Rendezvous with a martyr

Sorry for launching the movement in 1931. Had we not launched it, Kashmir would have been free today

In March 2007 while doing research for my book ‘Unsung heroes of Kashmir’, I interviewed an old man who had fought the Dogras during 40s. He passed a remark that shook me. “Had we not launched a movement against Dogra rule in 1931, Kashmir would have been free today.” I did not agree with him because I hold the persons who showed resistance at any point of time in high esteem. But that night, I had an encounter with a martyr of July 13, 1931 in my dream. I was forced to change my opinion.

Slowly I walked in the martyrs’ graveyard at Naqashband Sahib’s shrine. I stood near a grave and recited Qum Beiznillah (Get up with Allah’s permission).  A martyr wearing a neat and clean shroud came out. Blood was still oozing out of his wounds. He had been sleeping in his grave for seven decades but the shroud was neat and clean. “And those who die in the way of Allah, do not consider them dead………” (Al Baqra).

I wished him and he wished me as well. He wanted to go to Shah-e-Hamdan’s shrine.  We reached the shrine in a jiffy.  He went inside while I waited at the main gate. “I came here with a purpose. I want to convey to the people of Kashmir (through you) that the movement was the struggle of Muslims in 1931 and it continues to be so. Those who believe people of the state irrespective of the faith they profess are involved in it are mistaken.”  

He had made a valid point. Sher-e-Kashmir tried his best to involve non-Muslims in the struggle. He was successful in getting only eighteen of them on board. Barring Sardar Budh Singh all of them left him one by one. While the leftist elements joined new groups others were neutralized by giving them jobs.

The present leadership also tried hard to get some non-Muslims to project a `secular’ face of the movement. All of them failed. However, it does not mean that the non-Muslims cannot exercise their right of self-determination. It is available to Jammu Hindus. It is also available to Ladakh Buddhists even if their total population is less than the number of people living in Batmaloo area of Srinagar city.

The martyr wanted to go around the city. I had no option but to follow him. He stopped near Basant Bagh and looked curiously around. “What has happened here?” I told him 52 persons fell to bullets on January 21, 1990 when they were marching towards Chotta Bazaar area where some women had been molested during a search operation by the troops. Tears rolled down his cheeks. “This is a bigger incident than the July 13 massacre”, he said.

The martyr asked questions about leadership, detainees, judiciary and the martyrs. It took me some time to explain things to him. During my interaction Public Safety Act (PSA) was also discussed. When I told him it empowers the state to detain a person for two years without trial, he looked directly into my eyes making me nervous. When I told him about the indiscriminate and reckless use of the draconian legislation, he hung his head for a while. “There was no such legislation in Hari Singh’s regime”, he said.

He was all praise for Hari Singh for upholding the supremacy of judiciary. “We would be produced before a magistrate after arrest. Court orders were always honoured”, he said.

I had many surprises for the martyr. I told him about 10,000 enforced disappearances, about rapes and molestation, fake encounters, custodial killings, forced labour and large scale destruction of property. He sighed. “During Hari Singh’s rule nobody was subjected to enforced disappearance. Nobody got killed in a fake encounter. There were no extra-judicial executions”, he revealed.

By now the martyr had started taking pity on me. Soon we reached the erstwhile Municipal Park. He saw a group of women registering protest. I told him they were `half-widows’ and their children seeking whereabouts of their disappeared husbands. I also told him they cannot remarry or inherit from the husband’s estate unless their disappeared husbands are declared dead. Two pearls came out of his eyes. He left and I followed him.

The journey to Lal Chowk made him smile for the first time. “Nothing has changed here except this `deformed’ bridge. He was referring to not so new Amira Kadal. He had made a point once again. He conveyed there had been no development since 1931. 

 
He showed interest in post 1931 political developments. I did the explaining to the best of my ability and knowledge. I told him about conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference. I told him about revival of Muslim Conference, visit of Quid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Quit Kashmir Movement, migration of Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, state’s accession to Indian union, draconian Defence of India Rules, Sher-e-Kashmir’s arrest, Bakhshi take over, Plebiscite Front, theft of Holy Relic and the 1975 accord.  

 
I also told him about Sher-e-Kashmir’s death, 1987 elections, start of militancy and the developments of past two decades. He looked disturbed. He wanted to say something but chose to remain mum. “Take me to the martyrs’ graveyard”, he requested.

Soon we were in sprawling Eidgah grounds. The number of graves shocked him. He offered fatehah. Sun was about to set and the martyr wanted to reach his heavenly abode before dusk. So we rushed to Naqashband Sahib’s shrine. Before entering his grave he said: “Sorry for having launched the movement in 1931. Had we not launched it, Kashmir would have been free today.” I stood shocked as he entered the grave. He waved me good bye. “Do come again”, he said. He disappeared and I woke up.

Surprisingly nobody was exiled during Hari Singh’s rule. Saad-ud-Din Shawl, a prominent businessman and his friend were exiled in 1924 by the King. However, as soon as Hari Singh ascended to the throne, he pardoned both of them. They came back.

On the contrary all the dissidents were exiled in 25 years starting November 1947. Most of them could not come back.
It took Hari Singh just three months to probe the July 13 massacre. Galancy Commission report was made public which present day democratic rulers never do. He also permitted a `fundamentalist’ organisation like Ahrar to have an on the spot assessment of the developments in Kashmir.

In democratic rule, the Amnesty International was allowed to visit Kashmir after two decades and when leaders and human rights defenders had made around 20,000 appeals for the purpose.

Today happens to be March 16. This day in 1846 we were sold by the so-called greatest democracy to the Dogras for 7.5 million Nanak Shahi Sikay. Notwithstanding the massive oppression during the 100 year Dogra rule, Kashmiris today hear only wails, see only dead and smell only blood.

Feed back at din.zahir@gmail.com
Box
The martyr asked questions about leadership, detainees, judiciary and the martyrs. It took me some time to explain things to him. During my interaction Public Safety Act (PSA) was also discussed. When I told him it empowers the state to detain a person for two years without trial, he looked directly into my eyes making me nervous.