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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 31, New Delhi, July 18, 2020

Why Kashmiris missed a heartbeat on July 13 | Mohammad Sayeed Malik

Friday 17 July 2020

by Mohammad Sayeed Malik

[Editor’s note: Mohammed Syed Malik may well be the most senior journalist in Kashmir today. A long serving Special Correspondent in Srinagar of the now defunct Delhi-based national daily newspaper Patriot and Link Newsweekly, he also had a stint as Director, Information and Public relations in the government of the undivided state in the 1970s. Malik posted this on this Facebook page on 13 July, 2020. It recalls a turning point in the history of the region. It immediately evoked a massive response from people from all sides of the political divides in the valley. We publish his Facebook post, and some of the more relevant responses]

For the third time in the past 10 months, since August 5, 2019, Kashmiris in the Valley will today miss a heartbeat when, for the first time since 1947 the revered Mazar e Shuhda in downtown Srinagar would wear an officially enforced deserted look.
Even after a parallel ‘Mazare Shuhda’ came up at sprawling Eid Gah in 1990s in the wake of militancy the original one located in the downtown courtyard at Naqshband Saheb Shrine retained its undiminished emotional appeal as well as its mainstream political clout.

At the official level, the Martyrs’ day ceremony would be done with fanfare. Wreaths used to be placed and flower petals showered on the marked graves of the 22 ‘Shaheed’ who fell to the bullets of the Maharaja’s forces in 1931 outside Srinagar central jail.
Sheikh Abdullah’s autobiography, Blazing Chinar, is dedicated to the memory of ‘one of the 22 martyrs who was still alive and breathing and held my hand asking me to carry forward the mission’’

Significantly, this very sentence is invoked by Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad on the floor of the constituent assembly during the debate on having a separate flag for the J&K state along with the national flag. He said that having a separate flag would redeem our pledge to the 1931 martyrs. This fact is mentioned by Syed Mir Qasim in his biography, Dastan e Hayat (my life story) while elaborately quoting the house proceedings of the day, including recitation of an anthem to venerate the state’s own flag. The anthem was written by Maulana Mohammad Sayeed Masoodi.

This is perhaps the only occasion when someone in the leadership had sought to directly link the two events: Yom e shuhda and the state flag to underline their mutual significance

August 5 had set off the process for constitutional denudation of J&K, in crass disregard for the sentiment in Kashmir Valley, with abrogation of the J&K Constitution along with that of the Art 370. Valley remains under a suffocating tight leash since then.
Locally, the most visible symbol of Kashmir’s (largely notional) autonomy was the erstwhile State’s separate official flag fluttering atop the secretariat building along with the Tricolour.

That state flag was taken down in indecent haste early in September last year even as the federal constitutional steam roller was due to swing into action only by October end.
Unceremonious removal of the red colour state flag from the secretariat building came as a rude shock to the people in the Valley and social networks overflowed with injured sentiment.

Then came the order erasing Yom e Shuhda (martyrs’ day) from the official calendar and abolishing gazetted holiday on that day. Today, it would be the first time when the people in Kashmir would miss the elaborate sarkari and non-sarkari fanfare with which tributes used to be paid to 22 martyrs shot down near Srinagar Central Jail by the Maharaja’s forces.

The State’s constitutional denudation last year has brought in its wake a new charter that not only downgrades the official status of ’July 13’ but also specifically drops it out of the state holiday list.

This carefully calculated snub has a long history starting from 1930s when a popular movement was launched against Maharaja’s autocracy. Principal Kashmiri characters of this long drama are no more. But their recorded account makes an interesting case much of which is either not known or only partially known

As both, the flag and official status of ‘Yom e Shuhda’ are history now it would be appropriate to visit the history as recorded by dramatis personae. Accordingly, I have picked up two memoires, of Sheikh Abdullah and Syed Mir Qasim who in their lifetime belonged to two different shadows of Kashmir’s complex and complicated politics
Qasim, effectively a post-1947 political leader, his memoires, Dastan e Hayat, deals more with the history of the state flag issue while Sheikh’s autobiography, Blazing Chinar (Aatish e Chinar) , encompasses more than half a century of Kashmir politics of which he was the tallest symbol until his demise in 1982

Significantly, Sheikh has touched upon the insinuation that their agitation and its bloody aftermath on July 13, 1931 were tainted with communal violence. While acknowledging occurrence of ‘a few minor incidents of rioting in a downtown locality, the book described it as a minor incident being blown up falsely.

Only the time will tell whether the official eclipse of (1931) Mazar e Shuhda that commemorated popular struggle against the Maharaja’s autocracy would, among other things, inevitably boost the prestige of its parallel Mazar e Shuda that stands out as a living symbol of anti-India militancy. Ironically, two prominent leaders Mirwaiz Maulana Farooq and Abdul Ghani Lone who were assassinated by ‘unidentified gunmen’ also lie buried in this very Shaheed Mazar.

