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Martyrs Day, 13 July 1931

The Kashmir Monitor





By Dr.Zainulabideen

Looking from within, the 1931 uprising was preceded by many important developments like Shawl baaf Agitation,silk factory agitation,Kashmir committee formation, Mulki agitation, which suggest that emancipative forces were already at work in Kashmir, but according to Khalid Basheer Ahmed,the deep resentment of the masses building up as it were for long exploded on 13 July 1931 .There were mostly seven immediate causes responsible for the outburst

1) Land grabbing from Muslim: According To G M Lone, A leading land-holder in Udhampur Jammu embraced Islam. The Hindu Tehsildar sanctioned a fresh mutation of his lands, eliminated his name and mutated the same in the name of his brother. He filed a suit which was dismissed with the remarks that unless he re-entered Hindu faith, he was not entitled to any property. This was done in accordance with a decree issued by the Dogra Government on 31st December, 1882


2) Banning Friday sermon at Jammu : On 29 April 1931 ,Muslim at Jammu while offering Eid prayers , the Dogra DIG Chowdry Ram Chand and another police officer ,Babu Khem Chand ,told the imam Atta Ullah Shah Bukhari (or Mufti Muhammad Ishaque ) to stop the mandatory Friday khutbah in which he spoke about the cruel king of ancient Egypt Pharoah as indicated in Quran and accused him of making the political speech against the king . A young man Mir Hussain Bakhsh stood up to defy the ban and addressing the people told them that the Government had been guilty of interference in their religion. The cry was taken up by the congregation,they marched in a procession to the city’s main Masjid where brief meeting was held condemning the incident. Chowdary Gowhar Rehman, secretary of newly established Young Men’s Muslim Association took a serious exception to this religious interference and held a protest meeting (Weekly The Kashmiri Musalmaan, Lahore ,10 May 1931).

The meeting was addressed by Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas Khan, Sardar Gauhar Rehman Khan, and Mistri Yakub Ali. Holding protest meetings from now on became quite frequent. The Muslims brought a complaint in the court of Additional District Magistrate under section 296 Ranbir Penal Code against the Hindu inspector for disturbing a religious assembly which was dismissed, as the Hindu Magistrate held that Khutba was not a part of the prayers. A large crowd of Hindus who were present in the court premises raised the slogans: “Khem Chand Zindabad” and “Hindu Dharam Ki Jai”.

3) In another incidence, the upper caste Hindus in the Dagora Village of Samba stopped Muslim from drawing water from a tank for performing ablution for Eidprayer.

4) Another incident, on 4th June in the Central Jail Jammu. According to daily “Inquilab” dated 1/7/1931, one Fazal Dad Khan, a police constable from Mirpur, was sitting on a cot when a Head Warder, Balak Ram, reprimanded him for being late on duty. In the meantime came one Labhu Ram Sub-Inspector who threw away his bedding in a fit of recklessness. It contained a copy of Panjsurah (five chapters from Holy Quran). Fazal Dad approached the Young Men’s Muslim Association. (Khan,Freedom movement in Kashmir, p.126)

5) The fourth incident took place in Srinagar on 20th June 1931 when leaves of the Holy Quran were found in a public latrine. No Muslim could ever dare do that.

Mirwaiz Muhammad Yousuf Shah at a public meeting held at Hazratbal said: “If we are arrested there is nothing for you to fear. If ten of us are arrested, the other ten must be prepared to take our places”.

6) These unfortunate incidentsat Jammuinfuriated theMuslim all over the state especially valley where a protest meeting was held at Khanqah e Moula on 21 June 1931 where tens of thousands of Muslimsassembled. Seven representatives were elected to take the movement forward in this meeting, the members included Saad-ud-Din Shawl, Mirwaiz Moulvi Yusuf Shah, Mirwaiz Ahmadullah Hamdani, Aga Syed Hasan Jalali, Khawaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Munshi Shuhab-ud-Din.

