The Hero of 13 July, 1931

By Saima Bhat

It was a speech and what followed it that made him a hero of the 1931 uprising in Kashmir. His identity, however, still remains a mystery. Abdul Qadeer Khan left the political scene of Kashmir as dramatically as he entered it.  His speech against the Dogra rule in the state at Khanqah-i-Moulla shrine, asking people to revolt against the cruel policies of the Maharaja, gave a vent to the perpetual yet dormant anger among the civilians who suffered under different autocratic rules of Sikhs, Afghans and then the Dogras. Although much has been written about Khan by historians, scholars and writers, most of it lacks proof.


It was on June 21, 1931 that the ‘Young man’s Muslim Association’, led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, planned a public meeting at the Khanqah-i-Moula. It was a unique meeting because all Muslim divines, irrespective of their schools of thought, assembled there.

The meeting was addressed by Abdullah himself. He asked all the Muslims to unite and demand for their rights. He also appealed to the Pandits to join hands with Muslims to seek redress of grievances as well as, demand for independence. All the leaders swore in the name of the Holy book that they would remain faithful to the cause of Islam.

Sheikh Abdullah (encircled) near a martyr of 13 July, 1931.

Khawaja Saad-ud-din Shawl, Mirwaiz Moulvi Yousuf Shah, Mirwaiz Moulvi Hamdani, Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas, Agha Syed Hussain Shah Jalali, Khwaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Munshi Shahab-ud-din, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Sardar Gohar Rehman were elected as representatives of the Muslims. Just when the meeting was about to be over, a well-built Pathan, around 36-40 years old, rose up and delivered an inspiring speech which was considered to be seditious by the State Government. The Pathan was Abdul Qadeer Khan.

He said, “The honour, respect and reverence of the Holy Quran are dearer to the Muslims than the ruler-ship of the world. They will never tolerate any interference in their religion or defilement of their Holy Book. The Government of the Maharaja does not care for his subjects. It has no touch with the people, nor any sympathy for the downtrodden. Oh, Muslims arise! Time is near when you shall reply with stones, against the bricks. I warn you that your representatives and memorials cannot come to your rescue, nor will these papers remove injustice and misery. Such things cannot solve the issue relating to the defilement of the Holy Quran. You must stand on your legs and fight against autocratic force. Even, if, you have no arms you can fight with sticks and stones”.

Khan then pointed towards the Shergarhi Palace of the Maharaja and cried:  “Demolish this edifice of injustice, cruelty and subjugation”. The listeners, who included leaders and the general public, were quite flabbergasted to hear such a speech. The crowd seemed so mobilized and motivated by the speech, that they shouted ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ to manifest their support for Khan. After the event, Abdul Qadeer Khan and his speech became the talk of the town. Some said Khan was a man of wheatish colour, sharp eyes, big face and curved moustaches, who had come to Kashmir with a European tourist as a butler. Others believed he was a disciple of Maulana Jamal-ud-din Afghani, a foremost Muslim philosopher of the 20th century, who had also visited Kashmir before his departure to Russia via Pahalgam.


Two religious defamatory incidents are believed to have played a major role in inspiring Khan. The first incident took place on the 29th April 1931, and is remembered as the ‘Khutba incident’ in Jammu. It is said that during Eid prayers, Khem Chand, a Hindu police officer ordered the Imam, who was conducting Nimaz to stop the Khutba.

The second incident that seemed to have provoked Khan took place on the 4th July 1931. It is still remembered as Tohin-i-Quran. In the police lines Jammu, a Hindu official Lakha Ram, threw away the Holy Quran, which a Muslim employee was reciting in his room. Besides these two incidents, Muslims generally were barred from practicing their religion under the rule.

