Despite being autocratic and recalcitrant, Maharaja Hari Singh in his address to the chamber of Princes in London was unequivocal and unmistakable in his support of the growing demand for Indian independence which generated alarm waves for the British imperialists ever keen to perpetuate their hegemony over India and other Princely states. Plans were set afoot and conspiracies hatched to keep the Maharaja under the heel of pressure so that he would not dare thwart and impede the British strategies to meet the challenges posed to their vast sprawling empire by the Russian expansion in the belts of regions contiguous to their territories. On the chess-board of British geo-political strategies, Kashmir had notched up as a key-region and the bonafides of Maharaja harbouring patriotic sympathies for the Indian independence became suspect and hence it was deemed strategic and highly expedient to pin him down in the communal tension that was covertly and overtly fuelled and heightened by inciting the Muslim majority against him as he was harbouring a faith that was not Islamic.
LOOT OF 1931
Sheikh Abdullah was spearheading a movement against the Maharaja through the Reading Room Party and as such had engrossed focus and is said to have been picked up for the role of an agent and the same is revealed and established by the bunch of letters which were shown to Pandit Nehru (who felt shocked) by Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, the then Food Minister of India, when the stage was set for the Sheikh's dismissal in the wake of his fiery and treacherous statements questioning the irrevocability of Kashmir's accession to India.
The Reading Room Party as per its role-model in Kashmir politics was communal to the pulp, blood and bone as its bias against the Kashmiri Pandits was so pronounced that it prepared the ground for the blatant loot and murder of Kashmiri Pandits in July,1931. The battle-cry against them was set off by the malicious and apochryphal propaganda of the typical Muslim brand that they had an absolute strangle-hold of the state services. The fact, to the contrary, was that the state services though very limited in number were domineered and monopolised by the Punjabi and Bengali Muslims and Hindus. Despite impecceable academic credentials, the Kashmiri Pandits were reluctantly recruited to the lower rung services for a mere pittance which was also stopped by the then powers that be in view of the mounting pressures on the Maharaja.
Lacking in the discernment of a modern mind, Sheikh Abdullah nursed a personal grudge against the Maharaja as he was refused a lecturership in an academic college, not out of religious bias, but because of his low academic merit. His competitor said to be a Kashmiri Pandit had a much brighter record than that of the tall Sheikh. Steeped in the culture of Aligarh Muslim University, the Sheikh with a mind fine de siecle and thinking communal straightaway sans any hesitation leapt to the conclusion that he was dropped because the Maharaja was a Hindu and his competitor too was a Hindu. It speaks volumes about the low mind of Sheikh Abdullah, who invested all his prowess and energies to metamorphose the Reading Room Party into a seminary of religious venom, hatred and animosity against the Pandits.
The Sheikh wanted the Maharaja to show him special consideration on grounds of educational and economic backwardness of the community he belonged to. Myopic in his views and outlook, he could not see and discover poverty, backwardness and deprivation prevailing in Kashmiri Pandits. His competitor was also a man from a poor and backward family. Despite economic disabilities and other inhibiting factors, the fact remains that the Kashmiri Pandits all through their chequered history and despite Muslim oppression have not broken their tryst with learning and education while the Muslims as a converted lot cultivating other priorities parted ways perhaps with no remorse with the tradition resulting in their educational backwardness which was perpetuated by the self- seeking Mullahs harbouring repugnance to liberal forms of education. Credit must be given to the Maharaja that he firmly stuck to the rules and stipulations that were laid down for recruitment to the institutions of higher learning and did not relax, bend and flout them (as Sheikh did when in office) only to introduce the virus of mediocrity into the mainstream of Kashmir polity.