Abdul Qadir Khan : According to historian Zahir ud Din ,when meeting was about to close ,Abdul Qadir Khan ,who was a Kashmiri as per him, Abdul Qadeer Khan delivered his historic speech at this function. When the leaders dispersed a young man appeared on the podium and started chanting slogans against Hindus. He said: “Listen. Time has come when we have to act. Requests and memoranda will serve no purpose at this point of time. It will not end tyranny and it will not end desecration of Quran.

Stand up upon your legs and fight the tyrant rulers.” He pointed towards Raj Mahal (Palace) and said: “Raze it to the ground.”(Sheikh Abdullah, Aatish e Chinar, 61).

There are many versions about Abdul Qadir Khan, some believe Abdul Qadeer, an employee of an English army officer, Major Butt of the Yorkshire Regiment then posted at Peshawar, hailed from Swat. He had come to Srinagar with his employer who was a casual visitor on leave from the army wanting to spend the hot summer in the cool climate of Kashmir. He was staying in a house boat in Naseem Bagh. For most of the writers, he was an Afghan who cooked meals for an Englishman in Srinagar. Author Shabnum Qayoom writes that he came from Meerut, UP and was inspired by a British officer (Qayoom says in his Kashmir Ka Siyasi Inquilab vol 1 page 50).Most recently, a man from Islamabad Pakistan Abdul Saboor Khan, claimed to be son of Abdul Qadeer, and, he talked to a Valley based columnist, Peer Mairaj-ud-Din in 2007. The Islamabad columnist (quoted above) had a detailed interview with Saboor Khan. According to him Qadeer was a Kashmiri and worked as a cook with a British. “We are descendants of Afghans who migrated to Kashmir some three hundred years ago and settled at Gutli Bagh near Ganderbal. Our relatives still live there”, he said.

Qadeer married a woman from Bandipora who later gave birth to Saboor Khan. Saboor was very young when Qadeer died and “was buried at a place between Gonikhan and Lal Ded hospital.” No effort has been made by any quarter till date to locate his grave.

Zahir ud Din brings another anecdote to prove his claim, Professor Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah of Hathi Khan Mohalla, who passed away last week, said that before joining higher education department he was in police for a brief stint. “One day I was going through a file when a man with a whitish complexion walked into my office. My colleagues simply ignored him. After some time, he introduced himself as Qadeer’s brother. I looked at him curiously. He was wearing a ring on right ear. Qadeer was a household name in Kashmir then. I offered him a chair and ordered tea for him. He had come to my office regarding some problems in his job; he was an employee in the police department. Since in Kashmir a non-state subject can’t get a job, particularly in those times when the state subject law was strictly enforced, it is clear that Qadeer was a Kashmiri. “Imyself wonder that how can a non-Kashmiri who don’t know Kashmiri language influence thousands of Kashmiri Muslim who are not well versed with Urdu or Pashtulanguage.

7) Gazi Abdul Qadir Arrested: – The fiery speech of resulted in Qadeer’s arrest and trial. His speech was recorded by the CID and when he returned to Naseem Bagh in the dead of night, he was followed by the Gestapo and arrested on 25th June from the house-boat of his employer and charged under section 124-A (treason) and 153 of the Ranbir Panel Code. It must be noted along with CID, The district magistrate had deputed city magistrate, Pandit Sat Lal to attend the meeting in his official capacity. During the four hearings on the 4th, 6th, 7th and 9th, a large number of Muslims would assemble in the compound of the Court to witness this trial and to express their solidarity with their hero .Finding the atmosphere quite volatile the session judge shifted the venue of trial from the court to central jail which was more secure to control the crowd but the masses insisted on open trial.

According to Fida Hassnain,on the 13th of July 1931, the trial of Abdul Qadeer Khan Ghazi was held in the Srinagar Jail premises. The Deputy Inspector of Police came to the site of the trial with one Inspector, two Sub Inspectors, five Head Constables, and 44 policemen. Out of this force 22 policemen were armed with rifles and the rest with clubs, while the Inspectors had revolvers. In addition to the above reinforcement, the Jail forces comprised 119 policemen armed with bamboo canes and 19 policemen with rifles. Before the arrival of the Session Judge, a large gathering of the Muslim had gathered on the road leading to the Jail compound. When the Judge arrived in his car, escorted by the police they shouted these slogans: ‘Our brother from Raibareli! Release Abdul Qadeer!Our brother from Rawalpindi! We will go to the jail. Imprison us instead’