Soon after delivering the speech, Khan was arrested on 25 June, 1931. The offences like Section 124(A) (Anyone who by words or expression of any kind brings or attempts to bring or provoke a feeling of hatred, contempt, or disaffection towards government established by law is culpable under the section for imprisonment from 3 years to lifetime with or without fine) and 153 (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot-if rioting be committed-if not committed) of the Penal Code were charged on him in the Court of Session Judge on the 4 July, 1931.

During the hearings, it was found that the trial had greatly excited the Muslims as it was the first case of a political nature in the state. The Muslims of the state were sympathetic towards Khan and thousands of people assembled in the court to know the fate of the prisoner. As such, there was an imminent danger of turmoil and so on 11 July, 1931, District Magistrate suggested that the trial be held in Jail and permission for it was granted. Not to forget is the fact that no lawyer came forward to defend Khan, except Maulvi Abdullah Vakil.

Historians say Maharaja Hari Singh had appealed to the masses to stay away from the functioning of government but that appeal was completely rejected by the Muslims. They were “prepared to sacrifice for the sake of Islam and for the sake of the helpless prisoner, for whose defence they had planned to raise subscriptions”.

13 July 1931

The trial was to be held in the Srinagar Jail premises. The Deputy Inspector of Police came to the site 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. Besides, the Jail forces comprised 119 policemen armed with bamboo canes and 19 policemen with rifles.

Before the arrival of the Session Judge, a large group of Muslims had gathered on the road leading to the Jail compound. When the Judge arrived in his car, escorted by the police, they shouted slogans like: ‘Our brother from Raibareli! Release Abdul Qadeer! Our brother from Rawalpindi! We will go to the jail. Imprison us instead’.

The Jailor told the Judge that people wanted to have a glimpse of Khan but the Judge refused. Khan was brought out of the Jail to the court at 2 pm. People were excited to see Khan and started raising slogans like Allaha-o-Akbar. The Sessions Judge ordered the people to disperse but they requested for permission to offer prayers. The police arrested five men and this incensed the people further. One of them -Khawaja Abdul Khaliq Shora, stood up and recited the Azan (call for prayers) loudly. A policeman promptly shot him dead. This agitated the people more and they started pelting stones on the police.

“Oh, Muslims arise! Time is near when you shall reply with stones, against the bricks. I warn you that your representatives and memorials cannot come to your rescue, nor will these papers remove injustice and misery

Two rows, comprising five policemen each, fired on the people. The Magistrate ordered the policemen to fire three rounds in the air but the people continued shouting slogans like Allaha-o-Akbar and Islam Zindabad. Many people got injured and many were arrested in the incident.

The first man to be arrested was Khawaja Muhammad Yahya Rafiqi. Some of the protestors entered the Jail Office and picked up charpoys to carry the ‘martyrs’ and the wounded. The police had used about 200 rounds of ammunition and arrested 32 persons in the initial stages.

Jamia Masjid
Martyrs of 13 July, 1931 at Jamia Masjid (grand mosque) Srinagar.

Meanwhile, the military and the cavalry forces had arrived and they mercilessly beat up the people with spears and sticks. They wanted to snatch away the dead bodies from the people but they confronted them bravely and proceeded towards the Jama Masjid. The wounded were carried towards the nearby Mission Hospital Rainawari and some towards the clinic of Dr. Abdul Wahid. In all, 22 people in the first instance and then six more were added to the count. In the meanwhile, military took over the city and killed three men in Nawabazar who were shouting slogans against the Maharaja.

The bodies of the Martyrs were laid in the compound of Jama Masjid Nowhatta. Sheikh Abdullah, Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Yusuf Shah and other leaders started delivering speeches against the Maharaja. At the suggestion of Khawaja Noor Shah, all the martyrs were buried in the compound of Ziarat Naqashband Sahib, Khanyar.

The soldiers arrested about 700 Muslims in the city. The next day the leaders of the Muslims -Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Chaudary Ghulam Abbas, Moulvi Abdul Rahim, Sardar Gohar Rehman were arrested and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was locked in a solitary cell of the Hari Parbat Fort.

