13 July, 1931 : The Whole Truth

ArsalanJuly, Origins Comments

After suffering unspeakable brutalities under the Dogra rule for eight decades, Kashmiris finally rose up in 1931. There were many reasons behind the uprising — the poor economic conditions of Kashmiri Muslims (who were 95% of the population), discrimination against Muslims in government services and religious bias, to name a few — Muslims were treated as third class citizens in their own country where they were the main taxpayers.

The final nail in the coffin was when a Police officer, Babu Khem Chand, stopped an Imam, Molvi Atta Ullah Shah Bukhari from giving the Eid sermon on 29 April, 1931 in Jammu. It was beginning of an organized struggle for our freedom. The officer, in his defense, said that the Imam was delivering a Khutba on Pharaohs of the ancient Egypt while indirectly comparing them to the Maharaja.

This was followed by two more incidents in Jammu. In one incident, an upper caste Hindus of Dagora village refused to allow Muslims to take water from their area for performing ablutions for Eid prayers. In another incident, a Hindu head constable had snatched a Panj Surah from a Muslim constable, Fazal Dad, and thrown it to the ground.

When the news reached Kashmir, people came out to protest and a meeting was held at Khanqah-e-Moula on 21 June, 1931. It was after this meeting, Abdul Qadeer Khan stood up and delivered a fiery speech, He said:

Muslim brethren! The time has now come when we should meet force with greater force to put an end to the tyrannies and brutalities to which you’re subjugated; nor will they solve the issue of disrespect of the Holy Qu’ran to your satisfaction. You must rely upon your own strength and wage a relentless war against oppression. (Pointing his finger towards the palace, he said) Raze it to the ground!

A Kashmiri Pandit named Pandit Sat Lal, who had been deputed into the crowd to collect information and report it to the Government, had left before the speech and was demoted for the same reason. Qadeer Khan was soon arrested on charges of sedition, thousands of Muslims would attended his every trail. People would bring him flowers, fruits and sweets. Some would kiss his hands, some would cry, others would try to touch him. The Awakening of the Hatos had begun.

The Dogras sensed the support in favor of Qadeer and shifted the venue of the trialfrom the Court of the Session Judge to the Central Jail where Qadeer was already imprisoned. Outside Central Jail, at least five thousand Kashmiri Muslims had already assembled in support of Qadeer. Pro-Qadeer Khan slogans were in the air.

A lawyer, Pir Qamarullah Vakil, was an eyewitness who arrived at the jail 10-15 minutes after the Session Judge, he said about 15 men were arrested and brought inside the jail compound for raising slogans. He denied that the crowd outside threw stones at the police and said that fighting only started after people were arrested. He also said that no warning was given to the people before shooting at least 21 of them dead. Another lawyer, Muhammad Abdullah Vakil who came at least two hours before the Session Judge supports this case.

THE ENQUIRY COMMISSION

The Maharaja soon appointed an enquiry commission under Barjor Dalal, Chief Justice of High Court with one Muslims and one Hindu judge as commissioners. The commission was asked to report upon the circumstances which led to the Massacre, disturbances at Maharajgunj and other localities and to suggest what action should be taken. Within 24 hours, the Muslim judge, Khawaja Saaduddin Shawl gave his resignation, other Muslims also refused to be a part of it as they didn’t consider it to be independent. Hari Singh was forced to setup another enquiry commission under Chief Justice Dalal and two high court judges. They examined 112 witnesses.

The Enquiry Committee was exactly what the Muslims thought, puppet of the Maharaja. They called themselves as “Your Highness’ most obedient and most humble servants” while submitting the report. As per their own words neither the Muslims nor the Pandits had any case ready to represent. So they had to arrive at the truth by themselves. The plan was to acquit the officers of crimes and hold the victims responsible. The bias against the Muslims was evident in the report. Everything that came out of the mouth of a non-Muslim or a government official was treated as the gospel of truth while as every word said by a Muslims was found faults in and discarded.

The judges even accepted the account of the soldiers who were being investigated for the killings. Subedar Attat Singh, Nayak Onkar Singh and Sepoy Abhay Singh said they were compelled to fire. However, a Hindu lady, Mrs Thakur Das, who was an eye witness, testified that the soldiers fired without any cause. Obviously, her statement was dismissed. In another instance, Chief of the Military Staff, Brigadier Sutherland deliberately misquoted Mrs Thakur saying that the policemen were attacked by the public while the report quoted her otherwise.

The testimonies of prominent Muslims like Dr. Noor Din Khan and Maulvi Noor Din Qari who were attacked by Hindu mobs and arrested without cause were ignored. Hindu leaders were called ‘Representatives’ and Muslims leader were ‘so-called Representatives’ in the report. The incidents of the desecration of the Holy Qur’an and the stopping of the Imam from delivering the sermon were called ‘purely accidental’ while the protesting Muslims were called ‘ignorant Mohammadan masses’.

