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The Revolt of 13th July, 1931
By Dr Altaf Hussain Para
The revolt of 13th July, 1931 by the oppressed masses of Kashmir, against their insensitive and tyrant rulers, was the first major attempt on their part to assert that they want to live with dignity in the comity of nations. It was a revolt against the dehumanizing project of Dogra regime aimed at destroying the virility of Kashmiris as a nation. The imposition of Begar, institutionalized prostitution, disarming the Kashmiris and pushing the entire Muslim population in the Valley into a position of exclusion and disadvantage in almost all spheres of political, social and economic life- were only a few things in a long list of atrocities committed by the state to humiliate the Kashmiri Muslims. Thus, the revolt was not merely an isolated event; it was an outcome of the years of oppression.

Immediately after purchasing the Valley from the British merchant-turned-rulers, through an inhuman Treaty of Amritsar (on 16th March, 1946), by Gulab Singh, the dark phase of Kashmir history (beginning from the occupation of Imperial Mughal), began to turn darker. Oppression of Dogras was so unprecedented that even their British masters felt ashamed. Colonel Ralph Young visited Kashmir in 1867. As he travelled along the road to Srinagar, he found "that it had all been once under cultivation but it is now desolate. Certainly the country is not now flourishing". However, more accurate and outspoken was a real humanist, Robert Thorp. He openly held British responsible to "the people whom it sold into the slavery of Gulab Singh". He described Kashmiris "whose characteristics (both intellectual and moral) give evidence of former greatness, trampled upon by a race in every way inferior to themselves and steadily themselves and bars the way to all improvement, whether social, intellectual or religious".

Even imperial intervention-apparently to improve the lot of suffering Muslims, but in essence to promote colonial interests- could not cause any good. That there had been no substantive change in the position of the Kashmiri Muslims was made evident more poignantly in 1929 by Sir Albion Bannerji, a Bengali Christian civil servant, employed by Hari Singh as Foreign and Political minister. Disgusted by the conditions prevailing in the valley, Bannerji resigned after serving for two years and through a statement to the Associated Press at Lahore, he bore witness to the fact that the: "Jammu and Kashmir State is laboring under many disadvantages, with a large Mohammadan population absolutely illiterate, laboring under poverty and very low economic conditions of living in the villages and practically governed like dumb driven cattle….. [The administration] has no sympathy with the people's wants and grievances."

But then the revolt had external factors also. The purna swaraj (complete freedom) resolution by the Indian National Congress was passed not far away from the Valley in 1929. The Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Gandhi, as a consequence of it, in 1930, galvanized the whole Indian nation and the political tempers in British India reached to its climax. The people of Kashmir, particularly the would be leadership, were greatly affected by this surcharged political atmosphere in India. The impact of Punjab Press and the activities of Kashmiri diaspora in British India was immense. The people like, Allama Iqbal, Saifuddin Kichloo, Sunaullah Amritsari and Mohammad Din Fouq greatly inspired the early leadership of Kashmir.

In the same way, the events at international level, particularly the aftermath of the World War I, which saw the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire, and the emergence of nationalist movements in the Middle East and in other Muslim countries, mostly influences and inspired by the iconic reformer, Jamal ud Din Afghani, had its strong bearing on the kashmiri mind also.

We have a tendency to forget the real heroes and to glorify the less important ones. Although, Kashmiris owe a lot to Immamudin, the last Sikh governor of Kashmir and Abdul Qadir, the hero of the revolt of 1931, they are given least importance in the historical lore of Kashmir. The former offered a heroic resistance to the imposition of the Amritsar Treaty and was subdued only by the collective forces of the East India Company, Sikhs and Dogras. And the later caught the imagination of the 'dump driven Kashmiris', by first openly challenging the right of Dogra autocrats to rule on Kashmiris. It took Sheikh Saheb fifteen long years to muster that courage when he unilaterally launched the Quit Kashmir movement, even without consulting his party.

The unfortunate part of the revolt was that it catapulted a number of new actors and organizations, both within and outside, on the political stage of Kashmir, all claiming the inheritance of martyrs to advertize their own agendas. The situation is in no way different today. While this write up will be going through the press, I am sure; a tug of war will be already going on around the martyrs' graveyard between the parties across the spectrum to dominate the show.

The message of the day is clear. Martyrs had not laid down their precious lives to raise the stakes of political parties and actors. They have no right to fight against each other to claim the inheritance of the sacred blood. The sacrifices were offered so that Kashmiris live with dignity in the comity of nations. The big question is this: are we living with dignity?

(The author teaches History at Amar Singh College, Srinagar)

News Updated at : Saturday, July 13, 2013
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