The History of Martyrs’ Day

July 19, 2021
Author: Dr. Ghulam N. Mir
July 13th is Martyrs’ Day – a day long remembered in Kashmir for those who have suffered or been killed by the ruling authorities in Kashmir. The date harkens back 90 years to 1931. It is a solemn moment to remember those who not only gave their lives in decades past, but those who, in recent years, have suffered and died at the hands of the ruling authorities.

The First Martyrs’ Day

On June 25, 1931, Abdul Qadeer Khan attended a protest against the Hindu perpetrated injustices against Muslims. He was arrested after a passionate and impromptu speech in which he called for those gathered to wage “relentless war against oppression.” He was charged with sedition and provocation to cause a riot.

At his trial in July, approximately 5,000 Muslims gathered in solidarity to observe the trial outside the Central Jail and demanded that Khan be released. By official order, 160 police charged the crowd with their batons, and fighting broke out between the two sides.

On that day, armed police opened fire on the assembled crowd. 22 Muslims were killed. The crowds buried the bodies in the graveyard at the Shrine of Khwaja Bahawuddin Naqshbandi, which has since been known as the Martyr’s Graveyard.

The movement for a free Kashmir was initiated on that day and continues at present.

A history of violence

Since the partition of India in 1947, four wars have been waged between India and Pakistan over the disputed lands of Jammu and Kashmir, the latest in 1999. Even when the nations are seemingly at peace, struggle persists in the region of Kashmir. Since 1989, anywhere from 40,000 to 1130,000 Kashmiris have been killed.

India’s police actions in the regions have further inflamed tensions. A popular commander for the Hizbul Mujahideen, Mohammad Ashraf Wani, was partially blinded by a hail of pellets from a police officer. Before his death in 2016, he believed India’s heavy-handed policing tactics were both counterproductive and actively inflaming tensions.

A lobbyist for pellet gun victims remarked on the violence, “Anyone here who sees their brother, sister, father, or mother in some ways abused by the state machinery creates a situation where the youth are so fed up that they will take to the streets and won’t care whether it’s a pellet that hits them or a bullet. Pakistan and India have turned Kashmir into a graveyard.”

After Wani’s death, over 6,000 people have suffered from pellet gun injuries.

The killing continues in the latest occupation

With the arrest, detention, and silencing of journalists in Kashmir, it can be difficult to get hard data on the number of those who have been killed since the August 5, 2019 abrogation of Article-370 and subsequent complete annexation of Kashmir by the Modi government. It is estimated that from August 2019 to August 2020, at least 227 have been killed by Indian forces– ten times the number of Kashmiris that that were killed in the rallies for Abdul Qadeer Khan 90 years ago Conditions have not improved in 2021 with 139 more killed since January 1st. If the violence continues at its current rate, it will exceed 2020’s numbers.

World Kashmiri Awareness Forum remembers the lost

It is the mission of the World Kashmiri Awareness Forum to bring light to the darkness and highlight the reality, the struggles, and the loss of lives that Kashmiris have experienced. We held a rally in Times Square in New York on July 11 to remember those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom as well as call for an immediate end to the occupation of Kashmir. Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum stated, “It was on July 13,1931 that the Dogra Hindu King’s troops shot dead 22 Kashmiri Muslims in cold blood in front of the Srinagar Central Jail. Now, Martyrs’ Day memorials include all those innocent victims who have been forcibly silenced by the Indian military and paramilitary forces since 1989.”

It is time for the violence to end, for the people of Kashmir to have their lives back, and for them to be freed from political violence and retribution. India must release all those who they’ve unlawfully detained so they can return to their families and to their lives.

The violence against Kashmiri Muslims has gone on for 90 years too long. It is time for our homeland to know peace.

We ask that you please take a moment of silence to remember the loss and pray for an end to the suffering.