Polymath Molvi Abdullah Vakil ,Mohsin e Kashmir took over as defence lawyer along with team Comprising of Pir Kamal ud Din ,and adv.Ghulam Mohammad .In the meantime jail official informed the governor ,Raizada Trilok Chand about the matter . By 12:45, the Muezzin gave call to prayer and the people started the Zuhar prayer. As this stage, at 1:00 pm. Muslims began lining up for their noon prayers.The police arrested five men and this incensed the people further. One of them, named Khawaja Abdul Khaliq Shora, stood up and recited the Azan loudly. A policeman promptly shot him dead ,such was the euphoria that he was quickly replaced by another person who continued with the call to prayer and he too was shot dead by two rows of police men and in this way 17 daredevils were martyred and 5 more among the hundreds injured the succumbed to injuries later on . This was first Adhan of the world which took 22 lives to be completed. Protesters made a flag of the soaked shirt of martyr, lifted them on charpoy and proceeded towards Jamia masjid. It was here that one of the martyrs and now you proceed who had not as yet breathed his last, had reportedly told Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. “I have done my duty and now you proceed ahead!” ,now in 2018, I personally believe that call of the martyr is yet to be fulfilled and Dr Farooq and Omer Farooq must come forward to fulfil otherwise this call of Martyr will haunt them or generation together. The Hindu, Daily Tribune, dated 28th July, 1931, admitted the loss of 21 Muslims in the firing the scene was very grim. There was wide condemnation to this state led massacre.

Next day on 14th July, HariSingh appointed an enquiry commission under chief justice JK high court Barjour Dalal and a non –official Muslim and Hindu each as commissioner .Khawaja Saad ud Din Shawl was selected as commissioner but he tendered his resignation then Ghulam Ahmed Ashai was substituted in his place ,but he too resigned cited the formers reason that they did not believe the enquiry commission.

Martyrs of 13th July 1931

  1. Khaliq Shora
  2. Akbar Dar
  3. Ghulam Ahmad Rather
  4. Usman Misgar
  5. Ghulam Ahmad Bhat
  6. Ghulam M Halwai
  7. Ghulam Nabi Kalwal
  8. Ghulam Ahmad Naqash
  9. Ghulam Rasool Durra
  10. Ameer-ud-Din Makayi
  11. Subhan Makayi
  12. Ghulam Qadir Khan
  13. Ramzan Chola
  14. Ghulam Mohammad Sofi
  15. Naseer-ud-Din
  16. Ameer-ud-Din Jandgaru
  17. Mohammad Subhan Khan
  18. Mohammad Sultan Khan
  19. Abdul Salam
  20. Ghulam Mohammad Teli
  21. Fakeer Ali
  22. Ghulam Ahmad Dar
  23. Mughli
  24. Abdullah Ahanger

At the suggestion of Khawaja Noor Shah, all the martyrs were buried in the compound of Ziarat Naquishband Sahib, Khanyar .As per Fida Hassnain, The soldiers arrested about 700 Muslims in the city. The next day the leaders of the Muslims, namely Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Chaudary Ghulam Abbas, Moulvi Abdul Rahim, Sardar Gohar Rehman were arrested and Sheikh Sahib was locked in a solitary cell of the Hari Parbat Fort. As a protest against these atrocities the whole valley of Kashmir observed Hartal for 19 days.

The Maharaja had failed to curb this upsurge and as such he decided to make changes in the administration. He appointed Pandit Hari Kishan Koul as the new Prime Minister of the State and issued orders for the release all political prisoners except Abdul Qadeer Khan Ghazi who was given five years rigorous imprisonment and later murdered in the jail only.

Clashes between Punjabi Khatris and Muslim : Some of the Muslim who had gone to Maharaja Bazar to get white clothes for shrouds for the martyrs , a Khatri trader allegedly passed some obscene and uncalled remarks for martyrs leading to clash between the two sides and according to ,Khan ,Freedom movement In Kashmir ,pp.133,Kahmiri Pandit made a common cause with the KhatriHindus against their own Kashmiri Muslim and a fracas broke between Hindus and Muslim .On 14 August 1931, a call given by the All Indian Kashmir Committee. Ahrars voluntarily entered Kashmir and one Ellahi-Bakshi was killed by Dogra police at Kashmir border. His slogan was “Kashmir Chalo”. He was the first Muslim martyr from India to lay down his life for Kashmir.

