July 13: Understanding the Significance of the Day

The July 13 (Martyrs Day in Jammu and Kashmir) has figured in the agenda and ideological project of political parties in a manner which is partisan and less contested by academia and scholarly community.
July 13: Understanding the Significance of the Day
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The July 13 (Martyrs Day in Jammu and Kashmir) has figured in the agenda and ideological project of political parties in a manner which is partisan and less contested by academia and scholarly community. The apparent endeavor for exclusive ownership of the sacrifices of martyrs by political formations in a specific context of feudal oppression supported by colonial state does more harm than good to the cause of common people who offered their blood and according to William Wakefield "bore their wounds on their chests rather than their backs". Historiography as a discipline has moved away albeit with lot of criticism from the influence of nationalist historiography and crude Marxism .It also needs to break from history writing which is sentimental and inspirational. This type of history writing is proving dangerous to what subalterns call the importance of "stitching together histories of the people(S)". History from below marks a reaction against accounts mainly focused on socio-political and the religious elites.

Contextual Frame

Eric Hobsbawn the great Marxist historian stated that "nationalist historians have often been servants of ideologies". He observed that history as "inspiration and ideology has built-in-tendency to become a self-justifying myth. Nothing is more dangerous than the history of modern nations and nationalism". Rajive Bhargave a leading political theorist refers to the play of lies and distortions in the birth and growth of nations. Much of the post colonial rigidities in South Asian history writing have to account for the rise of a militarist psychology hampering emancipatory potential of grassroots movements. Their counterpoints are the flexibilities of our older history and histories. Those flexibilities are still here, in the region –but often not at the level of politics, diplomacy, current history or state to state relations but at the level of people's history. Piecing together such history has potential to heal wounds inflicted by political tragedies. This is important once we understand that dehistorization of human beings is not possible. Edward Saeed stated "scholars should be skeptical towards all received wisdom. They should maintain the critical distance by being to stand both outside and inside the society". Additionally, we also need to bear in mind the fact that author cannot be completely taken out from the social lab where different events are experienced. David Hudson (the author of Great Divide) writes "I reflect that every historian however, impartial and careful of truth as I have tried to be must have a personal point of view without which history is anemic". The above framework provides a soft cushion to revisit the post 1931 political developments in Jammu and Kashmir. 

Outside the Central Jail 

A non- Kashmiri Abdul Qadeer had come to the valley as the butler of Major Abbot-an English man posted in the Yorushire regiment in Peshawar. He participated in a public meeting at Khanqah-e-Mullah (interior of Srinagar city) and delivered a fiery speech. The CID officials had reported a part of his speech. Pointing towards Maharaja's palace qadeer said "pull that edifice and take on your oppressor". He was arrested and lawsuit filed against him under clause 124(A) and 153 of Ranbir Penal code. The trial was held in Srinagar central jail. A crowd of near 7000 rushed to the jail. The governor Trilok Chand was pelted with stones after he failed to convince the crowd about the fair trial. The police opened fire and twenty two  persons were martyered.Two of them Mr wali  wani and Shabhan joo Makai  were fifty and sixty years old respectively while all others were below thirty. Near about 326 persons were arrested in Maharajgang area alone .There were clashes in Srinagar and other places. According to Prem Nath Bazaz and Justice Yousuf Saraf in Hindu- Muslim clashes three Hindus were killed and 163 were injured. A certain Pundit moneylender, Kailash But, told Dalal Commission that "among many who were my debtors took special care to see that my documents and other papers were completely destroyed". Though the Maharaja's administration appointed as already stated Sir Burjor Dalal  (chief justice of the state)  to investigate the firing incident on July 13, the majority community tendered no evidence before the commission. Meanwhile martial law was imposed in rural Kashmir and the movement started spreading out to other towns.The emerging political leadership started broadening the movement and giving it an institutional form. The Maharaja government also started responding to the emerging volcanic situation by appointing a commission known popularly as the Glancy Commission to look into the grievances and deprivation of the people. The recommendations of the commission bear testimony to how the feudal/colonial state was operating to the detriment of the majority population. People's movement for change could not crystallize due to existence of feudal exploitation by the Dogra Maharaja who ruled with backing of imperialism. The lack of an organized political movement till 1931 helped the state apparatus to suppress and marginalize the subordinate classes. The major instruments of this coercive machinery according to P N K Bamzai were "Punjabis or the Dogra Rajputs of mediocre abilities". Even the Kashmiri pundits were victims of Dogra ruler's racism and casteism in the initial period because more than 60percent gazetted posts went to Rajputs despite their low educational attainments. The Maharaja regarded the Kashmiris as a race of slaves. He did not provide them equal opportunities in trade, industry, education, jobs. The people in general and Muslims in particular became targets of racism, communalism and casteism which defined the general administration of the Maharaja. The casteist philosophy of jurisprudence laid down that everyone except a "Dogra Mian" could be hanged for a murder. The communal nature of the feudal economy was evident in the fact that out of 25 jagirs that were granted during the first five years of Maharaja Hari Singh only two went to the majority community of Muslims. Such a discriminatory policy hampered the growth of a regional bourgeoisie and development of early capitalism in the state. In fact some observers also noticed that feudal instruments led to retarded industrial development to the extent that a leading figure of Indian capitalist class Jamnalal Bajaj complained that "cottage industry in the villages of Kashmir was not valued by the government of Maharaja". As a logical fall out of such a discriminatory policy of the feudal regime the appointment of a commission to look into the problems of the people became inevitable.