The committee devoted a full chapter to incidents of alleged loot of Hindu shops/homes but declined to hear complaints of Muslims about the loot of their houses and shops by Hindu mobs assisted by the army. Muslims were told to prove their cases in the court first.

The committee quoted G. E. C. Wakefield, Brigadier Sutherland, Eric Biscoe and Col. Nawab Khusru Jang as their witnesses of the loot at Maharajgunj. Col. Nawab Khusru Jang arrived to the spot only after the alleged loot, he said it looked like the vincity had been looted a short time before he reached the place. Wakefield and Sutherland said the same. Sutherland also said that the ‘looting’ wasn’t pre-planned. Eric Biscoe hadn’t even witnessed the alleged looting at Maharajgunj but had seen people ransacking shops of Punjabi Hindus (Khatris) who had insulted the martyrs of 1931.

When the injured Kashmiris of the 13 July Massacre were being carried to the hospital, a non-Kashmiri Hindu trader, Lala Bhagat Krishen Chand, had insulted them and their religion. These traders know as Khatris were the owners of business in Srinagar and highly loyal to the Maharaja. His and the neighboring shops were attacked and goods were thrown on the road. Had there been any kind of loot then goods would have had been stolen rather than scattered on the roads.

The committee visited an area Vicharnag in their own words ‘long after the occurrence’ and stated:

A view of the house of Pandit Kailash Butt convinced us that everything in the house was ransacked, his property stolen, and his account book torn. A large iron safe was carried out and broken there and was lying there on the road when we went, in the broken condition.

The question of how was the safe still lying there ‘long after the occurrence’ remains unanswered. Another Kashmiri Pandit Shri Kant Khar said that the alleged looters didn’t come from the directions of the Jail but from the direction of Soura.

Sutherland and Wakefield later also went to Vicharnag and said not even a single Pandit complained about his house having been looted. He said to the committee “Our car was encircled by people on the road leading from Nowshera to Vicharnarg but nobody complained about the loot.

Soon after the Massacre, all of Kashmir was handed over to the army to teach Muslims a lesson. The government made mass-arrests and in areas where Muslims were in minority, mobs were let loose on them. In this fight, the Kashmiri Pandits again betrayed their Muslim brothers and acted as informants for the Maharaja. They would lead the forces of the Maharaja to the homes of Muslims who were considered rebellious. Many informers tricked the army to settle their own personal scores. This behavior of Kashmiri Pandits came hard on Kashmiri Muslims who now felt betrayed. Sensing this discontent, Sheikh Abdullah requested the Pandits to at least remain neutral rather than helping the oppressor.

Every Muslim, whether he/she was part of the uprising or not, was humiliated. Indiscriminate arrests and house searches were made, Muslims were made to crawl on the road, they were forced to chant ‘Maharaja ki jai (Long live the Maharaja)’ and bow down to the Dogra flag at checkpoints. Those who disobeyed were thrashed and arrested.

Saraf writes in his book, Kashmirs fight for Freedom:

The constables of the Training School who were coming towards the city in a lorry attacked innocent Muslims passers-by killing some and injuring others.. Small children were not only beaten but killed.. Women were assaulted and outraged.. Wherever it was possible, poor men and women were drowned or strangulated and bodies thrown into the river… Hindus serve food and other delicious eatables to the army to keep them under their influence. In MaharajGunj, Domba Kadal, Nawab Bazar, Bateyar and Vichar Nar, many innocent Muslims were killed by the army in collaboration with local Hindus. Law and Order didn’t exist even in its shadow.

A neutral Prime Minister, G. E. C. Wakefield was removed after a vicious campaign was launched against him by a Kashmiri Pandit Minister, P. K. Watal. Another Kashmiri Pandit, Hari Kishen Koul took his place. He once bragged to a Muslim who had come to Maharaja with a complaint saying “You don’t know who I am. I will lock your mosques and snatch your freedom to pray and fast.” Koul took total control over the Maharaja and wouldn’t even let him meet his ministers without his permission. He bragged that he would bring the agitation to its knees within 3 months.

With Koul at the helm of affairs, the Fringe became more powerful. A Muslim woman vegetable seller was beaten and stripped almost naked on 18 August in front of one Pandit Shyam Lal’s house by some Pandit boys. Another Muslim woman’s body was found flowing in the river after being raped. Kashmiri Muslims were flogged in public.

On 22 September, the Dogra forces opened fire on the worshippers and killed 3 of them, hundreds were wounded, 15 were critical. Eight more Kashmiris were gunned down while carrying these bodies at Gawkadal. As the news spread, Kashmiris came out to protest, 21 Kashmiris were killed (Including a 13 year old boy, Ghulam Hussain Malik) at Islamabad on 23 September. A Kashmliri Pandit magistrate Raghunath Mattoo was believed to be behind this.