Propaganda that Hindus were looted and murdered:

1) Let me quote Pandit politician and historian who rejected the communal nature of the movement, In his work: “Inside Kashmir” (1941), Prem Nath Bazaz writes:
“The driving force behind the mass agitation till the 13th July was the discontent among the rank and file of the Muslims. The attack on the jail was in no way directed against the Hindus, and those who laid down their lives at the jail gate did so fighting against an unsympathetic government… It was a fight of the tyrannized against their tyrants, of the oppressed against the oppressors”.

2) Another Pandit, an authoritarian figure on Kashmirhistory By P N K Bamzai, he states in his book, History of Kashmir,

“It is from that date that the people took upon themselves the task of securing for themselves the right of democratic self-rule”

3) Gwashi Lal Koul, a journalist turned historian who wrote extensively during that period does not mention loot of Pandit property in his book, Kashmir then and now
3) Koul was among leader of his Panditcommunity, he claims to have been himself victim of mob fury two days later but he does not refer to any loot or arson in his book,Kashmir then and now pp.101.

4) Pandit Jailal Kilam , a prominent leader of Hindu Yuyak Sabha wrote a book ,History of Kashmiri does not loot of Pandit property or attack on Pandits.

5) Abdul Majid Zargar while questioning this 29 year old sustained propaganda states,”Many books have been written by Pandits between 1931 and 1947 but no one among them mentioned any large scale riot or killing on that day.

7) According to, WeeklyAmar, August31,1931 , Sutherland Prime minster of J K Wakefield visited Vicharnag ,where report of alleged loot of Pandits happened ,Sutherland made a significant point that “Not a single Pandit complained of being looted”

6) I too was wondering about this propaganda, it must be mentioned here that during this period ,Pandit Hari Krishan Koul was the Prime Minster of Jammu and Kashmir and Pandit Sat Lal was magistrate of Srinagar city , whole police department was dominated by Pandits but still to this date they are not able to produce a single evidence regarding this propaganda .For last 88 years ,they haven’t disclosed the identities of a single person who has been killed, or harmed .They haven’t produced a single document like FIR’S ,Complaints etc. I have come to conclusion this is another feather to the propaganda list of few Pandit organisation otherwise pro Kashmir Pandits never claimed this.

7) Galancy report suggested that the removal of Prime Minster of JK, Pandit Hari Krishan Koul as demanded by Muslim as genuine and Hari Singh removed him on same day.

The inquiry commission: An inquiry commission under Barjor Dalal submitted a report on the riots of July 1931. Although Muslim leaders had already rejected because of its bias. Dalal termedHindu leaders as Representatives but Muslim leaders as so called representatives, he also termed banning of Friday prayer as accidental, he didn’t entertain the plunder of Muslim shops,and much more . Barjor Dalal’s report of the Srinagar riot enquiry committee – 1931) concluded that the riots were the desired outcome of intrigues the British indulged in from 1847, but Maharaja Gulab Singh astutely overcame.

TRUCE Agreement: Hari Singh organized the visit of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Tej Bahadur Sapru. They tried to dissuade Muslims of Kashmir about their struggle, campaigned in valley and asked people to cooperate with the Maharaja’s government. And through the intervention of a liberal Muslim politician from British India Meher shah, an agreement was achieved between Muslim leaders of Kashmir and the government. The agreement is known as Temporary truce. When terms of this truce were announced to people in Jama Masjid on August 28, 1931, they were very angry and the truce ended as public was poised to take the struggle to its logical end and get rid of occupational ruler.

“1931 rebellion was a grand success as most of the demands had to be conceded by Dogra rulers. The proprietorship of the land, lost in Mughal days, was resolved; the confiscated mosques were handed back to Muslims; freedom of expression and association with certain limits was granted and legislated assembly established, though the majority of its members was nominated by the Maharaja; more opportunities were afforded to the Muslims to enter state services”

In the course of sporadic uprising throughout the latter half of 1931, the Dogra army was busy employed in quelling the disturbances; the Kashmiris bared their breasts to the bayonets and guns of the army man. It was reported that not a single bullet had been found in the back of scores of dead bodies examined and post-mortem”

(The author is a student of Kashmir History and can be reached at: [email protected])

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Pakistan’s real ideological fault line

The Kashmir Monitor



By Yasser Latif Hamdani

In the on-going political maneuvering and power plays between various state institutions and political parties, Pakistan as a nation state has taken its eyes off the real ideological fault line in Pakistan which lies between Orthodox reactionaries and the Muslim Modernists.

NadeemFarooqParacha’s excellent study “Muslim Modernism; the case for a Naya Pakistan” succinctly summarises the history of the defeat of the idea of Muslim Modernism in Pakistan. The idea of Pakistan was a Muslim Modernist project that took root in Aligarh Muslim University, the arsenal of Muslim India. It was in the hallowed halls of that great university that the plans of a new Muslim majority nation state were debated and finalized. It had a direct link to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s legacy of keeping Muslims away from Congress, which he charged with being a Hindu dominated body. Men like Jinnah who had joined the Congress and the mainstream of the Indian Nationalist struggle ultimately were forced to accept the wisdom of the grand old man of Aligarh. By the 1940s, the Best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity had taken on the role of the undisputed Quaid-e-Azam of Muslim India and the movement he spearheaded was the apex of Muslim modernism. Arrayed against him were reactionaries of Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind backed by the Indian National Congress. They attacked and abused him for being too modern and too secular. Their real ire was against the very idea of Muslim modernism that Jinnah had come to embody.


Muslim modernism in South Asia was an idea that was born out of the fall of the Mughal Empire. It stood in stark contrast to the other modern Muslim ideas including Islamic fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalism called for a return to what they viewed as fundamentals of Islam and was inherently sectarian in nature. Muslim modernism rejected the idea of a fixed dogma and instead emphasized the dynamic and ever evolving nature of Islam through the principle of Ijtehad. Muslim modernism also embraced modern education, secular system of government and modern economy. Syed Ameer Ali’s classics “History of Saracens” and the “Spirit of Islam” were written in this vein. Iqbal was another figure in this movement towards modernity who with his “Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” laid out a roadmap with identifiable waypoints on the route to Muslim enlightenment and renaissance through an embrace of modern knowledge and modernity. To achieve this, Muslims of the subcontinent needed a state of their own, within or without the Indian whole. This in a nutshell was the idea of Pakistan.

When the idea of Pakistan began to take root amongst the Muslims, leaders of religious orthodoxy calculated that if these men managed to seize the leadership of the Muslim community, the ulema would be left out in the cold. Therefore the Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and Majlis-e-Ahrar, which were led by men seized of an irrational hatred for all things modern and by extension western and British, put in their lot with an increasingly nativist Indian National Congress under Gandhi. After all Gandhi, who had shunned western modernity, had supported them during the Khilafat Movement. The calculation was that in an India dominated by the Hindu majority, the Muslim community will forever be in the sway of the bearded men with flowing robes educated at Darul-UloomDeoband. With the help of their Hindu friends, the leaders of this religious reaction set up a university of its own in form of Jamia Milli. They set about trying to divide the ranks of the Muslim League by raising sectarian questions against Shias and Ahmadis, many of whom were in leading positions in the League.

