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Who will deliver justice to Pyare Lal Tickoo?

KS Correspondent

Shopian is an ancient town  and houses one of the  most sacred shrines of Kashmiri Pandits—the Kapalmochan Tirtha. Batapora, the quarter of Shopian, where 112 Pandit families lived till 1990, used to be the pride of the town. It also reminded world about Shopian's pluralistic character. Sadly, this became its undoing. How could entrepreneurs of Islamic fundamentalism reconcile to the existence of a pocket that stood as witness to the immense contribution of Kashmiri Pandits to the economic, social and political life of Shopian. It also lent prestige to the Shopian by reminding that peaceful co-existence between the members of the two communities was not an issue at stake here.

Pt. Saroop Nath Saraf, a son of Batapora, was the first political worker of the region who took up the battle for nationalism, democracy and social justice. Leading Indian National Congress leaders e.g. Sh. Keskar stayed underground in his house during the days of 'Quit India Movement'. He was liberal to the core and braved prison terms in conviction of his political ideas. He was the moving spirit behind the starting of National School, Shopian in 1941. For well-known Muslim intellectuals—Shamim Ahmed Shamim, Mohammad Sayeed Malik, Prof. MA Shaida, Sh. Mohammad Yusuf Teng etc. it became the alma mater. It was Saroop Nath the visionary who launched the agitation for district status for Shopian, though majority community stood to benefit more from it. The entire Batapora quarter was actively involved in the agitation.

Sh. Shamboo Nath Tickoo of the same locality spent 15 days in jail in the agitation for district, and was released on bail later. His son Pt. Pyare Lal Tickoo too was actively involved in secular affairs of Shopian. A cloth merchant by profession, for over two decades he was associated with the activities of Beopar mandal of Shopian and served as its Secretary from 1985-88. He actively associated himself with mainstream political parties of Kashmir and was a close friend of late Shamim Ahmed Shamima, MP and a well-known journalist. He was his election agent at Chrar  in 1971.

What did Pyare Lal do to earn a fate that would shame any civilised society and a democratic government?

First his 26-year old son was gunned down by terrorists. A month later his house was burnt down by them. Then a hostile government stepped in to complete the process of religious-cleansing. For forty years the State government nPL Tickooever deemed it necRajinder Tickooessary to construct a building for housing Industrial Training Institute. Why did the government  decide to choose the burnt earth of Pyare Lal Tickoo's house to build the ITI building even without going through the formality of seeking his consent? Couldn't it find a place in the whole of Shopian town for it? This at a time when it was telling the world that it was committed to return of Kashmiri Pandits! Something worse was in store for Tickoos again. 6 kanals and 10 marlas orchard land, was fraudulently occupied. Even after the declaration of judgement in Tickoos' favour, the same government refuses to implement its own verdict. What else can it be called? "GENOCIDE"! Pyare Lal's tragedy and predicament has posed serious questions on the role of civil society, the media and the government in a democratic society.

Batapora has been home to such outstanding Kashmiri Pandits —Dr RL Lahori, Dr UK Lahori, Jia Lal, Nand Lal, Brij Lal (of Lahori family), Lamboodar Nath Kitchu, Jagar Nath Sathu, Sh. Raghav Ram and ML Kandhari, Jia Lal Koul, Radha Krishan Kaul, Dr. MK Punjabi, Jia Lal Raina, Sham Sunder Pardesi, Omkar Nath Koul, Dr HN Bhat, Sh BL Saraf, Amar Nath and Niranjan Nath Kokroo, Prem Nath Koul etc. Sh. Janki Nath Koul, who too lived here, was Zonal secretary of National Conference and Vice-president of Fruit Growers' Association.

Exodus:

As terrorist violence began in October, 1989 Pandits of Batapora curtailed their movement. With spate of selective killings of members of Pandit community in January-February, 1990 exodus began from Batapora locality as well. Each family took its own decision. By April, 1990 sixty of the 112 Pandit families had left for Jammu as the government had little control to bestow protection to the minority community. The members of the majority community did little to reassure the minority community. Another 30 families left in May. Only 10-12 Pandit families decided to stay back. They included the families of Shamboo Nath Tickoo, Avtar Krishan Koul, Pradiman Krishan Koul, Kanya Lal Raina, Dr HN Bhat, Sh. Brij Lal and Nand Lal Lahori, Jia Lal Lahori and Sh. Brij Nath Kitchlu.

