Every year, Kashmir Martyrs’ Day (Youme Shuhada-e-Kashmir) is commemorated on July 13 in the memory of 21 Kashmiris who were martyred outside Srinagar Central Jail by the troops of Dogra Maharaja on July 13, 1931. This very day is observed on both sides of the Line of Control and all over the world by the Kashmiris, including their Pakistani brethren to pay homage to these Kashmiris.

The history of Dogra rule (1846-1947) in Kashmir is replete with tyrannous treatment, meted out to the Kashmiri Muslims by Dogra forces. Under the Dogra rule, they were leading a miserable life. Slave labour, heavy taxes, capital punishment for cow slaughter, and living under constant terror were the order of the day.

On April 19, 1931, the ban on Eid khutbas (Sermon) ignited widespread demonstrations in Jammu city for several days. It was followed by the desecration of the Holy Quran at the hands of Dogra forces, which resulted in outrage among the Muslims throughout the state. In Srinagar, people gathered in Jamia Masjid to denounce this blasphemy. One such get-together was held in Khanqah-e-Molla Srinagar, which was addressed by prominent Kashmiris. When the meeting was concluded, a youth, Abdul Qadeer, pointed his finger at the Maharaja’s palace, and raised the slogan “the engine destroys every brick.” With the accusation of sedition, he was arrested forthwith. Abdul Qadir was to be tried in the court, but due to large public resentment, the court was shifted to Central Jail Srinagar.

On July 12, 1931, in response to the shifting of court, intense public protests were held throughout the city. The next day, on July 13, 1931, thousands of people thronged the Central Jail in Srinagar to witness the in-camera trial of Abdul Qadeer. As the time for obligatory prayer approached, a young Kashmiri stood for Azan. The Dogra Governor, Ray Zada Tartilok Chand ordered soldiers to open fire on him. When he got martyred, another young man took his place and started Azan. He was also shot dead. In this way, 21 Kashmiris embraced martyrdom in their efforts to complete the Azan. The people carried the dead and paraded through the streets of Srinagar, chanting slogans against Dogra brutalities. A complete strike was observed in the city, which was followed by weeklong mourning. This incident shook the whole state and the traffic from Srinagar to Rawalpindi and Srinagar to Jammu came to halt from July 13 to 26, 1931. The 21 martyrs are buried in the Martyrs’ Graveyard at Khawaja Bazar, Srinagar.

Consequent to these brutal killings, the Kashmiri leadership realised the need to form a political party, Muslim Conference (MC) to wage a struggle for their freedom. Afterwards, on July 19, 1947, MC passed a resolution to merge Kashmir with Pakistan, considering the geographical proximity—the majority of the Muslim population (77%), language and cultural relations of Jammu and Kashmir.

During the partition of the Sub-continent, the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) which comprised a Muslim majority decided to join Pakistan. But, the Dogra Raja, Sir Hari Singh, a Hindu who was ruling over the J&K in collusion with the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Governor General Lord Mountbatten joined India.

The Radcliffe Boundary Award gave the Gurdaspur District—a majority Muslim area to India to provide a land route to the Indian forces to move into the J&K.

Indian forces invaded Srinagar on October 27 1947 and forcibly occupied the J&K in utter violation of the partition plan.

When Pakistan responded militarily, on December 31, 1947, India appealed to the UN Security Council to intervene and a ceasefire ultimately came into effect on January 01, 1949, following UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir.

On February 5, 1964, India backed out of its commitment to holding a plebiscite. Instead, the Indian Parliament declared Kashmir an integral part of the Indian union.

Since 1989, various forms of state terrorism have been part of a deliberate campaign by the Indian army and paramilitary forces against Muslim Kashmiris. It has been manifested in brutal tactics like crackdowns, curfews, illegal detentions, massacres, targeted killings, sieges, burning houses, torture, disappearances, rape and molestation of Muslim women and killing of persons through fake encounters.

After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—the leader of the extremist ruling party BJP—came to power in 2014, he took various drastic steps such as abrogation of the special status of the disputed territory of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), revocation of articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution—bifurcation of the IIOJK into two territories to be ruled directly by New Delhi, continued lockdown there, deployment of more than 900,000 military troops who have martyred thousands of the innocent Kashmiris through brutal tactics and amendment of the law, allowing Indian citizens to buy land in the IIOJK and issuance of domicile certificates to more than 800000 non-Kashmiris.

Indian forces have been also availing various draconian laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the Public Safety Act (PSA) etc. in martyring the Kashmiri people and arbitrarily arrest of any individual for an indefinite period. Besides UNO, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and various rights groups have also pointed out grave human rights violations in the IIOJK.

Nevertheless, observing Martyrs’ Day on July 13, Kashmiris renew their pledge to continue the ongoing war of liberation for the accomplishment of their legitimate right of self-determination as recognised by the related resolutions of the UNO, In this respect, the Martyrs’ Day gives a new impetus to the Kashmirs’ struggle.