Pakistan from 1947 to 1977 was committed to the idea of Muslim modernism. While some tragic compromises were made on the way in the closing stages of the Ayub regime and by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the state was moving in the general direction of becoming a modern democratic state based on principles of enlightenment. General Zia ulHaq changed all of that. A massive re-writing of the history of the Pakistan Movement was undertaken and Muslim modernism was slowly but surely written out of it. This was done under the auspices of parties like Jamaat e Islami whose historical role against the Pakistan Movement was conveniently ignored and who began a massive re-engineering project to make Pakistan a fundamentalist state. The generation that grew up in the 1980s and 1990s grew up with a world view that rejected modernity. It was in large part aided by Pakistani diaspora who had arrived in the Gulf in the 1970s. Islam was equated with all things Arab. It was a striking departure from Iqbal’s famous Allahabad address where he had put as one of the objectives the idea of liberating South Asian Islam from the stamp of Arab imperialism. Thus from 1980s Pakistan had not just rejected Jinnah’s secularism but also comprehensively buried the very idea which had led to its creation. Jinnah’s ideas had already been marginalized but now Iqbal was sanitized and only those parts of his philosophy were allowed dissemination that fit the regime’s Islamisation.

This is what makes the ongoing political battles entirely out of step with the real ideological issue in Pakistan. The current government’s overbearing attitude towards freedom of speech masks the low-grade conflict between the modernists and the orthodoxy. What is at stake is our future as a people and our attitudes to new problems that face us. Ultimately the direction human progress takes is one and that is forward. Gender rights, freedom of speech and even questions of sexuality will become major points of contention in very near future. Will we then remain wedded to an orthodox fundamentalist interpretation of our faith or will we embrace the idea of modernity itself marching in step with the rest of the world. None of our politicians or other power brokers seem to realize the challenges ahead. As a first step though we must reject the faux national narrative that has been shoved down our throats since the 1980s and re-invigorate the inherently enlightened and modern ethos that led to the formation of Pakistan.

(The writer is an Advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan and a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in London. This article first appeared in Daily Times, Lahore)

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Beyond winning and losing

The Kashmir Monitor



By Jawed Naqvi

Seeing the legendary Farokh Engineer among the spectators at the Old Trafford, with his shock of curly white hair and a Falstaffian girth that seemed to meld nicely with his incorrigibly impish smile, my mind went into the enticing time machine for a rendezvous with the great Parsi cricketers India once flaunted.

Then, the penny dropped.


The 1983 and 2011 Indian cricket teams that won the world cup encompassed what Rahul Dravid would call the country’s cultural colours, which were just about missing in ViratKohli’s social mix. This is not to say that a cultural mix is necessarily more formidable or that it would have produced a happier result, say, in the critical semi-finals that India lost to New Zealand. In fact, on the flip side of the argument, the all-white South Africans were probably the stronger team in the world on their day, even if few were willing to court them for fear of violating stringent anti-apartheid laws.

The all-black West Indies could be just as invincible on a given outing, but they gained and certainly didn’t lose when RohanKanhai and Alvin Kalicharan came into the squad with a different colour of skin, just as MakhayaNtini, HashimAmla or Imran Tahir among others brought new energy to the post-apartheid South African team.
And why forget that even the West Indies inducted a white player in the squad against New Zealand in the 1970s.

And doesn’t it behove mention that the solitary black man in the squad who delivered the crushing blow for the mainly white English team in the nail-biting finals against New Zealand at Lord’s was not even in the national eleven a few weeks earlier?

In the early days of Indian Test cricket, it was a common habit to expect Parsi players of the order of Nari Contractor, Polly Umrigar, Engineer or RusiSurti to embellish every Indian’s favourite team. It was thus that for a predominantly Hindu country, KapilDev’s squad that lifted the first World Cup for India boasted of Roger Binny, Syed Kirmani and Balwinder Singh Sandhu who added to the cherished moment on the world stage, just as Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, Yusuf Pathan and Munaf Patel were in the trophy-winning squad in 2011.

One could identify at least two solid players in the Bangladesh World Cup squad who breached its dominant cultural profile. And in a heavily Sinhalese Sri Lanka, where would the team stand without the priceless talent of MuttiahMuralitharan?

Pakistan, where display of majoritarian religion has gained currency for a variety of sociopolitical reasons, Anil Dalpat and Yusuf Youhana had fortified the squad. It is another matter that Youhana discovered greater spiritual solace in embracing the identity of Pakistan’s religious majority.

A country’s approach to inclusivity need not, of course, be worn as a cultural amulet in a thread around the neck. New Zealanders, for example, found a subtler method to express their eclectic cultural expanse — by singing the national anthem in two languages, English and Maori, spoken by the country’s original inhabitants.