The Reading Room Party with Sheikh Abdullah as its moving spirit earned patronage and favours from the Muslim landlords, shawl tycoons, parochial mullahs and Muslim educated elite in government service. The landlords owing allegiance to the Maharaja patronised the Sheikh with a view to furthering their self interests and increasing their clout with the ruler for more economic favours and concessions. It will not be out of place to put that the Sheikh, at the behest of Muslim landlords, was harnessed to collect funds for organising a grand reception in honour of the Maharaja when he returned in 1931 from Europe where his wife had delivered a male child. In an attempt to make in-roads into the Muslim gentry he even accepted the convenorship of the Muslim Jagirdar Committee without any prevarication and outrage. The shawl tycoons were on the same wave-length and nurtured and pursued their interests by openly aligning themselves and making a common cause with the Muslim Jagirdars. The mullahs with obscurantism and intolerance as their guiding - star strained every nerve and fibre to keep the Muslim masses away from the light of education. The Sheikh sought and accepted their support and patronage and the fact that all the mullahs in the city of Srinagar lending their wholehearted support to the Reading Room Party which was presided over by the demon of Muslim bigotry testifies to its role-profile of inciting communal passions and awakening furies against their religious enemies. The Muslim elite in government service were ambitious of grabbing higher positions not on the strength of their merit and achievements, but on the basis of religion they espoused and held.
The Reading Room Party with mosque as its immediate extension emerged as a focal centre for execution and fructification of the British intrigues against the Maharaja who for his anti-British stances was pressured and cowed down to hand over the complete control of the Gilgit Agency to the Britishers for their strategic ends. As per available evidences, Sheikh Abdullah who had started strutting the religio-political scene of Kashmir through his faculty of reciting the Quranic verses in a mellifluous voice in and outside the precincts of a mosque had forged clandestine linkages with the British Political Department which in essence was a receptacle of the British and Indian spies recruited by the British imperialists for garnering their political interests.
The plethora of letters that the Sheikh had written to the spies of the Political Department explicitly reveal his direct and definite bonhomie with the British operatives planning and executing measures and schemes to nurse and safeguard their vital interests in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah in the role of a British agent was first highlighted and thoroughly exposed in a very significant article published by the 'Blitz' in its issue of 24th April, 1965 and the same was reproduced verbatim by H.L. Saxena in his book 'The Tragedy in Kashmir'. The details in the article are comprehensive and are fully substantiated by the letters written by the Sheikh to his mentors whose patronage he sought and enjoyed at the threshold of his religio-political career till he emerged as a formidable force for the Maharaja to reckon with.
The Sheikh motivated by and suffused with pan-Islamism of Dr. Iqbal and communalism of the brand of Aligrah Muslim university has been openly charged with being in regular correspondence and contact with B.J.Glancy, Col. C. W. Colvin and Lt. Col . L.E. Lang who had been deputed on a mission and had earned notoriety for spying operations in the Punjab and Kashmir. The mission that was said to be entrusted to the Sheikh and for which he was said to be roped in was to breed discontent and disenchantment among the Muslims of Kashmir and alienate them from the Maharaja and his power apparatus and also beat Kashmiri Pandits into submission for their vociferous and strident anti - British views and expressions.
It was notoriously known that the Sheikh had pro -Ahmadiya persuasions and links though Muslims as a flock detested them as deviants from Islam. It was through the British spies that the Sheikh was said to have formed a close rapport with the Ahmadiyas who had a well - cemented organisation and were highly rich and affluent. In their political positions the Ahmadiyas were known as British lackeys and footmen.
For being affiliated with the Britishers and also for the tonnes of money they spent in Kashmir for furtherance of their mission and also for Muslim welfare by way of instituting scholarships for Muslim boys the Sheikh established a tie - up with the Ahmadiyas operating in the Punjab where they were equally suspected and abhorred by the orthodox Muslims. His bonhomie and nexus with the Ahmadiyas was an open secret and there were lot many groups and individuals who not only resented, but bitterly opposed his political and religious affinity and contacts with the Ahmadiyas. The Sheikh perhaps at the bidding of his masters not only invited but paved the way for the Ahmadiya intervention in Kashmir. Crafty as the British spies were, they doled out an impression to the Maharaja that the Ahmadiyas were their stark enemies and warned him of their anti - state activities and designs, but aware of the nexus between the Britishers and Ahmadiyas, Maharaja Hari Singh in doldrums, despite his brave face, dared not devise and execute stern measures to thwart and put an end to the Ahmadiya intervention in Kashmir.
