dhana were almost completely destroyed or say fully razed to the ground. Properties of Hindus were looted. Besides, places of worship were completely destroyed.
Even after the arrival of Army, at certain places of worship that were not destroyed yet, their Idols and Holy books were desecrated... Despite the presence of Army in its main bazar, Kotli had to face the same fate. This resulted in the migration of Hindu and Sikh families to Mirpur, Bhimber and adjoining Punjab.
Ref: No. FM 467 Dt. 18/5/1932
On 18th & 19th Jan 1932, a large mob of Muslims encircled the Kotli city. However the attack failed in a few hours as the attackers were in possession of old weapons and little ammunition. This attack took place before the houses and shops of Hindus were burnt in Chawla, Panjera, Kotli Sohlam, Seri and Khui Rata. Two Hindus were killed during this attack.Ref. Kashmir Fight for Freedom by Justice Retd. Mohd Yousaf Saraf)
On 18th Jan 1932, fifty villages were attacked in which 300 houses were looted out of which 70 were burnt. Though none was killed yet 40 Hindu/Sikh were converted forcibly to Islam. All these affected villages come under Rajouri Police station. It is an admitted fact that these communal riots were an extension of what happened in Kashmir. Out of all these villages, Thanna village and its bazaar suffered the highest loss. This took place on 20th Jan 1932. 36 Houses were looted out of which 8 were burnt. Another two villages where losses were heavy are Sohana and Sohani. In Sohana, 84 houses were looted and 4 houses were burnt whereas 31 houses were looted and 2 burnt in the other village. This happened on 28th Jan 1932.
Ref. DO Letter No. F-12C/32 Dated 29.03.1932 from Mr. C Latimer Resident in Kashmir
In Bharot village, a very big house of Mohan Lal was looted and burnt.
All these documents point towards an organised and sustained campaign to annihilate the hapless non-Muslims by their Muslim neighbours.
Incidentally, in 1935, the Maharaja granted the British what they wanted - the lease of the Gilgit agency.
The big picture
From 1339 - since the reign of Shah Mir - till 1819, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh liberated Kashmir from the Afghan rulers, indigenous non-Muslims have been at the receiving end of an alien, hostile Islamist rule of varying hues.
There was brief respite during 1819-1947, thanks to the Sikh-Dogra kings. Since 1947, the secular, democratic republic of India has reverted the Jammu and Kashmir to Islamist hegemony by insulating the state from the benign impact of the Indian Constitution.
One of the travesties of such an arrangement is that the non-Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir suffers the humiliation of "commemorating" their own tormentors as martyred heroes every year.