We had read in school about Britain’s bold, risky, but often humorous enterprise to initiate the natives of Gilbert and Ellis Islands to cricket. A Pattern of Islands by Sir Arthur Grimble was a regaling story as much as it also informed the reader about the colonial celebration of cultural diversities they tried to encourage and preserve, including by introducing cricket to the remote Pacific islands.

A friend recently forwarded an essay from the BBC’s website by PrashantKidambi of Leicester University. It offers a brilliant insight into the early efforts of Indian and British elite to stitch together an ‘Indian’ cricket team.

“In this last decade,” Kidambi quotes former cricketer Rahul Dravid as saying in 2011, “the Indian team represents, more than ever before, the country we come from — of people from vastly different cultures, who speak different languages, follow different religions, belong to different classes.”

And yet, the link between cricket and the nation was neither natural nor inevitable.

“It took 12 years and three aborted attempts before the first composite Indian team took to the cricket field in the summer of 1911. And contrary to popular perception — fostered by the hugely successful Hindi film Lagaan — this ‘national team’ was constituted by — and not against — empire.”

The first Indian cricket team sparked great interest in the British press, according to the historian from Leicester. A diverse coalition of Indian elite and British governors (among others) made possible the idea of Indians on the cricket pitch.

The ‘Indian’ cricket team was thus first broached in 1898, inspired by the rise of Kumar ShriRanjitsinhji, or Ranji, an Indian prince who bewitched Britain and the wider imperial world with his sublime batting.

The early British ventures failed to put together a team “because of fierce divisions between Hindus, Parsis and Muslims over the question of their representation in the proposed team”.

When they succeeded, the captain of the team was 19-year-old Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, “the pleasure-seeking, newly enthroned maharaja of the most powerful Sikh state in India”.

Others were selected on the basis of religion: there were six Parsis, five Hindus and three Muslims in the side. PalwankarBaloo, the Dalit bowler, was the “first great Indian cricketer”, Kidambi writes.

“The composition of this team shows how in the early 20th-century, cricket took on a range of cultural and political meanings within colonial India.”

Farokh Engineer’s presence in Manchester reminded me of a hair cream the debonair cricketer advertised — and a generation embraced. But he also triggered memories of an interview the great playback singer AshaBhosle gave. Asked to choose between Kishore Kumar, Mukesh and Manna Dey as her favourite legendary duet singers, she said: “You have forgotten Mohammed Rafi.”

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NRC: A major storm is brewing

The Kashmir Monitor



By Sanjoy Hazarika

The National Register of Citizens process in Assam ploughs relentlessly on. At the end of this month a full list is to be published, ostensibly of all Indians identified in the state. That is when the scale of misery and jubilation may be gauged. Yet that’s not the end of this long, complex journey.

A few days back, another list was published of one lakh persons who are to be left out of the list because they could not produce convincing documentation; this followed scattershot complaints by unidentified persons against some who were already on the NRC.


For those who do not make the cut on July 31, there is a longer battle in store — they will have to spend time, funds (invest in lawyers) and appear before quasi-judicial processes, the foreigners tribunals, to prove their nationality. These courts, manned by lawyers without extensive judicial experience or deep knowledge of jurisprudence, are the first point of appeal followed by the state high court and finally the Supreme Court.

The Assam government had said it would add 400 FTs more to the current 100 (it later promised 1,000), but has it made the clear determination of whether the person is fully qualified for that office and can take a decision without fear or favour?

Many of us who have followed the long and tortuous journey of the NRC — and the earlier struggle between the 1970s-1980s by student groups and others for detection of foreign nationals (that is, the ubiquitous ‘Bangladeshi’) — had pinned faith in a process that would create a list which would be clean, clear and correct. Knowing the complexities of Assam, a simple land with deep divisions, this was perhaps a naive hope.

The ‘foreigners issue’, as the question of informal migration (largely from Bangladesh) is defined in popular terms in Assam, is a challenge that goes back to the time of Independence. However, critical perceptions about in-migration and demographic change precede that.