Ahrars with their progressive camouflage were on the same wave - length with the Ahmadiyas in their anti -Maharaja and anti-Hindu threats and agitations. Apparently votaries of Hindu - Muslim amity, the Ahrars through the despatch of their Jathas and groups into the State created conditions for loot and murder of Hindus. Stridently anti - Maharaja and seemingly anti - British, the Ahrars objectively contributed to the British design of fomenting and proliferating the communal conflicts and tensions to de-stabilise the Maharaja to further the imperialist designs and machinations. Kashmir practically marked a reversal of their policy of inter-communal peace and amity as they vigorously fanned and fuelled Muslim communalism to incredible limits. Their commitment to the congress as a secular organisation was so fake and tenuous that they deserted the congress ranks to join the Muslim League or formed their own outfits in the wake of M.A. Jinnah's declaration of Pakistan as the separate home-land for Muslims. The Reading Room Party was closely knit with Ahrars and basked in their patronage and was maintaining a regular liaison with them for political and religious mischief. The Ahrars essentially were communal though they externally donned secular robes. They had hatred for the Maharaja as he was a Hindu and had Muslims as his subjects. Their vigorous programme of despatching groups (Jathas) into the state was also perceived to counter-act the political hold that the Ahmadiyas were fast gaining in Kashmir through lavish spending.
The Punjabi Muslim press under the lavish patronage of the British imperialists launched a propaganda blitz against the Maharaja who was denounched as a heretic with no right to rule over Muslim masses. The tone and tenor of the published material was blatantly sectarian and communal inciting the Muslims to launch a crusade against the Hindu Maharaja and his Hindu administration. The Muslim outlook' and 'Inqalab' as the two front-ranking dailies published from the Punjab fabricated and disseminated wanton lies and half - truths about Kashmir conveying the same theme - song of incitement to revolt against the Hindu ruler and his administration. The dailies couched and soaked in the language of fire and brimstone and more than most communal venom were extremely popular with the members of the Reading Room Party which was committed to the working out of the assigned task of inciting the communal passions and igniting the communal fires to pave way for direct British intervention in Kashmir affairs.
Puts M.K.Teng, "Journals and akhbars issued from Lahore and elsewhere taking up the cause of Muslims were patronised by the British to browbeat the Maharaja."
Qadeer - the Waiter
The British-Ahmadiya-Ahrar-Reading Room Party nexus cumulatively generated forces, evil and vicious, which perpetrated loot and murder on the Kashmiri Pandits in the wake of a seditious speech delivered by one named Qadeer, a cook in the employ of an English Major, a non-local, non-entity, illiterate and puny, at the Mir Ali Mosque where Muslims had mobilised in unprecedented numbers for a political act of selecting their representatives for an interface and dialogue with the Maharaja.
Who was Qadeer? How did he suddenly appear on the scene to spit out his Anti-Hindu venom? Who had planted him? Who had given him contents for his speech? Who had guided him during rehearsals before the actual delivery of his speech?
Such as these pertinent and vital questions have been deliberately obfuscated and smoke-screened by the Reading Room Party and its prime mover Sheikh Abdullah lest their role in the nefarious game of inflicting loot and murder on the Kashmiri Pandits should get revealed and exposed. P.N.Bazaz as a contemporary was politically pro-active and had a penchant for dwelling on the faillings and foibles of the Sheikh, but he too had maintained an intriguing silence on the issue of dramatic appearance of Qadeer, the waiter, on the scene of the mosque, a centre-stage of Muslim politics and Muslim communalism, and without irradiating it has broadly contributed to putting the issue under a thick cloak of secrecy. P.N. Bamzai while detailing out the events leading to the loot and murder of Pandits has stopped short of scratching the surface to unveil the real identity of Qadeer and his mentors. D.N. Dhar hat hit the nail on the head when he quotes G.H. Khan that Qadeer was brought on the scene by Ahmadiyas who were British agents but has failed to establish and formulate the whole spectrum.
Be it put that Qadeer was an Ahmadiya plant and as is well-known Ahmadiyas with their net-work were in the thick of Kashmir politics and in the pursuit of their mission were spending incredible sums to lure and buy followers for their creed and more than most had the credential of being British agents and had cultivated complete rapport and deep links with the Reading Room Party functioning under the emergent leadership of Sheikh Abdullah who had his patrons from amongst the top-brass of Muslim society known as 'Rayisan-i-Kashmir'. Molvi Yusuf Shah's admission that Qadeer was catapulted on the scene by Ahmadiyas exposes the whole circuit that could be held responsible for loot and murder of Kashmiri Pandits.
If anybody can, let him controvert the thesis that it was British-Ahmadiya-Sheikh Abdullah nexus that conspired to catapult Qadeer on the scene of the Mir Ali Mosque to precipitate a crisis for the Maharaja and Kashmiri Pandits as the sigmatised enemies of Islam. It is a common sense averment that Qadeer alien to the social and political milieu prevailing in Kashmir could not have dramatically mounted the dies sans connivance, abetment and consent of the Reading Room Party and its chief mentors. The view that a Muslim flaunting as an educationist had no mean role in preparing the contents of Qadeer's speech and also honing up of his oratorical skills cannot be dismissed as a cock and bull story.
Dilating on the basic character of the communal uprising of 13th July 1931, D.N.Dhar proclaims," It was the combination of Maulvis, landed interests and the merchantile bourgeoisie which was leading the people for their vested interests. They had aroused the fury of the masses in the city not on concrete economic and political issues, but on religious frenzy which led to a catastrophe."
He further puts, "Serious allegations have been made that the movement in 1931 had British encouragement (involvement) and in fact it was sponsored by them and part of the leadership (the entire Muslim leadership) acted at their behest. It is believed that they wanted to punish Maharaja Hari Singh for his role at the Round Table Conference and his confrontation with them."
M.J. AKBAR ON QADEER
M.J. Akbar's views on the Qadeer episode are replete with a penchant for investing a non-entity with a heroic hue and aura. Qadeer, to him, seemed to 'discover a new-identits when he was in Kashmir as 'a cook in the retinue of a European'. What was the identity that he discovered in Kashmir which otherwise in Peshawar he was lacking? How was it that he suddenly found a new identity in Kashmir? Akbar hails Qadeer's oratory as 'more spicy than his cuisine'? But, dismaying as it is, M.J. Akbar with all his calibre has viewed and assessed the entire episode in the light of oratory and cuisine and has missed import of the episode as part of a bigger game that the British played in accompaniment with their agents who were roped in and harnessed to fulfill and execute their geo-political objectives Had he inquisitively probed deeper, he would have discovered a sinister intrigue hatched by the BritishAhmadiya-Abdullah nexus to destabilise the Maharaja for his anti-British postures and in the process would have known that Qadeer was only a pawn to get things to a crisis - point paving way for direct British take liver of the state by dislodging the Maharaja. Qadeer's oratory was doctored, packed with communal poison and was inflammatory. His arrest and trial let loose communal frenzy which was directed towards the Kashmiri Pandits like an artillery barrage.
P.N. BAZAZ'S Rhetoric on the Loot of 1931
P.N.Bazaz in his characteristic fashion has dragged his feet from exposing the Reading Room Party for its conspiratorial role in the perpetration of loot and murder on the Kashmiri Pandits. In a low key tone he accuses the Reading Room Party of 'haying failed to cope with the situation'. He records that 'the Muslim upper classes and communalists had an effective voice in the movement,' but bails out the Muslim communalists by digressing into 'the discontent among the rank and file of Muslims'. He also accuses Hindus of their 'hostile and positively indiscriminate attitudes towards the nationalistic and communalistic aspirations of the Muslims. The riots that followed as per him were 'the work of goondas'.
With the glasses of Royism ever on his eyes P.N. Bazaz has made light of the 13th July, 1931 riots that were communal in orientation, content and thrust and has resorted to digressions designed to camoulage and obviate the religion-oriented motivations of the Muslims to loot and murder the Hindu Kafirs. That the Muslims were backward, illiterate and wallowing in dust and dirt was the result of their Muslim legacy bequeathed to them through six hundred years of Muslim rule and could be in no way the handiwork of Pandits, who certainly were an advanced and civilised section of the Kashmiri society by virtue of their liberalism and catholicity to orient themselves without undue interference from priest or temple to the impact of new trends of thought and education. Mullahs as the ombudsmen of religious interpretations and more than most as the religious police obstructed Muslims from taking to liberal education free from the virus of fanaticism and were, in reality, their enemies who through a new renaissance had to be thwarted and put at bay and if recalcitrant deserved to be targeted for their parochial and obscurantist orientation sanctioned by religious tenets. Instead all the Mullahs were unequivocal in their support of the Reading Room Party which had no radical and innovative programmes on its agenda for the Muslim up liftment except that of widening and deepening the sphere of communal conflict and strife in fulfillment of the assigned task.
The basic reality that Bazaz has missed and might be that he has willfully connived at it is the British intrigue hatched with the active aid of Muslim agents affiliated with the Reading Room Party for putting the Maharaja in a strait- Jacket and simultaneously punishing the Pandits for their anti-British sentiments. The sudden act of pulling out a rabbit (Qadeer) from the hat of intriguers on the mosque site should have set Bazaz a thinking about the conspiracy that the Britishers in tandem with the local Muslim leadership drawn into their dragnet were un-ravelling with a view to removing the Maharaja for the direct take over of his state. Riots were not the handiwork of goondas, but were deliberately and warily engineered and were a fall-out of a well co-ordinated, systematic and carefully crafted endeavour to destabilise the state and also not the result of mass discontent as there were no concrete and well-defined political and economic issues involved. If there was discontent among the Muslims, the Bengali and Punjabi Muslims ruling roost in the state by holding key-slots in the state services could have been the targets of their fury. But leaving them comfortable and unharmed in their ivory towers, the Kashmiri Pandits as a target group since the advent of Islam were looted, marauded and murdered with ferocious vengeance.
The Muslim vested interests as represented by Khwaja Saduddin Shawl, Syed Hussian Jalali, Kwaja Shahabuddin et al known as the Rayeesani Kashmir were not looted and marauded. Was it because they were Muslims? Most of them as the drones and exploiters of Muslims hobnobbed with Maharaja and lived off his crumbs and enjoyed his munificence and benevolence and owned huge landed properties and had enormous wealth and riches. Sheikh Abdullah as buttressed by a panoply of evidence had struck back-room deals with them and were his political patrons and allies and it was under their patronage and guidance that he set up and perfected the precedent and practice of overlaying mundane politics with religion for communal mobilizations and riots.
P. N. Bazaz has pandered the Muslim tactics of levelling accusations and floating canards against the Pandits whenever Muslims are up for a revolt or insurgency or Jehad. Being in the thick of Kashmir Politics he should have evaluated the pros and cons of Hindu-Muslim tension that had gripped Kashmir way back in 1910. The petition that was submitted to Maharaja on 18th September, 1910 underscored the general rumour that the valley Muslims had a malicious intention of plundering Hindus on the same pattern as the Shias were looted and ravaged in 1872-73 in the wake of Maharaja's departure for Jammu. The factors motivating Muslims to loot and plunder Hindus have been more religious than economic.
Summing up the communalism leading to the loot anti plunder of Kashmiri Pandits and other Hindus U.K. Zutshi writes, "The primary task of the leaders of 1931 agitation including Sheikh Abdullah was to seek the acceptance of the long standing Muslim demand of proportional representation in state services. This was a communal demand and had to be necessarily sought from a sectional platform. The demand was clearly informed by the communal ideology The nature of the demand and the ideology in which it was clothed leads to the conclusion that the agitation in 1931 was communal in character. Since it was the communal forces that mobilised the masses and invoked their support against the Maharaja's government the mass political awakening came to be enveloped by a communal ideology and was inevitably accompanied by communal discord."
Drawing an unadorned picture of the happenings of 13th July, 1931 loot and plunder of Hindus, G.S.Raghvan writes, "From Bohrikadal to Ali-Kadal - a long stretch - the Hindu shops were raided. Other localities such as Safakadal, Ganjikhud, and Nawakadal too formed the centres of loot. Bazar streets were littered with property, books of accounts were burnt; the Hindu shop-keepers were molested, in short, pandemonium prevailed. The Hindu merchants lost lakhs worth of goods."