As the anger among the Muslims spread, Mahraja issued an ordinance much similar to present days AFSPA called 19-L which gave unlimited power to the army to take revenge upon the people for rebelling against the Maharaja. On 24 September, 60,000 Muslims gather at Khanyar, they were carrying home made weapons, even their leaders were surprised by the sudden development and hurried to the Maharaja and distancing themselves from the armed group. No policeman was in sight. Still not even a single Hindu man, woman or a child was harmed. Some Muslims even escorted Hindus men and women to their homes. The so called mob didn’t move till army was withdrawn from the city.

Hari Singh appointed another commission under an officer he had loaded from the government of India, L. Middleton. As per Middleton the uprising wasn’t communal and shouldn’t have had been suppressed with such a heavy hand.

On 12 November another commission was setup. It was headed by B.J. Glancy. He was joined by Ghulam Ahmed Ashai, Chowdary Ghulam Abbas, Prem Nath Bazaz and Lok Nath Sharma. The Hindus of the state in general and the Kashmiri Pandits in particular feared that if the grievances of the majority were met, they would lose their privilege. Lok Nath Sharma resigned and a huge pressure was built on Bazaz to do the same but he stood his ground. As a result, he was beaten up and boycotted by Kashmiri Pandits. He had to shift from his ancestral home at Chanapora. The commission submitted the report on 22 March 1932.

As per the Glancy report, the demands of the Muslims were genuine and should have been addressed. It may have also suggest the removal of Hari Kishen Koul which was done on the same day.

The Dogra army continued to massacre Kashmiris. On 5 February 1932, nine Muslims were shot dead while celebrating Jumat-ul-Vida. 10 more were gunned down during the funeral procession.

The ‘Hindu Press’, Milap and Pratap in particular, started publishing fake news against Kashmiri Muslims. Milap and Pratap were also responsible for propagating lies against Wakefield which led to his removal.

To counter this, Muslims in general and Kashmiri Muslims who had migrated to Punjab and Lahore to escape the oppression of the Dogras in particular started their own newspapers. Zamindar, Inquilab, Alfaaz, Siasat, Panja-e-Faulad, Sadaqat and Kashmir Mussalman were some of the few who succeeded in raising awareness on Kashmir.

THE NEWS

Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, who was also present in Kashmir around the events of 1931 said in his statement:

“It appears that the real facts are not made known to the Maharaja and orders are taken from him after misrepresentation of facts, and the whole responsibility of this rests upon the present ministers of the Maharaja who are not the real well-wishers of the Maharaja. In view of the shooting of the unarmed Muslims who have been martyred on the wrongly acquired orders, it is certain that such an incident will have a deep effect on the Muslims…The people interested in such trails attend in thousands the court-rooms in India so that they may hear the proceedings. But this necessity has never been felt that they may be shot dead. I have learnt that non-Muslims comprise a majority of the CID staff in the country and they present to the government distorted versions. I am also grieved to see that the Hindu Press has presented this as a communal dispute between Hindus and Muslims while the fight is just against the government.”

An Amritsar based newspaper, Kashmir reported:

“The Hindu newspapers are vigorously making the propaganda that countless Hindu houses were looted during the recent disturbances but the facts is that not a single Hindu was put to loss. On the contrary, the Hindus joined with the police and the army caused searches of Muslim households and even stole their belongings. Earlier, lot of things belonging to the Muslims were recovered from the Dogra army stationed at Badami Bagh. Forced by the efforts of some Muslims, searches were started in the houses of the Pandits on August 2 and most of the things whose theft had been attributed to the Muslims were recovered. Lots of things stolen from Muslim neighbors were also recovered.”

Sir Iqbal’s Inquilab also published several instances of allegations of loot made by the Hindus and the allegedly stolen goods recovered from the procession of the complaints themselves. One Dugra Dass logged a complaint that goods worth ₹30,000 had been looted from his home but the goods were recovered in his own house after a tip off by an informer. In another case a Kashmir Pandit, Pandit Shiv Ram said goods worth ₹9,000 had been stolen from his home but during search goods worth₹6,000 were found hidden in his own home. Soon, Pandit Shiv Ram lodged another complaint about stolen goods, this time they were recovered from a false ceiling.

Even a sinister journalist like Gwasha Lal Koul, who was an active member of the Pandit community and on the payroll of the Dogras didn’t write anything about the alleged loot and attack on Pandit properties in his book Kashmir Then and Now.

A Prominent leader, Jai Lal Kilam, who wrote A History of Kashmiri Pandits in 1955 also doesn’t mention any loot or attack on the Pandit properties.

If there had been killings, rapes and arson, as some Pandits claim, then where is the documented proof? No names. No FIRs. Nothing. Many books have been written by Pandits around 1931 but you’ll not find any mention of such large scale rioting. It’s only after their migration in 1990 that some Kashmir Pandits have added fiction to facts and now celebrate 13 July as The Black Day.

About the Author

Arsalan

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A lover of everything Kashmir.