Killing of Rajinder Tickoo:

On June 16, 1990 Rajinder Tickoo son of Pyare Lal Tickoo, who was just 26, was shot dead by terrorists in the town. Rajinder had done MA Education from Kashmir University, Diploma Business Administration from University of Jammu. He had just completed one year Accountancy course from Finance Accountancy School, Srinagar. After six months training he had to undergo practical training for six months at Shopian Hospital. This too he had completed. On the fateful day he had gone to collect the certificate of attendance from the Hospital authorities. After coming out from the hospital at around 4 PM he went to the shop of his friend at Bus Stand. The terrorists who were following him fired a volley of shots at him. 4 bullets hit him—one in the chest, two in abdomen and another one in thigh. Rajinder died on spot. No member of the majority community came to pick him up. Traffic stopped, people ran helter-skelter. Those who seek to enjoy saying on electronic media that Jagmohan provided trucks to Pandits to leave are only rubbing salt to the wounds of the minority Pandit community.

Meanwhile, one of the members of the majority community came to inform Pyare Lal at his shop in the bazar that his son has been shot at. Pyare Lal saw his son lying dead in a pool of blood in the shop. There was a bullet with marking of 'Made in China'. The objective of killing Rajinder, a scion of a prominent Batapora Pandit family, was to serve a warning to the remaining 10-12 Pandit families which were still holding out.

The dead body was taken to the Hospital where Dr. Sofi conducted the post-mortem. In those terrible times Pandits had even lost the right of mourning their departed ones. At the time of post-mortem only Rajinder's father and grandfather were present. Pyare Lal recalls, "I carried the body of my son in my hands. Scene of Raja Harishchandra (Harichandrazaen raat)'s similar predicament was constantly appearing before my eyes. Happenings create stories".

Pyare Lal's mother exhibited rare courage. She mobilised Pandit neighbours to prepare warm water for giving bath to her beloved grandson. There was no purohit available. All the 12 Pandit families attended the cremation at cremation ground at Batapora. Everything was over by 5 PM. No member of the majority community came to Tickoo's house or attended the cremation. There were more than fifty families living here. This was second tragedy for Pyare Lal Tickoo. In January, 1989 his wife, who had just turned 40, had died of Mitral stenosis. The Muslim neighbours had grieved for her for four months. What had happened in just 18 months that 'Kashmiriyat' evaporated like thin air? A fascist, fundamentalist movement had taken over.

All the Pandit families of Batapora who had not joined the exodus, spent the night at Tickoos' house, both to express solidarity with the bereaved family and to ponder over what to do next. It was at 8:30 PM that custodian of Law and Order, Deputy Commissioner, who belonged to the majority community turned up, exactly 4 and ½ hours after the killing. He asked Pandits if they needed any security. Pyare Lal Tickoo replied, "Jo Hona Tha Woh Ho Chuka Hai Ab Kya Karne Aye Ho. Yeh Aapki Marzi Hai Security Rakho Ya Nah Rakho". (whatever had to happen has happened. What was the need for you to come now? It is your wish whether to keep security or not). No security was provided during the night. Those who say Pandits were provided trucks to leave should ponder over who is politicking—they or the Pandits who faced religious-cleansing and an insensitive administration.

Next morning four members of the majority community came to express their grief to Tickoos. One of them was their servant who had been with them for over twenty years, two were friends of Pyare Lal Tickoo and one was a close acquaintance of Pt. Shamboo Nath Tickoo. Times had changed. One has to be a member of the minority community and live the times of physical cleansing to understand what genocide means. It is easy to deliver sermons or write fashionable treatises on displacement of a cleansed community.

The Batapora Pandit families decided to leave for Jammu. A more responsible administration would have thought it to be part of its duty to provide transport to Kashmiri Pandits after this tragedy. This was not to be. Shamboo Nath Tickoo braved all dangers and went in a matador to Pulwama to arrange trucks.

On the 3rd day after the killing Tickoo family collected the ashes of their beloved Rajinder. Part of the ashes were immersed in Raembiar river which has been part of Shopian Pandits' history and which also used to collect the ashes of ancestors of Rajinder for centuries. The other part was taken by Rajinder's father to Hardwar to be immersed in Ganges. The Pandit families left for Jammu in two trucks.

Tickoos had two cows which were being looked after by two servants. The cows used to give five kg milk in morning and 6-7 kg in evening. Tickoos requested their neighbour to take care of cows. The neighbour refused saying this would invite reprisal from terrorists. The cows and a calf were let free. Tickoos expressed sorrow that they could not take care of cows now.

For two days Tickoo family stayed in Gita Bhavan and then went to stay at Sarore, 22 kms way from Jammu. After a year the family was provided a room at Camp Muthi I. The small 10 ft x 10 ft room had to accommodate five persons—old parents of Pyare Lal, his two sons and Pyare Lal himself. There was no dearth of any kind for Tickoos at Shopian. Now they were proverbial abandoned refugees. As camp life took toll of health of the family the Tickoos left the camp to seek healthier accommodation outside. Pyare Lal's mother unable to face rigours of exile too died.

