By Iymon Ganaie
A busy market place shields the green fenced graveyard at the town center. Shopping complexes shadow it. The entrance to the graveyard is closed, as if it has been never opened. Over the main entrance gate a hoarding announces, “Graveyard for the martyrs of 1931”. Inside, the gravestones are not visible. They are covered with thick bushes and shrubs.
There are six graves in the graveyard. Imtiyaz Ahmad who runs a bookstore next to the graveyard says that the busy market has shadowed the importance of the graveyard. “Sometimes, it becomes difficult to even figure out the graveyard. Auqaf Board should have stopped construction of shops around it,” he says.
Only a few residents in the town know about the martyrs who are buried in this graveyard. Wali Muhammad, a Jamaat-e-Islami Rukun (member), gives the reason, “town people were illiterate at that time so they could not document the incidents of the year 1931”. With the literacy rate of the valley surging only in the last four decades, the reason can be the one which couldn’t highlight the events that followed the historic day, 13 July 1931.
Ghulam Ahmad, a retired government teacher, contradicts with Wali Muhammad, he says, “Basically, the cause of the martyrs was hijacked by dirty politics. Before the turmoil, it was National (conference) and now it is Hurriyat”. Ahmad also blames the materialistic sense possessed by people. “The relatives of these martyrs, after receiving “freedom fighter certificates”, even forgot to offer prayers for them. Now only political parties do that,” he laments.
The other reason, which he finds, is the trade of the town. He says, “Sopore is a big trading center. People forgot the martyrs and turned to trading.” However, Ahmad is optimistic about the new generation: the youth. He says, “The new generation is more vigilant towards their history. They can give you hour-by-hour record of the last 20 years.”
But the youth of the town have no clue of what happened in the year 1931 and subsequently the graveyard. “If it is available on Google, then surely I can tell you what had happened in 1931 in Sopore,’ says Iqbal lone, a history student in Government Degree College, Sopore. Musadiq Ahmad, a class 10 student blames the syllabus, which is taught in their schools. He says, “We read Indian history in school, not the history of Kashmir.”
Sopore which is known for its high aspirations of Azadi in recent years has given much importance to the other martyrs graveyard of the town. “People have forgotten 1931 because they are more sentimental to the new graveyards. It is natural,” says Ahmad.
This shadowed graveyard is maintained by Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam, the Auqaf committee of the town. Abdul Ahad, the president of the Anjuman says that he has no knowledge through records who is buried in the graves. “We have no record.” However, Abdul Ahad knows about one martyr and his address. “Aziz Mushki was one of the martyrs. His nephew lives in Baba Yousuf Mohalla,” he says.
Abdul Salam Mushki, a septuagenarian, is a retired government teacher and one of the few men in the town, who have information about the day—13 July, 1931. He reveals that he has heard about the day from his father “people had gathered from all parts of the town outside the Jamia Masjid but soon they were fired upon by Dogra police. Shortly after firing on the civilians, Dogra rulers imposed Martial Law in the town.”
Martial law remained imposed in the town for seven days. “My Uncle’s body was left untouched in the Masjid for complete seven days. Not a single person was allowed to venture outside for those seven days,” Salam retells the story, which is essential part of the history of the town.
Salam also has information about the six martyrs who laid their lives in 1931. He names them:
- Abdul Ahad Shosha
- Aziz Mushki
- Muhammad Khan
- Muhammad sheikh
- Jabbar Ganaie
- Abdul Rahim Dar
The first four were the residents of the old town, Sopore while the latter two were from neighboring villages with Jabbar Ganaie from Wagub, a small village five kilometers from Sopore and Abdul Rahim Dar from Higham, another village about seven kilometers from main town of Sopore.
Salam says that government also forgot about the martyrs and their families. “Apart from 500 rupees, given way back in 1956, there wasn’t any help.” With every year, prayers are held but families of martyrs seldom participate. “Even Martyrs are politicized here, so it is better to be out of this,” says Salam.
Politicians may get some favours from martyrs but it is seriously affecting the civil society. With the people of the town completely unaware of the history, the graveyard would soon become a part of the busy market. The brave men of 1931 will never be remembered again not even for political aspirations.