As a protest against these atrocities, the entire valley observed a strike for 19 days. The people shouted slogans against the Maharaja from their rooftops. At many places, the police and the military resorted to firing and killed several Muslims in Maisuma, Habakadal, Nawakadal and Jamia Masjid area.

For the first time, the Kashmiri Muslims had risen from deep slumber, and now none could stop them from their onward march towards freedom from the autocratic rule of the Maharaja. Sheikh Abdullah had emerged as their leader and had started to be known as the Sher-e-Kashmir.

The Maharaja had failed to check 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 of all political prisoners except Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was given five years rigorous imprisonment. A compromise was reached between the leaders of the Kashmiri Muslims and the Maharaja through the efforts of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad.

The 22 martyrs of 13 July, 1931, buried in Martyrs' Graveyard at Khawaja Bazar, Srinagar. Photo: Muhabit-ul-Haq

At a public meeting in Jama Masjid, the Muslims cursed both Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Yusuf Shah, accusing them of compromising the sacrifices of the martyrs of 1931. But both of them explained in their speeches that they will not serve as traitors and will shed their blood, in case the Maharaja fails to redress their grievances within a month.

After the incident, a Dalal Committee was established on 14 July, 1931 by Maharaja to enquire into the cause of the disturbance in the city but the Muslims objected to the composition of the Committee and decided to boycott it. After this, another commission was established called the Glancy Commission. It was formed on 12 November, 1931 and its major recommendations were accepted by the Dogra Raj in April 1932.

The commission accepted that grave injustices had been perpetrated against Muslims and so they were granted landed rights, forced labour was abolished, a representative and democratic set-up in the form of Praja Sabha with 75 seats including 33 to be elected (21 for Muslims) was formed.

Thus, the 1931 movement had “met” its major objectives, and the Dogras were able to contain the movement. The British were not ready to accept that Kashmir could become a trouble spot which could spread discontent among the already disgruntled Muslims from Afghanistan to the Indian plains. Had the British left the situation at the mercy of Dogra rulers, they would have justified the massacres and even invented further justifications for future outrages as they had appointed Dalal commission to it. Glancy commission prevailed, which ultimately was a blessing for the Dogra Raj, for it had “satisfied” the peoples anger and the so-called Muslim leadership had virtually nothing to demand or do, except start infighting.

Who was Abdul Qadeer Khan?

Till date, nobody knows what happened to the revolutionary Abdul Qadeer Khan. Before his rebellion against the Dogra rule, Khan is believed to have worked as a butler with a British Officer, Colonel Alford Butt -a British officer who had come to Kashmir along with his wife and children and they were staying in a houseboat.

Qadeer used to offer Friday prayers at the Hazratbal shrine and in leisure fed fish. It is believed that when he heard about desecration of the Holy Quran by Dogra soldiers in Jammu, he was very furious. He took a big knife from pantry of the houseboat and addressed people at Khankah.

After that, an unidentified person asked for Qadeer in the evening. He was so brave that he went with the man in the Shikara. As the Shikara was about to reach the banks, the unidentified man, probably an intelligence official, whistled and the Maharaja’s soldiers appeared from all sides and surrounded the Shikara. They arrested Qadeer.

Another theory suggests that a few days before delivering his famous speech, Qadeer was riding with Major Abet, the British army Officer. As they were nearing the Hazratbal Shrine, Qadeer saw people rushing towards the Shrine and requested Major Abet to drop him on the banks so that he could join the Friday congregation. Major Abet dropped him on the banks but said to Qadeer “tell your God to free Kashmiris from this oppressive rule”. The British Officers’ words inspired Qadeer.

Noted historian Fida Mohammad Hasnain and writer Shabnam Qayoom believe that Abdul Qadeer Khan belonged to a Pathan family of Rampur connected with the Pan–Islamic Movement of Maulana Jamal-ud-din Astarabadi. His disguised visit as a servant of a British tourist, after the secret visit of Maulana Astarabadi, is significant. Before the delivery of the inflammatory speech, he had established his contacts with the political thinkers at the shop of Pir Abdul Ahad Shah.

“Tell your God to free Kashmiris from this oppressive rule” – Major Abet to Qadeer.

Hasnain also says that Maulana Jamal-ud-din Astarbadi is foremost among the Muslim philosophers of the 20th century, who have influenced political thought of the Islamic countries. He was the founder of the Pan Islamic movement. Khan was a prominent worker of this movement and he could speak English, Urdu, Persian and Arabic. Having lived in Peshawar and Rawalpindi, he could speak Punjabi and Pashtu also.

Hasnain also says Khan must have been murdered by the Maharaja and is buried somewhere between Goni Khan and Lal Ded Hospital. But Zahir-ud-din, a senior journalist and human rights activist, who has also researched about Khan says that he was basically from North western frontier (Afghanistan) but some 300 years back, his ancestors had shifted to Gutli Bagh, Ganderbal Kashmir. In support of his findings, he says if Qadeer had been an outsider then the Maharaja would have never allowed him to stay in Kashmir.

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  1. Asalamu Alikum!!

    An informative piece of work. it is unfortunate that we dont have any significant amount of material about Ab. Qadeer Khan. You have maintained the script well, short and precise with much information. Thanks and hope much articles from you in future.

  2. Very good. Quite pleased to have found this.
    But i would suggest that the question of ‘who’ Abdul Qadeer was, and where he was from, isn’t that important. He was, and should be, envisaged, given the historical context, as a ‘Kashmiri subject’ of the time.

    best wishes, keep up the good work.

  3. Salam

    Great article : though what makes me sad is what the hearts OUR are filled with. The society we speak of, we want to fight for right and wrong. Angry, rage, badh, hasad is what is common. We are not “one” inside how will we be “one” outside, to the extend of abusing each other on public forums.

    Allah kareem







  5. Who was Abdul Qadeer Khan?

    The mystery can be solved if proper research is realy done by analysing the records of the Dogra era.There must be some records available indicating the origin of the person,adress, and date of discharge/death of the person in jail /court records. Whoever is claiming to have researched the topic are simply guessing on the hearsay. It is irony that we donot know the personal identity of a person who changed the history of Kashmir.

  6. “Jo Hind main hai Mullaha ko Sajde ki ijjazatt
    Nadaan yeh samajta hai,islam hai azaad”….Allama…

    “No i Don’t want to know who Qadeer was and where he was born for his actiona and passion delineated and defined him for all times to come and to all generations of kashmir….”…
    A perceptive piece by writer,well written,well researched and beautifully articulated…..
    Allama iqbal says,
    Ba rasham-e-qaba khawaja az mehnat-e-aoo
    Naseeb-e-tanash,Jamah Taar Taare…..

  7. U can realise their sacrifice only if u r well aware of islam. Otherwise, it goes all in vain. Therefore work and struggle for freedom and eventually for implementation of shariyah not only in valley bt on whole world; insha allah- may allah bless u all, wasalaam.