Glancy Commission

The Maharaja appointed an English man Mr Glancy to head the commission to provide a semblance of objectivity and acceptability to it. The commission was appointed to look into the grievances of different sections of the society. The members of the commission were drawn from different regions and communities and it was on March 22, 1932 that recommendations were submitted to the new prime Minister of the state Mr. EJD Colvin.It is educative to know that except two or three recommendations dealing with religious matters all others related to economic /educational and livelihood issues of the majority population. Some of these were (1) Malikhana to the state should be remitted (2) a special inspector for Muslim education be appointed (3) All communities should receive a fair share in government appointments (4) the grazing tax should be suspended (5) payment according to proper rates should be made in connection with whatever labor is requisitioned for the state purposes (6) Industrial development should receive urgent attention etc. The note appended by Ghulam Abbas from Jammu to the the report stated  the need for (a) departmental promotions should not exceed one-third (2)  recruitment to cavalry be thrown open to Muslims, (3)  public service commission be established(4)  land revenue to be assessed on Punjab pattern. A critical evaluation of the recommendations suggests. One, it was the plebeian masses (artisans, traders and peasants) who had laid siege around Srinagar. Second, Muslims got a better deal according to Justice Yousf Saraf due to the presence of Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz in the Glancy commission who annoyed his own co-religionists. Third, the use of religion was akin to its use by MK Gandhi in the all India politics. The external support to the political movement subjectively and cumulatively came from press in Punjab, mass movement under all India congress, khilafat movement. The invoking of French revolution proved quite beneficial for the masses. The communists were at the forefront so much so that Maharaja declared them as arch enemies of colonialism in India and feudalism in the state. Even the Russian currency was confiscated from certain traders in Kashmir to stop the specter of Bolshevism. However, the effects were neither direct nor immediate. Internally while there was unity among common people across region and religion against the feudal order there was also unity of exploiting classes belonging to both Hindu and Muslim communities. Various landlords like Nazir Hussein, Jagirdar Raja villayat Khan and Akram Khan openly aligned with the Maharaja. Some upper caste Hindu leaders were able to get a resolution passed by Hindu Mahasabha at its Akola session on August 15, 1931 which stated: the "Hindu Mahasabha looks upon with fear all the propaganda carried on against the Maharaja of Kashmir". The elite section within Kashmiri Pundits also could not reconcile with emerging political forces demanding egalitarian treatment. They even opposed the constitution of the Glancy commission and opposed its recommendations. The unity of the vested interest give rise to unity among the marginalized sections of Kashmir society which laid the foundations of a society of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who  fought against the government's policy of divide and rule. Late Ved Bhasin once gave me an account of how marginalized sections of Hindu society in Jammu region got benefitted by land reforms carried out in 1948 which of course cannot be examined in detail at this point of time but can be a subject matter for further research in the department of history at Jammu University once headed by the Dy chief Minister of the state Prof Nirmal Singh. The subsequent political events in Jammu and Kashmir can be explained by applying elite-driven people –building model as advocated by Rogers Smith an eminent political scientist.

From Subjecthood to Political Peoplehood 

Roger Smith's theoretical framework of people-building rests on certain assumptions. That, political communities are neither natural nor primordial. second, political communities are constructed by the elite who articulate and institutionalize conceptions of political peoplehood.Third, both leaders and people have considerable flexibility in the type of people –building they advance and support.Roger further, argues that leaders of a political community pursue two goals: persuading people to subscribe to the political identity they are advancing and to accept the leaders as legitimate authorities. In the peculiar context of Jammu and Kashmir people-building during the period (1931-1947) was inherently a competitive process that made the leaders wary of competing narratives and made them to advance their particular constitutive story. The process of people-building demonstrates three essential components. These are trust, worth and capacity of leaders to attract people to their Politico-economic vision. The trust condition is met when the community believes that the leaders are striving to advance the community's values and worth is demonstrated when the community believes that the leaders are capable of doing so. Trust, the first of Smith's conditions for people-building was evidenced by the manner in which the political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir adopted the New Kashmir manifesto in 1944 which called for total transformation of the polity subsequently paving the way for right of  democratic  self –rule. Needless to mention a certain section within the religious elite in Kashmir described New Kashmir as anti-Islamic. The basic spirit of New Kashmir manifesto is what Thomas Jefferson stated in a different context "If church was not separated from the state half the people will be hypocritical and the other half stupid". The worth was demonstrated by the passage of Abolition of Big Landed Estates Act and distressed debtors relief Act. It also was evidenced in the decision that education in the state will be free from primary to university level. Finally people reposed trust in the leadership once they found that goal of greater material gain is possible in the evolving political and legal structure of the state. This narrative of political people hood as explained above came in clash with other competing narratives which dot the political/ideological landscape of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

Prof Gull Wani, a political scientist, teaches at the Department of Political Science, Kashmir University

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