The 149th death anniversary of Robert Thorpe, considered to be first “Kashmir martyr”, was observed by members of the civil society in Srinagar on Wednesday.
Amid sub-zero temperature, the members of the society led by Dr Altaf Hussain visited Christian cemetery at Sheikh Bagh near Mallinson girls school and paid rich tributes to Thrope , who breathed his last on November 22,1868.
The delegation members included Zareef Ahmad Zareef, Parvez Imroz and Khurram Parvez. Dr Altaf favoured that people, particularly the young generation; need to be informed about Thorpe’s contribution.
Senior journalist, Zaheer ud Din said Thorpe sacrificed his life for the better future of Kashmiris. “He was among the first martyrs of Kashmir as he raised his voice against Maharaja’s tyrannical rule in Kashmir,” he said. On the occasion, the members pledged to rededicate their lives for the cause of Kashmir for which Thorpe gave his life.
“Kashmir was his motherland…he gave his life to fight our cause. The least we owe to this departed soul is that we want to commemorate his contribution,” said Dr Altaf Hussain
Noted human rights lawyer, Parvaiz Imroz, speaking on the occasion said “We owe much to him (Thorpe) who laid his life for people of Kashmir.
Thorpe’s mother, Jana was a Kashmiri and lived with her family at Sugen Yarinar in Budgam district. Thorpe’s father was an officer in the British army and would come to Jana’s village very often. One day when Jana was herding her buffaloes, Thorpe saw her. He fell in love with her. Jana belonged to an orthodox Muslim family and Thorpe knew the affair would not mature into a lasting relationship unless he embraced Islam. Jana’s relative, Habibullah Teli was a soldier in the British army. Thorpe approached Teli. He consented to their marriage. After some time Robert Thorpe was born.
Robert Thorpe had heard stories about Kashmir’s beauty and the suffering of its people from his mother Jana. He was desperate to visit Kashmir.
In 1865, when Thorpe visited Kashmir, foreigners required permission of the British authorities. They could not stay in the Valley for more than two months. Twenty-seven-year-old Thorpe stayed longer to study the appalling condition of the people of his mother’s birthplace.
Thorpe was shocked to see the miserable plight of the people in his mother’s birthplace. He raised his voice at the time when there was total sanction on information reaching the government of India. Thorpe took it on himself to inform and educate the British people about the situation in Kashmir by writing to the British Press without caring for consequences. Thorpe felt the British were responsible for the plight of Kashmiris, as it was they who had sold it to the Maharaja under the “Treaty of Amritsar.”
Thorpe travelled across Kashmir collecting information about the plight of the people and thoroughly investigating the facts. He later on published a book entitled “Kashmir Misgovernment” and dedicated it to the people who, according to him “do not approve of cruelties upon human beings, and to those who are exalted from the moral, religious and social point of view and do not like oppression”.
Thorpe pleaded that British government had committed a wanton outrage and injustice by handing over Kashmir to the unjust Maharaja.
However, trouble came upon Thorpe and he was ordered to leave Kashmir. Undeterred, Thorpe returned to Srinagar on November 21, 1868, and next morning after his breakfast he died, possibly because of poisoning. Thorpe was found dead on the Suleiman Taing hill.
Some historians believe that his was the first voice that stood against the tyrannical rule of Dogras against Kashmir.