He further writes, "The most extra-ordinary portion of the story was that, almost simultaneously with the happenings at Srinagar, there was an uprising at a place named Vicharnag, some 5 to 6 miles away. It has been stated that untold atrocities were committed there; men owning lakhs were reduced to indigence and women were subjected to the worst possible cruelties and the most indecent assaults. A military force was despatched to the place, but by the time the havoc had been completed. Elsewhere the Hindus were the victims of ambuscade. Some lost their lives and many suffered physical injuries. Stray assaults continued till long after."
He continues, " It is true that the unspeakable atrocities of July were visited on the Hindus, robbing women of honour. subjecting children to assaults and reducing the wealthy to penury."
A report was carried by the Tribune about the loot and murder of Kashmiri Hindus in its issue date-lined 18th July, 1931. The report reads as under:
THE KASHMIR RIOT
SCHOOL BOYS HURLED INTO RIVER
(Special to the "Tribune")
Srinagar July 14
Kashmir had hardly recovered from the shock of the floods, when it witnessed an orgy of communal riving, which was unprecedented in the modern history of Kashmir. The authorities had decided to conduct the trial for sedition of Abdul Qadir, a cook of European, in the Central Jail, because owing to mischievous propaganda disorder was feared. Accordingly all the Magistrates, including the Governor of Kashmir, had gone over to the Jail and all the courts in the city were automatically closed.
At noon about a thousand Muslims gathered outside the Central Jail and there in defiance of the law arranged a meeting. The Police Superintendent ordered them to disperse but they refused. The Superintendent next ordered his constables to disperse the unlawful assembly. He had hardly given these orders when the mob which had swelled into thousands charged the small police force present with brickbats. The mob, inspire of police resistance, broke open the Jail gate and set a barrack on fire. The small prison guard fired and a few Mohammadans died. About ten deaths are reported. A short time later cavalry Police and military force arrived. Alarm bugle was sounded.
RIOTING IN CITY
Wild rumours spread in the city. The Muslims had already been observing a complete hartal since the morning but now the Hindu shops are closed. The mischief - mongers, realising that all the forces, were centred round the Central Jail, a place 3 miles away from the city, decided upon raiding the houses and shops of the Hindus in the city. There seemed to be a well- organised conspiracy behind all this. The telephone and electric wires were cut off, and about six thousand Mohammadans raided Maharaja Gunj, looting and plundering the Hindus of the vicinity. Then followed harrowing scenes of incendiarism. No military or police aid reached those quarters for full two hours during which hundreds of Hindus had been looted and hundreds of them were injured with lathis and stones and incalculable damage was caused to Hindu property. Visitors were also not spared, they were severely belaboured, and every thing, even their shoes and turbans, were removed from their persons. Cars and buses were stoned and smashed. When the military and police force did arrive, it found the mob beyond control; and it was not before 7 in the evening that the havoc abated. Children, while returning from their schools, are reported to have been picked up and hurled in the river Jehlum. Hindu women were insulted and maltreated. The Magistrates, military soldiers and police constables were stoned and many got wounded. State buses carrying the soldiers were also stoned and drivers wounded. The police had to open fire at Maharaja Gunj also. A few casualties are reported among Mohammadans. But inspire of all this the mob did not disperse and continued looting and wandering.
At last order was restored by energetic action of the State forces. Among the 15 deaths reported so far due to police firing almost all are Muslims. Many Hindus, including women are missing. In the night curfew order and section 144 were promulgated. They are still in force in the city. Services of more military have been requisitioned, The city is observing a complete hartal. Panic prevails. In Amerakadal the Hindu shops are open. Military and police are patrolling the city. All business is at a stand still. Colleges, schools, courts and offices remain closed. Except for the General Post-office all other post - offices are also closed. About 150 arrests have been made so far. House searches are being made to recover looted property. Unconfirmed reports of looting, plundering and belabouring of Hindus have also been received from Vicharnag.
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