1931: An Untold Story of Anantnag

Twenty one Muslims died on the spot in this firing and many were injured

Farhana Rakshand
Publish Date: Jul 13 2013 12:00PM

The year was 1924. In one of the districts of Kashmir, Islamabad (Anantnag), clashes between two different religious groups started. Needless to say, it also started taking a heavy toll on the state of mind of Kashmiris.
On 2nd June 1924, in the same district, at Sherbagh, the Muslim community thought of building a Chabutara (Pigeon-Tower) around a Chinar tree. They wanted to use it as a place to offer prayers in future. All the men and women of the district got together in building that sacred place. Their first task was to fetch stones from the hill close to Sherbagh. However, on 22nd June, people from the other community informed Maharaja Pratap Singh, the then King of Kashmir, about this and requested him not to grant permission for construction. On 27th June 1924, Maharaja Pratap Singh sent one of his ministers to take stock of the situation. Finally, a decision was made and word was sent to the localities that the idea of building the Chabutra should be dropped. It was a unanimous decision of the Maharaja’s court.
On 23rd September 1925, Maharaja Pratap Singh passed away and Maharaja Hari Singh ascended the throne of J&K followed by grand celebrations held in all the govt. and private offices of the valley. Here, for information purposes, I would like to mention that on 10th March 1931, Karan Singh (son of Maharaja Hari Singh) was born.
During the reign of Maharaja Hari Singh, on 13th July 1931 an incident of gun fire took place at the Central Jail.
The result was unrest and resentment in the mind of people against the Dogra rule. The people in Anantnag district were in constant touch with the people from Srinagar, eagerly waiting for any news. They wanted to show their support towards Kashmiris in Srinagar. (Arrest of Muslim Leaders, Temporary Truce, etc.)
On 23 September 1931, panic spread in the town of Anantnag and it seemed something bad was about to happen. The look on the faces of people of other communities made that uncertainty even more evident. During the course of the day, people were coming back from Jamia Masjid Ziyarat Reshi after praying Asar. In order to show their unity and strength, some people, including the youth, gathered in the premises of Jamia Masjid to take a procession to Lal Chowk against the above mentioned events. All the Namazis joined them and started marching from the premises of Jamia Masjid, reciting the Takbir - Allah-o-Akbar.
On way, people started joining the procession. Meanwhile, they planned to offer Magreb and Isha in Eidgah. Finally the procession reached Lal Chowk. About that time, magistrate Rogh Nath Matoo, who was known for his notoriety, along with the Dogra police intercepted the procession and ordered them not to go to Eidgah. The people then decided to go to Malakh Nagh Masjid and offer Namaz there only, and once prayers were over the procession would disperse. Since the streets leading to Malakh Nag were narrow, the procession had to turn back. Now, this left the people leading the procession as the last ones in the group. Meanwhile, Rogh Nath Matoo, along with the army, followed the procession and cordoned off the exits. Some people believed that Rogh Nath Matoo had planned a mass killing; the crowd did not have any place to disperse and run away.
Now, tension in the procession built up and people wanted to break away from the main body of the procession. However, the Dogra army stopped them. In the procession there was one Ali M. Reshi, my 18 year old maternal cousin. He was a young and educated man. He told one of the cops named Umara Khan that people wanted to leave the procession and return to their homes, so cops should give way to them. However, Khan did not listen to him and an argument perused between them. At that moment, Rogh Nath Matoo gave a signal to one of his cops, and the cop shot seven bullets at my cousin. Seeing this, my real brother, Ghulam Ahmed Cheppu, ran forward to hold him but that cop shot him also, in his head. People started to run frantically and about then, the Dogra police started firing at people. Twenty one Muslims died on the spot in this firing and many were injured.
After this incident the Dogra police went towards the temples of Baghordi Andarnagh, Kadipora. They spotted a man on the way. He was considered to be a righteous and pious man. When Kabir Sahib saw the police force coming towards him, he tried to run, but they shot at him.
The number of causalities went to 22. Since correct data is not available, the actual numbers could have been even more.
 I do know a lot of other people who died in the firing that day as they were from other places of the district. If anyone wants to know their names, they can see the names on the gravestones in the graveyard. I remember distinctly one baker, who was trying to pull down his shutter but was shot dead by Dogra police. There was one more person, whose name I do not recall, was also shot dead; he was on duty as a guard with the police.
 The dead bodies were scattered all over the street at Lal Chowk. A well-known person, Wali Deen, with the help of others brought the dead bodies to Masjid Shah. Our home was near the Mosque so the dead bodies of my brother and cousin were brought to our place.
It was 25th Sept. Sheikh M Abdullah and other Muslim members including Maulvi M Yousuf Shah paid visit to the martyrs who were brought to Zeeyarat Reshi for burial.
Two well known doctors, Ms. Gomery and Ms. Coverder, from the Missionary hospital (est. 1885), helped the injured people. They took good care of them and helped save many human lives. People from Anantnag should never forget this act of kindness and dedication towards serving those who are in need.
 Since we were ruled by the British at that time, an Englishman named Glency came to Anantnag on 25th Oct. To enquire about what had happened. Sheikh M Abdullah accompanied him and narrated the incident to him with the help of the people of Anantnag.
Only few people know about this incident in Kashmir, leave alone India or the world. Every year, on 13th July we observe Martyrs Day but nobody exactly knows or remembers the people of Anantnag who laid their lives for freedom. The fact is that even people from Anantnag are not fully aware of this incident that actually took place on 23rd Sept. 1931. I have written this for people, especially from Anantnag, to remember and observe 23rd September as Martyrs Day instead of 13th July.
{Originally written in Urdu by the author’s father late Abdur Rehman Siddiqui (Cheppu)}

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