By Sajjad Shaukat
The Martyrs’ Day, popularly known as Youme Shuhada-e-Kashmir is observed on July 13 every year on both sides of the Line of Control and all over the world by the Kashmiris to pay homage to 22 Kashmiris who were martyred in 1931 to free Kashmir from the brutalities of despotic Dogra rulers. The day is the milestone in the history of Kashmiri struggle against foreign occupation.
The history of Dogra rule (1846-1947) in Kashmir is replete with tyrannous treatment, meted out to the Kashmiri Muslims by Dogra forces. Under the Dogra rule, they were leading so miserable life that it was difficult to differentiate them from beasts. Slave labour, heavy taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, and living under constant terror was order of the day.
In this regard, Yousaf Saraf in his book, ‘Kashmiris Fight for Freedom’ calls it “free forced labour” and “instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used for transportation of goods across the far-flung areas”.
Atrocities of the Dogra regime could also be judged from the book of Sir Walter Lawrence, ‘The India We Served’. While describing the pathetic picture of the Kashmiris, he writes, “army was employed in forcing the villagers to plough and sow, and worse still, the soldiers came at harvest time and when the share of the state had been seized” and “there was very little grain to tide the unfortunate peasants over the cruel winter.”
Under that tyrannical regime, political rights could not be imagined; even the religious rights had been segregated away from the Muslims of the state.
On April 19, 1931, the ban of Eid Khutba ignited widespread demonstrations in the Jummu city for a number of days. It was followed by desecration of the Holy Quran at the hands of Dogra forces, which resulted into outrage among the Muslims throughout the state. In Srinagar, people gathered in Jamia Masjid to denounce this blasphemy. One such get-together was held in Khankah-e-Muella Srinagar, which was addressed by prominent Kashmiris. When the meeting was concluded, a youth, Abdul Qadeer, pointing his finger to the Maharaja’s palace, raised slogans “destroy its every brick.” With the accusation of sedition, he was arrested forthwith. Abdul Qadir was to be tried in the court but due to large public resentment, the court was shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.
On July 12, 1931, in response to the shifting of court, intense public protests were held throughout the city. The next day, on July 13, 1931, thousands of people thronged the Central Jail Srinagar to witness the in-camera trial of Abdul Qadeer. As the time for obligatory prayer approached, a young Kashmiri stood for Azan. The Dogra Governor, Ray Zada Tartilok Chand ordered soldiers to open fire at him. When he got martyred, another young man took his place and started Azan. He was also shot dead. In this way, 22 Kashmiris embraced martyrdom in their efforts to complete the Azan.
The people carried the dead and paraded through the streets of Srinagar, chanting slogans against Dogra brutalities. Complete strike was observed in the city, which was followed by weeklong mourning. This incident shook the whole state and the traffic from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and Srinagar to Jammu came to halt from July 13 to 26, 1931. The 22 martyrs are buried in Martyrs’ Graveyard at Khawaja Bazar, Srinagar.
Since 1989 when liberation of Kashmir entered a new phase, Indian military troops have been using all inhuman tactics of ethnic cleansing to disturb the majority population of the Kashmiris. For this purpose, various methods of state terrorism have been part of a deliberate campaign by the Indian army against Muslim Kashmiris. It has been manifested in brutal tactics such as crackdowns, curfews, illegal detentions, massacre, targeted killings, sieges, burning the houses, torture, disappearances, rape, breaking the legs, molestation of Muslim women and killing of persons through fake encounters.
According to a report on human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir by Indian Army and its paramilitary forces, there have been deaths of more than 95 270 innocent Kashmiri from 1989 to June 30, 2010.
Over the two decades of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous failures to ensure protection of human rights. It has called for the repeal of laws such as the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, and the Public Safety Act. These laws provide the armed forces with extraordinary powers to search, detain, and use lethal force, leading to numerous human rights violations. They also provide immunity for security forces—their prosecutions, even where the facts are well established, are rare.
Kashmir Quarterly has reported, “Indian Forces killed a number of citizens, torched mosques, shops and houses in various parts of the valley. As a result, there were protest demonstrations in many cities. Troops desecrated the central Srinagar mosque and tortured worshippers whom they found inside.”
It is notable that the memory of the Serb atrocities has still been fresh in the minds of the Muslims, while India’s state eliminators have followed the same practice in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, in the worse form of state terrorism. In 2008, a rights group reported unmarked graves in 55 villages across the northern regions of Baramulla, Bandipore and Handwara. Then researchers and other groups reported finding thousands of single and mass graves without markers. In this respect, in the last few years, rights groups discovered nearly 3,000 unnamed graves in the various districts of Kashmir.
It is of particular attention that in August, 2011, Indian Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) officially acknowledged in its report that innocent civilians killed in the two-decade conflict have been buried in unmarked graves. The report indicated 2,156 unidentified bodies which were found in mass graves in various regions of the Indian-controlled Kashmir. Notably, foreign sources and human rights organisations have disclosed that unnamed graves include those innocent persons, killed by the Indian military and para-military troops in the fake encounters including those who were tortured to death by the Indian secret agency RAW.
In its recent report, China’s leading News Agency Xinhua has unearthed more gruesome details on world-stunning unmarked graves in Poonch in the Indian-held Kashmir. While quoting reliable local sources, the report disclosed the statement of Sofi Aziz Joo, caretaker of a graveyard as saying, “Police and Army used to bring those bodies and direct me to bury them. The bodies were usually bullet-ridden, mutilated, faces disfigured and sometimes without limbs and heads.”
Today’s Kashmir presents the worst possible case of state terrorism where Indian forces threaten to eliminate entire masses engaged in demanding implementation of the United Nations resolutions. According a latest report, more than half million people have been massacred by the Indian troops so far.
It is mentionable that dialogue between India and Pakistan took place on a number of occasions, but produced no outcome, prolonging the agony of the subjugated people of the occupied Kashmir due to Indian intransigence.
Notably, silence of the US-led western countries has encouraged India to continue its alien rule in Kashmir. Therefore, Indian forces keep on employing various methods of state terrorism mercilessly on the innocent Kashmirirs, demanding their legitimate right of self-determination.
However, observance of Kashmiris’ freedom struggle on the Martyrs’ Day every year is reaffirmation of the fact that Kashmiris will continue to fight against Indian illicit occupation. In this context, Youme Shuhada-e-Kashmir is an ideal day for Kashmiris to seek inspiration to carry their struggle for freedom to its logical end. At this time of distress, the people of Pakistan’s side with the oppressed ones are sharing the grief of Kashmiri freedom lovers. Pakistan also observes Youme Shudaha-e-Kashmir on July 13, launching a protest against the oppressive polices of Indian occupation, which has continued against the hapless Kashmiris.
Nevertheless, on July 13, all over the world, Kashmiris renew their pledge to continue the ongoing war of liberation for the accomplishment of their right of self-determination and for the independence of occupied territories from the despotic Indian rule.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations