Whose Martyrs Are They?

Whose Martyrs Are They?

12 July 2013
Greater Kashmir
Abid Bashir

Srinagar: Kashmir is set to observe Martyrs Day on Saturday to remember 21 Kashmiris who fell to the bullets of Dogra army on July 13, 1931 at Central Jail, Srinagar. Even after 82 years of the incident, both mainstream and separatists stake claim over those buried in the graveyard at the revered shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Naqshband sahib (RA) here, raising a question- whose martyrs are they? Chief Minister Omar Abdullah while paying tributes to the 1931 martyrs described them as the heroes of struggle against suppression and autocracy. “The sacrifice of martyrs to free the society from autocracy and lay edifice for democracy and human dignity is one of the richest chapters of the history of JK,” Omar said in his message circulated by the Information Department here. “The best way to pay homage to the martyrs is to help create equitable and palatable environment for everyone to grow and nurture in a democratic atmosphere. Let all of us join hands to develop a society based on justice and principles of secular democratic temperament,” he said. Omar said tolerance and respect for each others’ viewpoints, “whether we agree to these or not, is the soul of democracy”. “Martyrs of July 13 laid their lives to uphold this principle of natural justice and democracy,” he said. Governor NN Vohra called upon people to rededicate themselves to make Jammu and Kashmir a peaceful, prosperous and frontline developed State in the country. In his message on the occasion of Martyrs Day, the Governor observed that Jammu and Kashmir has been known for its glorious pluralistic ethos, amity and brotherhood, and urged the people to work towards restoring the pristine glory of the State as an abode of peace and harmony. Senior National Conference leader and Minister for Rural Development Ali Muhammad Sagar said the martyrs of 1931 were a collective asset of entire Kashmir. “It is good if separatists are saying martyrs belong to them. The fact is that those who laid their lives showed us how to live a dignified life,” Sagar said. The main opposition PDP said the martyrs of July 13, 1931 wrote a new chapter in the history with their blood. “That is what created an urge among the people for freedom and dignity. The best tribute to these martyrs would be to create circumstances for resolution of Kashmir,” said PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti in a joint statement issued here. The duo said that PDP has a clear vision on how to achieve the goals of democratic self-rule, economic self-reliance and social growth in JK. “The martyrs had risen up against a system that sustained itself on exploitation and denial of democratic rights,” they said. State Congress chief Prof Saifudin Soz said July 13, 1931 has created a situation where in people have learned how to fight for their rights. “People of Kashmir have been inspired by the martyrs and it will continue. Everybody who is living in Kashmir has a right to observe martyrs day. Nobody can be custodian of martyrs of 1931. If somebody does so, then that would be arrogance,” Soz told Greater Kashmir. CPI (M) leader M Y Tarigami said sacrifices offered by martyrs of July 13 were aimed at fighting autocracy. “These sacrifices inspired the people to strive for establishment of a true democratic setup in the state which so far seems a distant dream,” he said. Chairman Awami Itehad, Engineer Abdur Rashid said if separatists stake claim over martyrs of 1931 they have a right and moral ground. “But mainstream leaders have no right to observe the martyrs day. They couldn’t even manage to get back the body of Afzal Guru from New Delhi. They have not been able to resolve Kashmir for which one lakh people have died,” he said. Chairman Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Geelani said in 1931, the desecration of Quran in Jammu had triggered widespread protests across Kashmir. “People assembled at Khankah-e-Moula where Abdul Qadeer Khan made a fierce speech against Dogra rule. He was arrested by the Dogra forces on the charges of sedition and lodged in Central Jail for trial,” he said. “On July 13, 1931, people assembled at the Central Jail to witness Qadeer’s trial. In the afternoon of that fateful day, one of the protesting Kashmiris stood up to give a prayer call (Azaan). But Dogra forces opened indiscriminate fire on them killing 21 people.” Geelani said the mission of martyrs was to safeguard Islam in Kashmir and to end suppression and oppression. “They left a mission behind which was sold by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah first in 1938 by converting Muslim Conference into National Conference and then supporting the accession of Kashmir with Union of India in 1947,” the aged leader said. He said had Sheikh followed the mission of 1931 martyrs, there would have been no accession and Kashmir would not have been facing the brunt of “oppression” for past 66 years. Chairman Hurriyat (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the martyrs of 1931 had risen against the autocratic rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. “The same autocratic rule is being witnessed today in terms of open loot of our resources, be it water or electricity. We believe martyrs’ mission is yet to accomplish. National Conference seems to be of the belief that the sacrifices of 1931 martyrs bore fruit in 1947 through government formation,” said Mirwaiz. He said the Awami Action Committee led by him believes that in 1947 ‘the seat of autocratic rule was changed from Maharaja to New Delhi.’ Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik said there is a need to see the incident of 1931 through a historic perspective. “There is a historic sense to it. The martyrs sacrificed their lives for a mission that sovereignty should vest with people. But their mission was bartered as today here a person from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra asks a State subject of Kashmir to show identity card,” Malik said. “The autocratic rule against which martyrs of 1931 offered sacrifices continues in Kashmir even today,” Malik said. Senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmed Shah said mainstream leaders have no right to observe July 13 as martyrs day. “The martyrs set a base for a mission under which no autocratic rule is accepted. And Kashmiris have time and again stood against Afghans, Mughals and Sikh rulers who ruled Kashmir from time to time,” he said. National Front Chairman Nayeem Ahmed Khan said senior pro-India politicians who unveil the statues of Dogra rulers in Jammu have no right to “shed crocodile tears” at martyrs graveyard here. Referring to a government function in Jammu held early this year in which “State government representatives as well as the representatives of New Delhi also took part”, Khan said: “Such type of hypocrisy is the identity of those who sell the freedom of their homeland.” He said the mission of the martyrs of 1931 is yet to be completed “because their great sacrifices ended the autocratic rule of Dogras, later Indian army occupied JK which continues till date. Unless and until the last army man of India leaves Kashmir, the mission of the martyrs will remain unfinished,” Khan said. Kashmir High Court Bar Association said that martyrs of 1931 laid their lives for “independence of JK the fight for which still continues.” “The sacrifices offered by the martyrs of 1931 have inspired the people of JK to fight for self-determination which cannot be forgotten by any citizen,” the Bar said in a statement issued here. Jamaat-e-Islami said the martyrs sacrificed their lives for “supremacy of Islam and freedom from foreign occupation and the present phase of the movement is only continuation of their mission. Their mission will remain unaccomplished till Kashmir issue is resolved according to the aspirations of the people of Kashmir,” a Jamaat spokesman said. Background: July 13, 1931 has a historic importance. It is known as Martyrs Day, and an official holiday is observed in memory of the 21 Kashmiris who laid their lives. These people were martyred by the Dogra Army. Martial law was imposed in Kashmir. Dogra soldiers marched everywhere and people had to shout “Maharaja Bahadur ki Jai!” whenever they would meet them. There were a number of incidents like desecration of Holy Quran in Jammu, which had infuriated the masses but they were feeling helpless. Then Abdul Qadeer Khan made a fiery speech in Khankah-e-Maula here which electrified the movement. He was arrested and tried for sedition. The trial was held in the Central Jail. People tried to enter the jail premises but Dogra Army resorted to indiscriminate firing, martyring 21 persons.