  8. July 13: Kashmiris and revolutions
    by Dr Sheikh Showkat
    Ever since Kashmir was sold by
    Britishers to Maharaja Ghulab
    Singh, Kashmiris never digested
    this sale. Soon after the deal was
    executed, people of Kashmir fought
    valiantly against the army of
    Maharaja Ghulab Singh and
    defeated it. The battle took place
    near Sheikh Bagh under the
    leadership of Imam-ud-Din, the
    last governor of Sikh rule (1846).
    Dogra army retreated and for
    several months Kashmir remained
    free from foreign rule. The
    Kashmiris who were martyred in
    this resistance were buried at
    Shaheed Gunj, previously known
    as Maidanpora. The army of
    Maharaja Ghulab Singh could
    control Kashmir only with the help
    of British army after several
    months. The resistance was
    followed by the rebellion of
    Poonch. Those who rebelled over
    there were skinned alive. This
    marked the second stage of
    resistance to alien rule.
    The third stage of resistance is
    represented by the Shawl weavers.
    The Shawl weavers staged a
    protest outside the house of Raj
    Kak Dhar, near Zaldagar, against
    excessive taxation on 29 April of
    1865. Raj Kak Dhar ordered a
    police action against unarmed
    weavers. Twenty eight weavers
    died as a result of police action.
    This marked the third stage of
    resistance against dynastic rule of
    Maharaja Ghulab Singh and his
    In 1925, the workers of Silk factory
    rose in revolt against Hari Singh.
    All these stages of resistance
    remained localized and fizzled out
    after sometime. The incidents
    however transmitted the spirit of
    resistance to new generations.
    What makes 1931 important is that
    the resistance this time was not
    local. It was statewide. It started
    from Jammu against the sacrilege
    of Quran by sepoys of Hari Singh,
    culminated in Srinagar in the form
    of massive protests. The protests
    remained confined for sometime to
    demand of action against those
    who were involved in sacrilege.
    Then a strange voice echoed to
    give a direction to it. It was voice
    of Abdul Qadeer, a disciple of
    Jamaal-ud-Din Afghani and an
    adherent of his ideology of pan-
    Islamism. He had come to Kashmir
    in the garb of a cook. He asked
    people to address the root cause of
    their deprivation and subjugation.
    He perceived it was the despotic
    rule of Hari Singh which had
    rendered them helpless and
    subjected them to indignation with
    respect to their faith. His words
    catalyzed transformation of
    Abdul Qadeer was detained.
    People protested against his
    detention and wanted the trial to
    be open. Despotic rulers didn’t
    tolerate this demand. They
    subjected the demonstrators to
    indiscriminate firing. 22 people
    were martyred and others injured.
    The injured and the dead were
    taken in procession to Jamia
    One of the injured whispered
    before his death, “we have
    completed our mission, now it is
    your duty to carry it forward.”
    These words of the martyr keep
    on echoing within hearts and
    minds of Kashmiris. They have
    become custodians of an
    aspiration, transmitting it from one
    generation to another. There were
    attempts to betray this aspiration
    in past as well as at present,
    leaders became corrupt. Instead of
    pursuing the struggle, they made
    compromises for the sake of
    power, prestige and wealth but
    masses have shown time and again
    that they remain, and will continue
    to remain the custodians of this
    Dogra rule came to an end with
    controversial accession of the state
    to Indian union. The accession was
    supposed to be endorsed by people
    of the state through internationally
    supervised plebiscite. Instead of
    seeking endorsement of accession
    through plebiscite, Indian union
    proceeded with establishment of a
    scandalous constituent assembly
    having seventy three members out
    of seventy five elected without
    Sheikh Abdullah, the architect of
    accession, was put behind the bars
    after being sacked in 1953. The
    constituent assembly was made to
    endorse the accession. Large scale
    development works initiated
    during the tenure of Bakshi
    Ghulam Mohammad to cloud the
    sentiment for complete freedom.
    Along with large scale
    development, mobilization of
    Kashmiris for status quo was
    sought through cultural carnivals
    organized in the name of Jashn-e-
    For a while Kashmir seemed to be
    on the path of integration with
    India. Reality of this illusion got
    exposed in 1963. Holy Relic of
    Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was