Assam now appears to be entering an uncertain period with little clarity on a fundamental question: will the list competently identify ‘foreigners’? Arguably some 29 million persons had made the cut last July but all hell broke loose with the announcement that nearly four million had not. Of the latter, 3.2 million persons have petitioned for their inclusion and the issue has figured at international and national forums. Some of the stories which have emerged over the past year are worth repeating, for they cut across religious, ethnic and language divisions and point to major inaccuracies.

In case after case, a pattern has emerged showing a combination of poor judgment, problematic data, arbitrariness or just indifference that has harmed Indians. A Kargil veteran who was marched into a detention camp and then released; a policeman who cannot vote since he has been proclaimed a foreigner; a 92-year-old man who has had to be carried into court to face trial; a woman who ended up in a detention camp when the police could not find the person they were looking for and just picked her up; prominent Gorkhas including a SahityaAkademi winner find themselves in the excluded list. In many cases, a mismatch of a letter in a name connecting them to either parent or grandparent was enough to bar them.

Most of the cases cited above, barring the Gorkhas, were people of Bengali origin, both Hindu and Muslim. It is not just about religion. The poor and vulnerable who cannot afford lawyers find themselves in this situation.

The NRC impact is spreading: other states are arming themselves with similar plans. Nagaland has started a 60-day exercise aimed at identifying the indigenous people (read members of 16 Naga tribes whose homes are in the state) and one anti-immigrant group has declared that the “indigenous” are those who are “Naga by blood”. Does the definition of the indigenous in Nagaland includes mainland Indians, be they Assamese, Bengali (Hindus and Muslim), Marwari, Bihari or from other parts of this country?

It does not take a tarot card reader to see that a major storm is brewing. Many may not have predicted this when the NRC was given wings in 2016, after the BharatiyaJanata Party gained power in Assam. What has unfortunately happened is that the exercise in Nagaland and in parts of Assam could end up condemning Indians to an appalling fate.

Even pro-BJP groups recognize this. One said recently that it had procured 2.8 million signatures of people in Assam demanding an “error-free NRC”. It pointed out that the Supreme Court itself had suggested a pilot sample reverification of 10 per cent of the total number on the NRC but not issued orders for this. Its concern was that many Hindus of Bangla origin would be left out.

A recent citizen’s group which travelled across three districts in Assam found that many women, both Hindu and Muslim, have been declared foreigners because they did not have the documents to link them to their father, the crucial “legacy data” or family tree link in the NRC.

PrateekHajela, the NRC state coordinator, has said that “inability to provide linkage documents appears to be the biggest reason why applicants couldn’t substantiate their claims”.

Indeed, from its very start, the NRC exercise has struggled with technical hurdles.

For one, the key base document for the NRC is its predecessor: the first and only NRC of 1951. Yet enumerators found that copies of this NRC were not available in three districts: Sivasagar, Cachar and KarbiAnglong. So new data based on 16 parameters were developed for these district populations — 67 to 68 years after this initial exercise, based on electoral rolls and census data. Two separate systems of checks and cross checks have had to be created, quite different from each other. Is it surprising that there should be confusion?

The exercise is officially over on July 31. But there is no clarity on what happens to those out of the lists — will they stay at their homes and fight trials, will they have to move elsewhere, will those found as foreigners by FTs be sent to detention camps after a 120-period when appeals can be heard?

A Union minister of state for home affairs has told Parliament that a new manual for detention camps was being prepared with the following proposed facilities: “electricity, drinking water, hygiene, accommodation with beds, sufficient toilets with running water, communication facilities, provision for kitchen”. The draft manual has been sent to all state governments raising questions about how long the Centre proposes to keep people at such sites.

This is aimed obviously at blunting criticism by some who have been released from detention camps in Assam after their Indian-ness was upheld. They describe conditions are appalling with scores packed into a single room and sharing a single toilet.

Exacerbating the issue is the fact that even those detected as Bangladeshis cannot be deported unless Bangladesh acknowledges them as its own — which it steadfastly refuses to do.

Governments are required to uphold Constitutional obligations, especially Article 21 of the Constitution, which proclaims that no one may be deprived of his life and liberty except by due process. In addition, there are India’s international commitments to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which does not recognize statelessness.

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July 2019
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