Mir Ghulam Hassan Kanth was the first person the Dogra regime in Kashmir put into custody on July 13, 1931 when its soldiers gunned down 22 people outside the Central Jail in Srinagar.
Born in 1894, Kanth owned a handicrafts business, and had, since 1927, also been visiting the Risalpora Cantonment (now in Pakistan) with his three companions, Khizr Muhammad of Chattabal (aka Aladdin), Ali Muhammad (Sunshine Alley) and one of the Qazi Brothers of Rainawari, to sell his products.
One of their customers was an English officer of the Yorkshire Regiment.
The officers’ corps usually used their cooks and peons as mediators with the traders.
It was here that Kanth met Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man who changed the course of Kashmir history on June 21, 1931.
Having developed a friendship, Qadeer had met Kanth shortly before his historic speech at the Khanaqah-e-Mu’alla in Srinagar that day, a fiery speech that made him the most wanted man in Kashmir.
He was arrested on July 7, and immediately put on trial in a special court set up inside the Central Jail in Srinagar.
A large number of people had assembled outside the prison, demanding a public trial for Qadeer, but soldiers opened fire on the crowd, killing 22 persons on the spot.
One of Kanth’s brothers-in-law, Ghulam Nabi Shah Kalwal, was among those killed, and he (Kanth) himself arrested along with another, Peerzada Ghulam Rasool.
Both were released after some time.
Kanth joined the Muslim Conference as a volunteer till 1938, and stayed with the organisation till it was converted into the National Conference in 1938.
Kanth involved his seven nephews, Badrudin Handoo, Ghulam Mohiudin Handoo, Abdul Salam Matoo, Ghulam Rasool Matoo, Peerzada Ali Shah, Peer Mohammad, Yusuf Shah (Manky) and Abdul Ahad Shah, in the freedom struggle.
In 1955, he joined the Plebiscite Front along with his nephews, and also supported the Political Conference.
Kanth is one of the few persons to be arrested by Hari Singh as well as the succeeding regimes of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad and GM Sadiq for his political activities.
In 1975, when Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah entered into an Accord with Indira Gandhi, he gave up politics.
Mir Ghulam Hassan Kanth passed away in 1996 at the age of 102, leaving behind a treasure trove of rare books and photographs related to the Kashmir conflict.