    stolen from the mosque of
    Hazratbal. Within no time Kashmir
    erupted like a volcano. Everyone
    blamed the central government for
    the sacrilege of the holy place.
    Even Nehru realized that Kashmir
    is linked to India with “a half
    spun thread”. Secession in
    Kashmir shed its dormancy and
    became manifest everywhere.
    From 1990 onwards every day in
    Kashmir has been a day of
    martyrdom. Hundred thousand
    people have followed the path of
    1931 martyrs.
    During the tenure of Ghulam Nabi
    Azad, Indian state was again
    overtaken by an illusion of
    Kashmiris abandoning the path of
    martyrs. It launched a ‘crusade of
    development’. This was
    supplemented by carnivals and
    music festivals. These festivals had
    an aroma of Pakistani
    Pakistan government too seemed
    to be indifferent to Kashmiri
    aspirations. For Indian
    establishment the Kashmir
    problem was over. The only thing
    needed was to flood it with yatris
    and tourists. For this purpose,
    Amarnath Shrine Board was
    constituted. The board headed by
    the Governor-General, pursued for
    making settlements in the name of
    yatra. Provoked by land transfer to
    Shrine Board, Kashmir again
    became mobile in June, 2008. For
    two weeks Kashmir experienced
    unprecedented mass mobilization.
    Every child, woman and man was
    on streets tearing apart everything
    that symbolized Indian Union,
    hoisting green flags on every
    street, daring security agencies
    with stones and lathis.2009 saw a
    repetition of the similar uprising
    in the aftermath of Hsoopain rape
    and murder case. The spree of
    death caused as a result of
    unprovoked firings in 2010
    triggered climax of mass
    mobilization for five long months.
    The sentiment which was
    perceived to be dead manifested
    itself before whole world so much
    so that it became a role model for
    mobilizations across the globe.
    Those who had written off the
    sentiment were compelled to
    acknowledge it and reopen the
    closed chapter of negotiations with
    Pakistan for settlement of this
    dispute. The coercion of draconian
    laws, the counter insurgency
    operations, the developmental
    crusades and music festivals,
    everything failed to make
    Kashmiris reconcile with the status
    quo. This uprising depicts the
    truth that aspirations are non
    negotiable irrespective of what so
    called realities demand. The march
    of martyrdom continues with
    everyday, with every month, with
    every year and Kashmiris keep on
    paying tribute to the martyrs of
    Every time they rise in revolt, the
    issues which catalyze rebellion
    remain religious. Every time they
    get mobilized, the color which they
    use for depiction for their
    aspiration remains the favorite
    color of their Prophet (SAW) and
    dome of his eternal abode. Leaders
    may keep on changing their colors,
    masses have depicted their choice
    again and again. Through change
    of colors, leaders became irrelevant
    but aspiration continues to echo in
    every village, every town and every
    city of Kashmir.
    Of late, Kashmiris have made it
    clear that they will keep on
    resisting irrespective of attitude of
    their supporters elsewhere. Like
    leaders of Kashmir, leaders of
    supporting countries may be
    guided by expediencies of
    geopolitics, Kashmiris are
    determined to change the
    geopolitics the way Algerians,
    Afghans, Iranians and Vietnamese
    did. Kashmiris remain guided only
    by their determination to achieve
    freedom and mould their destiny
    in accordance with their religio-
    cultural ethos.
    (Dr Sheikh Showkat is a senior
    proffessor of Law at the University
    of Kashmir)

  9. wwell done.keep on highligting.atleast we have well distingushed scholars who have didicated their most to find how the landmark of 1931 gave strength to the forces of nationalism.

  10. I think instead of trying to know who,where from n rest KHAN was it is time to give him a name ie. Kashmeri he spoke to us he went to jail for a cause n he above all awakened muslims of kashmir as well said by iqbal(r.a) ” jigar say wohiee teer fir par kar tamana ko sinoo mai baidar kar ” thatz exactly wht khan did n we should honour him by giving him a statesubject n accepting him as one of our own and not an outsider ” the son of soil” ABDUL QADER KHAN.

  11. This is a biased articles. Why is there no mention of the killing of the Kashmiri Pandits. This is a one sided story. There were huge anti pandit riots in the valley. Many Kashmiri Pandits were brutally murdered for no fault of theirs. It is just that they were easy targets for a bunch of blood thirsty goons.