While the PM Package employees are on continuous protest in the Kashmir valley consequent upon the targeted killing of one of their colleagues, Rahul Bhat, in Chadoora Tehsil office, it becomes important to visit some lines from the thicket of pages of history to get inspiration and encouragement. But before that, it may be mentioned here that the agitation this time has a few important facets that we all need to recognise.
The agitation has a one point demand of posting or relocation to Jammu region for all the displaced employees posted in the valley till normalcy returns in Kashmir and the displaced community is resettled again. Secondly, the displaced community of Kashmiri Pandits supports the agitation of the employees wholeheartedly with one voice. The visit of LG Manoj Sinha and the other senior officers to the transit camps of the package employees over the last one week has kept the lines of communication between the agitating employees and the government surely open.
Besides these important facets, the agitating employees have a long list of demands and complaints that the administration failed to address for the last twelve years. Moreover, fresh problems were created for them in the valley by the introduction of new rules and regulations by the bureaucracy. The good thing is that the employees at present are completely focussed on a single issue of their demand i e. posting in safer area outside Kashmir valley like Jammu.
After two weeks of agitation this time, in order to learn from the past, there is a need to visit the agitation of 1967 which was indeed a big movement pursued by the exiled community in the entire Kashmir valley 55 years ago.
This Agitation of 1967 gave birth to the activism of many at a very young age. Some important memories and emotions were shared by this author earlier as well. A Book titled Wail of the Vale was published in 1967, after the event, by the All Kashmir Hindu Action Committee giving details of the Agitation.
Some important developments that did not find their place in the Book need to be documented for record as well as for the information of the present agitating generations and the posterity.
The agitation was at its peak, and the areas like Sheetal Nath, Shivala, Hari Singh High Street, Ganpatyar, Bana Mohalla and Rainawari were roaring……..The villages and other towns were also on fire. The government had failed to address the issue of the agitation.
Satyagrahis were filling the jails on a day to day basis, arrests were done by the police, hundreds were injured in brutal lathicharges, women, men and children were admitted in the Rattan Rani Hospital (adjacent to the Sheetalnath complex)….. it was decided by the All Kashmir Hindu Action Committee to take the agitation to the capital of the country -New Delhi.
Accordingly, a Team of 22 persons was constituted for the purpose which included both men and women. The team was led by Shri Harday Nath Jattu, the then a young leader activist from Ganpatyar. The team reached Delhi and stayed at the office of the All India Hindu Maha Sabha. One Tej Bahadur Kaul, resident of Delhi and Secretary of All India Hindu Maha Sabha had visited Kashmir, a few days before, to take stock of the situation arising out of the agitation. Raghubir Shastri, Member of Parliament and Prof. Ram Singh accompanied him to SheetalNath. Kaul provided important logistic facility to the Team visiting Delhi.
From the very word go, this team organised Dharnas and Protests at outside the Parliament House and at Sansad Marg. Kidar Nath Sahani, the then prominent leader and a very important man in Delhi and Ram Gopal Shawlwale leader of Hindu Maha Sabha provided all sort of help to the Team in Delhi. Niranjan Nath Kaul of the Praja Parishad fame, who was putting up at Delhi, played a very crucial role in making the programmes of the team a success.
The Team decided to conduct a big Ptotest Dharna outside the Prime Minister’s residence at 1, Safdarjung Road, New Delhi. Immediately after the protest, the members of the Team were arrested by the police and presented before the Magistrate at his Temporary office near Sansad Bhawan. Kashmiri Pandits from Delhi had assembled in large numbers. The Pamposh Enclave residents had worked very hard and provided a great show at the Protest site by their huge participation. The Magistrate sent many of the protesters to the jail.
Those sent to the Tihar jail included: H.N.Jattu, Niranjan Nath Kaul, Brij Nath Sidha, Bal Krishen Seru. Hira Lal Kadalbuju of Sathu, Smt. Motilal Zadoo (Pushkar) and Smt. Dhanwati Handoo (Mother of the abducted girl Parmeshwari).
Some of the arrested were released after 36 days of detention from the jail and the others were also released by that time on different intervals. It needs to be mentioned here that during the agitation, the Hindu houses, shops, temples, orchards and even the bovine animals of the Hindu community were made target of the communal carnage in Kashmir valley. Heavy lathi charges, tear gas attack and firing were used against the Hindu agitators. A number of stabbings took place leading to the death of the poor victims. Seven minority community men were killed during the agitation. Their ‘samadhis’ are at Sheetalnath.
It won’t be out of place to mention here that the following big names were at the helm of affairs when this agitation took place: Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister, Y.B.Chavan, Union Home Minister, G.M Sadiq, Chief Minister of J&K, D.P. Dhar, Home Minister of J&K, and IGP-J&K , D.N.Kaul.
Prem Nath Gassi, Shambhu Nath Kachroo, Tika Lal Taploo, Amar Nath Vaishnavi and Amar Nath Ganjoo were the leading lights during the whole period of agitation. Balraj Madhok and Bhagwat Swaroop were the main coordinating points at Srinagar and Jammu.
Barbarism of the then police and civil administration against the Hindu agitators can be gauged from the fact that every day a group of the injured young men and women were admitted in the Ratan Rani Hospital. There was only one gate of the Sheetal Nath compound and the JK Police was ordered to block this only entrance and unleash lathicharge and tear gas shells on the huge crowds. In a way, it was reminiscent of 1919 Jallianwala Bagh bloodbath.
The next day, people raised the slogans like “SheetalNath mein kya hua…..Jallianwala Bagh hua”. This brutal act was repeated, and repeated again at various places. The organised Hallabol against the minority Hindu community converged on streets of Srinagar, but the Hindus of Kashmir braved the situation with courage and wisdom.
Fifty five years on, we continue to pursue the mission with a new context, the context of Ethnic cleansing and Mass Exodus. The present agitators have a common goal and they need to stick to it and learn from our past history and mistakes. Their cause is just and genuine and since the package has failed as a rehabilitation experiment, it is wise to revisit the issue and take corrective measures. Together we can, together we will!