Tuesday, July 13, 2010

13 July, 1931 in the pages of history...

Run a Google search for July 13, 1931 and Kashmir and you will be hard pressed to find one mention of Kashmiri Pandits.

Grand and nostalgic articles you will find – some call it ‘Martyrs Day’, some call it the ‘first day of the Freedom Struggle for Kashmir’…

21 Kashmiris (read Muslims whenever you read ‘Kashmiris’ in journalese) were ‘massacred’ by Dogra soldiers that day, not unlike the 15 Kashmiris killed by Indian security forces this past fortnight, due to their opening fire on demonstrators. This connection, of course, has ‘noted’ historians (whose only works of note according to Google have been predicting when Allah will bless Kashmir with azadi) waxing eloquent on how things have not changed – poor Kashmiris are still at the receiving end of the atrocities of Hindu/Indian governments.

Left to be tacitly understood is that these poor Kashmiri demonstrators of 1931, 1990, 2008 and 2010 - then as now, had and have all the right in the world to pelt stones at the security personnel, beat them and shoot them, not to mention riot, loot and kill people who just don’t feel like doing the same. How else can they express (and show to the world) the immeasurable frustration they feel? Listen to any of the Kashmiri separatists, representatives of the current Opposition in Kashmir (party doesn’t matter) or even any random stone-pelter talk and you will find yourself being asked to believe that even 5-6 year olds in Kashmir (who also pelt stones) have this frustration pounding in their veins. Never mind the phone tappings and video confessions of some of the same stone-pelters that explain, in nitty-gritty detail, just how these bloody protests come about.

So, coming back to July 13, 1931. The story has it that serendipitously, at a major Muslim political gathering of Kashmir on the preceding June 21st, the ‘true problems, demands and aspirations’ of the Muslims of Kashmir got expression in the speech of a totally “unknown, robust Pathan” named Abdul Qadeer Khan. This one speech, like others in the subsequent politics of Kashmir, drove the normal peace-loving people of Kashmir to a frenzy, as it talked about how the holy Quran and the teachings of Islam had been violated by the Hindu rulers of Kashmir and asked the people to fight this autocratic force. So it was at the arrest of this one person on July 13 that Kashmiris felt necessary to protest outside the Srinagar Central Jail. A few ‘notable’ people have wondered aloud just what would have happened to the struggle for Kashmir independence had not that priceless man, Abdul Qadeer Khan arrived on stage that fated day – never mind the probable theory that this ‘accidental speech’ had been meticulously planned by the British to destabilize the reign of Maharaja Hari Singh as a little punishment for his patriotic demand for Independence of India from the British in the Round Table Conference.

It is also interesting how these people have tried to have it both ways - on the one hand they vociferously shouted out Allah-o-Akbar along with their demands of justice from the Maharaja and on the other they totally denied that the subsequent protests that took place in Srinagar, Vicharnag, Ananatnag and Shopian were in any way communal in colour. The Khatri traders of Maharajgunj were looted by crores; Hindu shops from Bohrikadal to Alikadal were raided and burnt, the Tribune reports Hindu boys returning from school being hurled into the river Jhelum, and there was general loot, murder and rape (yes murder and rape too) of the Kashmiri Pandits almost simultaneously in Srinagar and Vicharnag – but no, this was not communal. This was, as Yasin Malik will explain to you any day, a purely social problem caused solely by the economic disparity between the majority (poor illiterate Muslims) and the minority (rich educated Hindus). Kashmiris can just not be communal, get it? At any given time they are either secular or in one of the various colours of Kashmiriyat - which can come into the picture whenever you give food (and not attack) an Amarnath pilgrim or quote Lal Ded.

Hopefully now you understand why you don’t get Kashmiri Pandits when you search the web for Kashmir and July 13, 1931. 60 years hence you will probably find that January 19, 1990 was also just another day of turmoil in Kashmir – nothing too notable about it. Another day when Kashmiris found the oppression of just being in India too much to bear and hence resorted to release their pent up energies in whatever ways they could. Nothing else.

- Radhika Koul. The author is an undergraduate student of Yale University.


Maria Malhotra said...

Hi! I appreciate your effort.

Anonymous said...

thanks to jagmohan, we dont have pandits in kashmir anymore.

Shuja said...

Radhika I have two small things to ask:
1. If your assertion about Maharaja’s love for independence from British rule is correct, shouldn’t he have been the first to join independent India. What was he doing till 27th October?
2. How does shouting of Allah o Akbar make anything communal? Don’t we ask for God’s help whenever we embark on something great or even in our day to day lives? Is use of “Durga Mata ki Jai” or “Jo bolay so nihal” or even “Allah o Akbar” by Indian armed forces during times of war communal? I think these are signs of desperation that we turn to Gods in such situations.
Expecting to hear from you at least about first query.

Anonymous said...

@Shuja: 1. Maharaja was contemplating which way to take as Jammu and Kashmir had different demography. That is why he waited.

2. "Allah-ho-Akbar" (or “Durga Mata ki Jai”) become communal when it is shouted while attacking people of other community in particular.