Who was Abdul Qadeer Khan?

Qadeer was an ordinary and emotional Kashmiri. He was as ignorant of the situation as anybody else. But he was deeply religious and happened to be a very good orator.

Zahir-ud-Din

On July 13, twenty two people fell to bullets outside Srinagar central Jail. A large number of people had gathered outside the jail to express solidarity with Abdul Qadeer Khan who was arrested for delivering fiery speech against Maharaja Hari Singh at Shah-e-Hamdan’s Shrine on June 21, 1931. Qadeer’s trial was held inside the jail premises for security reasons.

July 13 is considered a turning point in state’s history. It, therefore, becomes necessary to have a clear understanding of the incident. Historians and commoners believe Kashmir erupted when the Holy Quran was desecrated by a constable at Jammu. But was the Holy Book really desecrated?

On April 19, 1931 when an Imam was delivering the Eid sermon in a Municipal Park at Jammu, a police constable, Chowdhury Ram Chand intervened and directed the Imam to refrain from delivering the sermon. The Muslims took it seriously and registered strong protest.  The incident, however, went un-noticed in Srinagar. When the news reached Srinagar, the situation in Jammu had pacified.

Late Professor Noor-ud-Din has written in his diary that the leaders of the Reading Room Party pondered and decided to stage a similar drama at Jammu. Noted historian, Shabnam Qayoom also makes a mention of Noor-ud-Din’s diary in his Kashmir ka Siyasi Inqilaab, page 50, Vol 1:   “A plan was devised to stage a similar drama to evoke strong public reaction in Srinagar. A Muslim constable was taken into confidence by the members of young Man’s Association, Jammu. Posters were kept ready.  Constable Sheikh Muhammad Ismaiel accused his Hindu colleague of desecrating the Quran and violent protests broke out in Jammu and Srinagar.”

The Reading Room Party and young Man’s Association authored drama evoked the desired reaction in Srinagar. A series of lectures were delivered by Moulvi Abdullah Vakil, Munshi Naseer, Moulvi Bashir and Ghulam Nabi Gilkar. This is when Sheikh Abdullah was introduced to the public for the first time.

Qadeer’s son, Abdul Saboor Khan, who is very much alive and lives in Islamabad, Pakistan talked to a Valley based columnist, Peer Mairaj-ud-Din in 2007. He said:  “A function was held at Khankah-e-Moula on June 21, 1931. Muslims from all schools of thought participated. A large number of women also attended the function. The Muslim leadership forged unity. A committee comprising of seven members was formed to take the struggle forward.  The members included Saad-ud-Din Shawl, Mirwaiz Moulvi Yusuf Shah, Mirwaiz Ahmadullah Hamdani, Aga Syed Hasan Jalali, Khawaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Munshi Shuhab-ud-Din. When the leaders dispersed, my father appeared on the podium and started chanting slogans against Hindus.”

In his fiery speech, Qadeer said: “Listen. Time has come when we have to act. Requests and memoranda will serve no purpose at this point of time. It will not end tyranny and it will not end desecration of Quran. Stand up upon your legs and fight the tyrant rulers.” He pointed towards Raj Mahal (Palace) and said: “Raze it to the ground.”

A question arises? Who was Qadeer and was he aware of the drama? People do not know much about the hero of 1931 uprising. Some say he was a disciple of Jamal-ud-Din Afghani who had come to Kashmir on a special mission. However, no proof has been given in support of this. According to Shabnam Qayoom, Qadeer had roots in Meerut. “I have travelled all the way to Meerut and talked to people. They said Qadeer left when he was a young boy”, he said. However, this version has also devoid of any proof.

The Islamabad columnist (quoted above) had a detailed interview with Saboor Khan. According to him Qadeer was a Kashmiri and worked as a cook with a Britisher.  “We are descendents of Afghans who migrated to Kashmir some three hundred years ago and settled at Gutli Bagh near Ganderbal. Our relatives still live there”, he said.

Qadeer married a woman from Bandipora who later gave birth to Saboor Khan.  Saboor was very young when Qadeer died and “was buried at a place between Gonikhan and Lal Ded hospital.” No effort has been made by any quarter till date to locate his grave.

Professor Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah of Hathi Khan Mohalla, who passed away last week, said that before joining higher education department he was in police for a brief stint. “One day I was going through a file when a man with a wheatish complexion walked into my office. My colleagues simply ignored him. After some time, he introduced himself as Qadeer’s brother.  I looked at him curiously. He was wearing a ring on right ear. Qadeer was a household name in Kashmir then. I offered him a chair and ordered tea for him. He had come to my office regarding some problems in his job; he was an employee in the police department.  Since in Kashmir a non-state subject can’t get a job, particularly in those times when the state subject law was strictly enforced, it is clear that Qadeer was a Kashmiri.”  

So Qadeer was an ordinary and emotional Kashmiri. He was as ignorant of the situation as anybody else. But he was deeply religious and happened to be a very good orator.  He was not aware of the drama that was staged to shake the conscience of the people.  Here it may be mentioned that Sher-e-Kashmir did not like him at all. So his closeness, rather association with the leadership has to be ruled out. The drama must have been a closely guarded secret and with Sher-e-Kashmir around, nobody could afford to leak it to a `foreigner’.
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