the Pages of History
13th July 1931 and After
July 1931 is a landmark in the annals of modern Kashmir. On that day, open
demonstration against the despotic rule of the Maharaja took place. The flash
point was reached by the arrest and trial of one non-Kashmiri Abdul Qadir, for
his alleged seditious speech delivered by him in the precincts of Khanqah of
Shah Hamadan. Interestingly, Abdul Qadir had come to Kashmir as a cook of a
On 13th July, Qadir's trial
was being held in the Srinagar Jail, evidently to keep off excited crowds.
Nevertheless, large crowds outside the jail raised slogans protesting against
the Trial. They were joined by the prisoners inside the jail. Situation went out
of control. Under the orders of the district magistrate, armed police opened
fire. Twenty-one persons were killed. Wide disturbances in the city followed.
Hindu shops were looted, some property burnt. In the communal outburst, three
Hindus at Vicharnag, a suburb of Srinagar, were killed. Since then, 13th July is
being observed as Martyr's Day. It is a Public holiday.
This event did not happen a day too soon or a day
too late. The time was ripe for such a happening. A fertile ground for
appropriate mass action or reaction had assiduously been prepared by forces more
Certain influential Kashmiri
Muslims settled outside Kashmir raised their voice against the inaction
and neglect of education of the Muslims. At the request of the State Government,
the Education Commissioner of Govt. of India (GOI), Mr. Sharp made some
recommendations, which the Maharaja accepted. In 1924, the Viceroy Lord Reading
received a memorial from some leading members of the Muslim community making
demands of far reaching consequences, including grant of proprietary rights in
land to peasants and a larger representation in government service. The Maharaja
did not like it but GOI gave a clear message that it would not shy away from
The Twenties of the last
century witnessed a phenomenal rise in the popularity of Indian National
Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. To counter this, the British
Government in India (GOI) pursued a communal policy. Kashmir, with Muslim
majority population and ruled by a Hindu prince could not be lost sight of.
A large number of
organisations formed by influential Kashmiri Muslims settled outside the state,
mushroomed up. The most vocal and prominent among them was called the Kashmir
Muslim Conference of Lahore and Simla (later christened as All India Kashmir
Muslim Conference). The famous poet, Sir Mohd. Iqbal was a member of this
organisation. Leaders of these organisations believed that the backwardness and
poverty of their brethren back home were the result of neglect and
discrimination by the Hindu regime under the Dogra rule. They publicised their
opinion widely and demanded immediate redressal.
Back home, especially in the
Valley, a sizeable number of Muslim youth with degrees from different Indian
universities, particularly from the Muslim University, Aligarh formed the
Reading Room Party. They would meet, discuss the opinions of the various
Kashmiri Muslim organisations and echo their sentiments in different mosques.
They took upon themselves, the task of educating the people about their
political rights. Sheikh Mohamad Abdullah (M.Sc from Aligarh) who had resigned
from the post of a teacher, emerged as the most popular of the members of the
Reading Room Party. He drew large crowds when he addressed gatherings in
mosques. A campaign against the Dogra rule was thus started. As was inevitable,
it turned into a hate Hindu campaign, Dogra regime being equated with Hindu
regime. All to the liking of the Political Department of the GOI.
Maharaja Hari Singh, speaking
as the representative of the Indian princes at the Round Table Conference in
London, declared the princes' support to patriotic demands. This seems to have
acted as the Catalyst. Abdul Qadir episode was the signal for 13 July 1931
Maharaja Hari Singh was awakened from his slumber.
He tried to assert his authority. He appointed a committee of officials,
presided over by the Chief Justice of the state High Court to enquire into 13
July happenings. People doubted its impartiality and rejected it. The British
Resident asked for an impartial enquiry. The Maharaja dismissed his British
minister and appointed Raja Hari Kishen Koul, an able administrator as Prime
Minister. The agitation continued and so did the repressive measures of arrest,
firing and even the flogging under the inhuman 19-L law. This was the ripe stage
for the British Government in India to step in.
The Viceroy directed the
Resident to issue a notice to the Maharaja to remove the grievances of Muslims,
to appoint an unprejudiced British officer deputed by the GOI as a enquiry
officer to hold enquiry into Muslim grievances and demands, and a European
Indian Service officer be appointed as the Prime Minister. The Maharaja had to
accept the suggestions in total, though gradually.
The Maharaja asked for and got on loan the services
of Sir B.J.Glancy, an officer in the Political Department of GOI to preside over
a Commission to go into the grievances of Muslims. The Commission had four more
members, a Hindu and a Muslim each from Kashmir and Jammu. Pt. P.N.Bazaz
represented Hindus of Kashmir. While the Hindu member from Jammu resigned
without signing the report, P.N.Bazaz put his signature on the recommendations
of the Commission. The Muslims got mostly what they were demanding.
Also Col. E.J.D.Colvin of the
Political department was appointed as the Prime Minister. Political prisoners
were released and repressive laws withdrawn. Three other officers of the Indian
Civil Service joined the Kashmir Cabinet as ministers. They held charge of
important departments of Home, Revenue and Police. Thus the British Government
of India achieved its objective, namely complete control of J&K
administration. The event (13 July 1931) marked the beginning of political
activities in the state.