Comments
• Naheed Amin Martyrs’ day 13th July: in memory of the precious Kashmiri lives lost until day but dearly remembered forever 🙏
• Faisal Mohammad Ali Many try to erase old symbols and create new ones to perpetuate one kind of narrative but would they succeed?! All struggles against autocracy needs to be celebrated and not erased. Here is a link of what I wrote during one of my visits to the valley, though it’s in Hindi. Somehow am not able to find the video of it. https://www.bbc.com/.../12/141218_kashmir_graveyard_fma_pk
• Humaira Gowher Well said... I didn’t know some of these historical events... connection between flag and the martyrs !
Thank you !
• Rattan Kaul Sad events over decades in fact nearly 90 years. These 90 years have added many pages of different hues to the history of Kashmir: Golden, Black, Red, White. No single leader accepted his own failings, played to the gallery where his own interests became more important than his responsibility to the people. The two factions, religious and political, never accepted the need of joining together.
At the drop of hat they would hold countries name, more to exploit it, threaten, when they found their marginalisation. Ever since 1985 none of the leaders were sincere.
The degree of change and respect, gained and lost, is best narrated hereunder.
When SMA WA arrested. There was turmoil. When BGM was there, there was euphoria of progress, when SMA was released their was rejoicing, massive processions. When both died, same very people tried to desecrate their graves. Maulvi Farook was killed so was Ghani Lone, by the people who were sympathised by them. Yet they are bracketed with gun yielded Shodas. Most of it I watched as a young boy. See how I would have felt when my college mate Maulvi Farook was killed.
There is a Kashmiri proverb which I used to hear in my childhood.
"Koshur chu dulokoot yot kun daka dius tot kun gache".
As far as India is concerned, to my mind reference, directly or indirectly, can be related to following incident.
Chester Bowels was US ambassador to India-1975. I was doing higher course in Wellington. He came to address us. At the end one Indian officer amongst us for up and under the guise of asking question started with criticism of US regarding relations with India. After sometime Chester asked him "have you finished". As the questioner sat down, Chester boomed; "India cannot have PL 480 from US and simultaneously kick our arses". Pin drop silence.
Ayub had operation Gibraltar to induct gun culture in the State. It failed. How did we import gun culture in recent decades.
Both countries have been held to ransom and exploited. One wants Ilhaq, another keep it. Attitudes have definitely changed here. Though I have my reservations on recent happenings, much to my dislike and thinking, people themselves have to take burden of such negativity. It is Quid Pro Quid. The role of Mirpuris pre 47, role of State post 47 towards one division cannot be forgotten.🤔
Thanks for reminding this day, which is replaced by different days now.
Ask today’s young generation, they will give you wry smile. For them it is today the 21st Century Shodas. Same is the case with Jammu, they have their Shodas. Ask Rajputs who migrated to Mirpur migrated from Jammu, their Sodhas.
o Mohammad Sayeed Malik As usual your response has a perspective. And I value its historical context. Much of what you have said about shifting minds and attitudes of people is true. But, in my opinion, that is not the whole truth. There is an other side of the story. Aam admi ’s instinct of survival in this kind of quick-sands environment necessarily entails an element of seemingly strange behaviour vis a vis men as well as matters. Leaders hallowed today, rendered hollow the following day. Also, the powers over there in New Delhi never play straight. At times even at the cost of larger good of our nation. The melting pot of Kashmir is also full of ironies. One of them being, as you have pointed out, and my post too hints at, is the assassination of Abdul Ghani Lone and Mirwaiz Farooq and the choice of their final rest place.
• Nighat Hafiz Ours is cracked history with contradictory narratives that are confusing. One thing seems clear, even after what we have gone through , we the people of Kashmir want an immediate change from what we are held in.
• Niyaz Chapoo Marty’s never die, nor are forgotten by its nation. The union betrayed Kashmir every time, and used the Political puppetism as tool to legalise and prolong occupation. Aug 5 2019, proved the decision to be with union was disaster and Qaid Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah RA was correct in his vision of two nation theory. Truth shall win and Falsehood perish Insha’Allah
• Qurrat Ul Ain Erasing and nullifying history by the" changed regime" cannot negate and abolish historical truths that are recorded and accepted by its people .It may prevent its celebrations for some time but not for ever. Distorting history is denying history.
• Kamal Chenoy Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris. But much of what was built in Kashmir over centuries, is the precious heritage of the Kashmiri peoples. Removing Article 370 will not matter when Kashmiriyat is still solid and is deeply embedded. Modi and company cannot stifle the heritage of Kashmir. This heritage is pan Indian sweeping even over Kashmiri history. May this beautiful Vale always be blessed!
• Brij Bhardwaj Kashmir freedom struggle against maharaja rule was linked with Indian freedom struggle by Jawahar Lal Nehru. This link is being broken by BJP..
• Iftikhar Gilani Pakistan administered Kashmir govt observed it today first time with gaiety and fervour. With police guard of honour.. This is another aspect of this tragedy that national day of Kashmiris shifting from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad..
• John Dayal Hari Singh, his wife, and his father were despots and tyrants in the medieval style. Much has come the light of their rule, carefully hidden earlier. And their role on the Jammu massacres. The British cannot escape responsibility.
• Brp Bhaskar Judging by the Supreme Court’s verdict today in the Travancore temple case, it appears to me if Karan Singh approaches the SC it may recognise him as the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir.
• Iftikhar Gilani John Dayal Stories that our grandfathers and grandmothers have narrated about this rule are chilling. Forced labour, no avenues for education, heavy taxation and life sentence for possession of beef are just few examples that Kashmiris have suffered during this tyrannical regime of ancestors of Karan Singh.
• John Dayal Iftikhar Gilani the massacre of Muslims at partition and accession — there really has been no accounting. The feudals, owing allegiance to the King-Emperor in London, were all despots, Kashmir, Hyderabad, Travancore, Gwalior, Mysore. As were the princelings within the British India boundaries, down to the smallest landlords, Rai Bahadur or Talukdar. The freedom struggle for the poor was as much from the British as it was for freedom from all these maharajas and rajas. And we seem to be back to that again.

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