Who remembers the Srinagar riots of 1931?
The communal riots that engulfed Srinagar (Kashmir) on July 13,1931 were not spontaneous but the culmination of the prolonged intrigues by the British to violate the Treaty of Amritsar, which they had signed with Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1846, the founder of the political and geographical entity called the State of Jammu and Kashmir. However, their aim was to control the Northern Frontiers of India to keep an eye on the Russian advances and ethnic tribes that inhabited these regions.
They also understood the importance of the Jammu and Kashmir in terms of guarding their rule in India.
They were also aware of the fact that Himalayas defined the civilisational and cultural moorings of the Indian Nation and the State of Jammu and Kashmir, which holds the key to the Sanskritisation of India. They wanted the control over the Himalayas not to serve them but to subvert the authority of the ruler of the State as the seeds of the Anglo-Muslim alliance were already sown to implement the policy of divide and rule. This unfortunately was made operative on ground in 1931 in Kashmir.
Shailender Singh Jamwal’s compilation of the ‘Barjor Dalal’ report of the Srinagar Riot Enquiry Committee-1931 with the writer’s prologue and epilogue is a welcome publication. The reason being that when ruling elite of the State is challenging, the accession of the State with the Indian nation, without understanding the Constitutional reality that it was the British India which was the part of the partition plan and not the princely states.
Moreover, the sovereignty lied with the ruler and not the subjects. This publication will add to the already available archival material on the State and its evolution as a political entity.
The Srinagar riot of July 13, 1931 was the desired outcome of the intrigues in which the British indulged from 1847 but Maharaj Gulab Singh was the astute statesman to swim over the unwanted tides. Even his successor, Maharaja Ranbir Singh managed to act as the statesman to outwit the British ploys to give them any foothold in the State to control its political set up. But Britishers were keeping a keen eye on the affairs of the State and during Maharaja Pratap Singh’s reign, they managed to subvert the political and administrative authority of the Maharaja.
By the time, Maharaj Hari Singh, the progressive ruler of the State ascended the throne on September 23,1925, after the demise of his uncle, Maharaja Pratap Singh-the unwanted developments had reached the critical mass.
British exploited the fact that the State had a Hindu Maharaja ruling the Muslims.
It was a God sent opportunity for them to divert the attention from the effects of the economic turmoil in the rest of India due to the economic depression in Europe as Indian economy was linked to it. They raised the bogey that the economic empowerment of the Muslims was blocked by the Hindu Maharaja to keep them in perpetual slavery.
The report examines the eye witness accounts and different shades of opinion to analyse as to what went wrong that changed the social and political dynamics of the State forever.
Maharaja had been astute enough to promulgate the hereditary State subject definition. This legal enactment was introduced to checkmate the intrusion of the Britishers to interfere in the State and restricting their entry. The former Maharaja was also well aware of the their mischief to subvert the political stability of the State as it was during his time in 1924 that Silk factory workers in Srinagar raised the banner of revolt.
Maharaja Hari Singh was not the favourite of the British rulers as he was well aware of the deployments’ world over. He had made his mind clear about his intentions about the role the princely states should play to uphold the Indian nation. This did not go down well with imperialist British.
The report extensively discusses that how British instigated the Muslim populace of Punjab and therefore, All India Kashmir Muslim Conference came into existence in 1928. It members had nothing to do with Kashmir but the element of pan-Islamism was instigated. Though the Conference started pleading the case for the Muslim education in the State but “it’s real object was to secure for the Muslims of British India, especially of the Punjab, the right to be appointed in the State services so long, at least as the Muslims of the State remained unqualified.”
Both the provinces of the State were kept under boil by the British. In Jammu, Youngmen’s Muslim Association was set up, it acted on the lines of Muslim Reading Room party of Fateh Kadal, Srinagar. The brain behind the disruptive activities of these formations was Wakefield, the officer of the political department of the Government of British India.
The visit of the Muslim Association to Kashmir and interaction with the Reading Room Party was made to infuse a sense of coherence to instigate bigger trouble for the Maharaja in 1931.
The trial of Abdul Qadir, a non-state subject cook of the British officer and his seditious speech that set the communal frenzy in motion in Srinagar has been clearly discussed in the book.
One thing that makes this publication important is that it exposes the denial of communal ruling elite regarding the atrocities on minorities of Kashmir that grabbed the power in 1947 by making the Maharaja abdicate the State under pressure from V P Menon under the advice of Vallabhai Patel.
The communal riots have been well documented in this report and help to see the present State of political turmoil in perspective. Shailender Singh Jamwal has aptly summed up the state of Hindu minorities in Jammu and Kashmir on July 13, 1931 who observe this day as the black day. He writes,”The people of Kashmir and their political organisations barring Kashmiri Pandits observe this day as martyr’s Day because Dogra troops resorted to firing in Kashmir in which ten people lost their lives. While many in Jammu, including Kashmiri Pandits observe this day as a Black Day as their business establishments in Kashmir were plundered by the members of the majority community; moreover, their dignity,honour and lives were endangered. Since then, both the major communities of the State have been living a poles apart. This event has divided the people of the State on religious, regional and ideological basis and does not allow them to sink their differences.”
The report in the form of a book, i.e. ‘Barjor Dalal’s report of the Srinagar Riot Enquiry Committee-1931′ is a must read for the scholars and the policymakers, so that the redressal of the problems of the people of the State is made possible keeping in view the long-term benefits of the Indian Nation and its territorial integrity.
Publisher M/S Saksham Books International,Jammu has done a good job in presenting the material in readable form. Quality is good but a few printing errors need to be rectified in the next edition that have crept in.
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Mahesh Kaul is a Guest Contributor at Niti Central.