Martyrs Day 2024

13 July 2024
Jammu and Kashmir    Regional holiday

Martyrs Day is a regional public holiday in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, observed on July 13th every year. The day commemorates Kashmiris who were killed by state forces while protesting on this day in 1931. From the middle of the 19th century, Jammu and Kashmir had been a princely state within the British Empire. Since 1925, it had been ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh of the Dogra dynasty.

In 1931, Muslims had become increasingly unhappy with the rule of the Maharaja, and the situation had become inflamed when a Hindu policeman allegedly desecrated a Quran as he thought certain passages were being read to criticise the rule of the Maharaja. Abdul Qadeer, an employee of an English officer had become swept up in the febrile atmosphere and addressed the crowds, inciting them to violence.

Qadeer was arrested and imprisoned in Central Jail in Srinagar. Thousands of Kashmiri Muslims had gathered outside the jail to show their support for Qadeer. During the protests, it was time for prayers and one Kashmiri stood up to deliver the call to prayer. He was shot by the soldiers. A second Kashmiri defiantly took up the call to prayer and he too was gunned down. In total, 22 Muslims were killed trying to complete the call to prayer.

The incident led to widespread fighting between Hindus and Muslims in the state, with the British having to send troops to quell the violence. Although the confrontations ended in August 1931, the massacre is seen as the start of the end of the reign of the Maharaja.

In 1947, the Maharaja fled the state and Sheikh Abdullah became the head of the state. Abdullah then instigated Martyrs Day as an official holiday on July 13th to pay tribute and honour the memories of those who had sacrificed their lives in 1931.

Each year, a contingent of police officers, salute the martyrs and place flowers at the Martyrs graveyard on behalf of the state government.