THIRTEENTH July was observed throughout the world as Martyrs’ Day. The day has a special significance in the history of Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom. On this day, in the year 1931, 22 Kashmiris sacrificed their lives to express their resentment against the despotic rule.
Several events served as a prelude to this fateful day. These included a ban on prayer-leader (Imam) Munshi Mohammad Ishaque to deliver Eid sermon in the Municipal Park of Jammu, desecration of holy Quran, and also trial (in camera) of Kashmiri youth Abdul Qadeer by the Dogra’s kangaroo court. Qadeer’s offence was that he had pointed his finger towards maharajah’s palace and shouted: “destroy its every brick”.
The July 13 event happened in spite of Dogra rulers’ efforts to gag Kashmiris’ voice during the preceding period (1846 to 1931). The struggle for freedom continued in the post-1931 period. It baffles one’s imagination how Kashmiris have sustained their spirit of resistance despite about 162 years of oppression (Dogra rule 1846-1947 to India’s raj, 1947 onwards). India marched its forces into the Valley and annexed Kashmir on October 27, 1947. The self-conceited basis for India’s aggression was a fake instrument of accession. The world community does not recognise this so-called accession instrument. As such, the United Nations granted the right of self-determination to the Kashmiri. This right is enshrined in the UN’s resolutions of 1948 and 1949.
Let us have a glimpse of the Dogra’s reign of terror in Kashmir. To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the Dogra punished even Kashmiri children who played with fork-slings (ghulail) and stones (Muhammad Yousaf Saraf, Kashmiris Fight for Freedom, vol. 1, p. 50). Under the Dogra rule, the Kashmiri were treated no better than beasts of burden. Instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used to transport goods across Gilgit, Leh and Skardu. They carried luggage on their backs across glaciers as high as 17,000 feet. Thousands of them perished along the way each year owing to frostbites, fall from a precipice, and hunger or sickness. The Dogra caravans were not humane enough to stop for a while in the snowy passes to look after the injured porters (or ‘human beasts of burden’). Besides performing the forced labour, the Kashmiri had to pay heavy taxes. The whole of their produce was confiscated by the Dogra. Little was left for tillers and their children to eat. On every item, the oppressed Kashmiri had to pay multiple taxes. Take shawls. Not only the shawl-makers were taxed, but also the other intermediaries like importers of pashmina (wool) from Ladakh, and storekeepers, whether wholesalers or retailers (ibid. p. 280-81).
The regressive revenue system resulted in famine during the winter of 1877. People began to die of starvation. Instead of releasing grain stocks from the royal go-downs, the maharajah’s constabulary drowned the starved, crying people in the Wullar Lake. Saraf writes: “Whole boat-loads of starving people have been conveyed by the maharajah’s officials to the Woolar Lake, and there drowned” (ibid. p. 294).
The reign of terror by Indian forces (now estimated at over seven lac regulars and security personnel) who replaced the maharajah’s constabulary on October 27, 1947, is no less gruesome. International human rights organisations, as well as India’s National Human Rights Commission, have brought into limelight the Kashmiri’s mysterious disappearances, their custodial deaths, and countless rapes of hapless Kashmiri women.
Like the Dogra, Indian rulers are mercilessly exploiting Kashmiris’ economic resources. The bulk of locally-generated electricity is being diverted to Indian states. The tourism industry is in shambles. Highly – educated people have no jobs. With no inflow of tourists, the shopkeepers have no business. Unlike the occupied Kashmir, all the socio-economic sectors in Azad Kashmir are progressing by leaps and bounds.
Toynbee’s Challenge and Response Theory suggests that if the challenge is too strong, a nation becomes apathetic. Ibn-e-Khaldoon’s Asabiya (spirit of national cohesion) also suggests that a nation’s spirit is likely to be smothered by a challenge which is too heavy. Historical lessons do not apply to the Kashmiri’s struggle. Neither Indians nor the Dogra could gag them. The struggle for freedom has continued unabated despite centuries of oppression.
The lesson from Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom is that repression or palliatives like elections in occupied Kashmir are no good. India shall have to allow the Kashmiris to exercise their right of self-determination.
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). His article `Rampant corruption in India’ is archived with Transparency International, `Belt-Road initiative moderndiplomacy.eu‘, with Kennedy Centre, USA, `Chanakya’s Misprint on India’s foreign policy” with People’s Review Nepal.