More shock was in store for Tickoos soon after they left for Jammu. On 21st July 1990 first their house and the houses of other Pandit families were looted and the goods taken away in trucks. Then these houses were put to arson. The other houses of Batapora were burnt on the day when Nunda Reshi's Mausoleum was burnt by Mast Gul at Chrar, Budgam.

From time to time with uncertainty looming large many families had to go for distress sale  of their 'poorans'. Pyare Lal Tickoo and his neighbours—Kouls and Rainas whose houses were burnt on 21st July had already decided that come what may they would not sell their houses and the land. Pyare Lal Tickoo had also an orchard, 5 kanals and 14 marlas in size, in the vicinity of his house. It used to bear delicious apples. These Pandit families together owned 9 kanals and four marlas, on which stood 7 houses and an orchard. When asked why he did not sell his pooran and orchard land, Pyare Lal Tickoo shot back "why should I sell the pooran? I want to return to my home".

State encroachment of Residential Land:

A Govt. which swears by "Kashmiriat" and loses no opportunity to proclaim to the outside world that "it was committed to bring back Displaced Kashmiri Pandits back to their homes  with 'honour and dignity' had other ideas". If Pandit families decide not to sell their poorans there was every possibility that these families would return to rebuild their houses whenever situation permitted. The State government had also declared that it would provide financial aid for repair/rebuilding the damaged houses.

Soon after Mufti Mohammad Syed took over as the Chief Minister of PDP-Congress coalition government, Pandit families came to know that the District Administration had mooted a proposal to thwart the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Batapora. Without seeking consent of the Pandit families, either directly or through a notice, it wanted to acquire their residential land through the Land Acquisition Act. The families learnt that the Administration had mooted the proposal for the construction of ITI Complex upon the said premises.

In response to it Sh. Shamboo Nath Tickoo, father of Pyare Lal moved an application to SDM Shopian for removal of encroachment of his land. SDM in his letter no: 140-41/SDM/S/2003 Dated: 2/8/2003 asked the Tehsildar Shopian to furnish details within two days.

When nothing was heard for a year, the Pandit families sought intervention of the Chief Minister, the Collector Land Acquisition (SJM) Shopian, the Chief Secretary, the Financial Commissioner (Revenue), DC Pulwama. The families also prayed to the State Governor, NHRC, New Delhi and SHRC, J&K.

In their prayer to the Chief Minister, dated 5/8/2004 they asked, "If this is the situation it clearly violates the policy of the government and also violates the fundamental rights of the applicants. If at all, the District Administration and the Government is interested in construction of the ITI Complex, there are hundreds of patches of land within the town as well. They added the "action of the District Administration also speaks volumes, for malafide and extraneous considerations it has mooted the proposal for the acquisition of the proceedings". The Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Syed, who has been going around talking about "Self-Rule, Self-Governance", did not feel it his duty to respond to the aggrieved Pandits.

The Pandit families in their petition to the Collector reminded that Hon'ble High Court of J&K in its various judgements had clearly stated that "the Collector has to show urgency for acquisition of any particular patch of land". They added that, "Prima-facie there appears no public purpose for the aforesaid acquisition and if at all the government is interested in construction of the ITI Complex, that can be constructed at any area of the town without violating the fundamental rights of the applicants".

Earlier on 24.7.2004 in his petition to the Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Pt. Shamboo Nath Tickoo asked, "We wonder to know that prior to this the sites which were taken for acquisition for ITI why they are dropped and our plots taken for acquisition, we being migrants and when State government has taken steps for our rehabilitation at our own native places.......

That kindly take necessary steps not to acquire our land of migrants, as there are so many plots of Kachari/state land free and open for such purposes".

Pyare Lal Tickoo, who retains strong will to force authorities to give him back what is his due said, "without seeking our consent through notification or personal notices to seven owners bulldozers were used to level our poorans and remove the debris of burnt houses. Why did the government feel the need to construct ITI now and not during the past 40 years? Couldn't it get  space for ITI building in the whole of Shopian town?" The Pandit families have come to know that early this year the administration has illegally raised a boundary wall around the land it has forcibly encroached. Even after the case was reported in a section of media the State government remained unmoved. There have been complaints elsewhere too by Displaced Kashmiri Hindus. During the past four years of coalition rule the land owned by Pandits is being acquired ostensibly "for public purposes" under a deliberate plan to thwart their chances of return by "finishing their immovable property".  In Ward No: 1 of Batapora the residential land of Pandit families—Lahoris, Sathus, Kitchlus and Panditas, which together measures 35-40 kanals was taken over for building bus stand. Sadly, GOI which depends for feedback on State authorities, did not try to intervene.

The Shop:

Pyare Lal Tickoo's cup of woes did not end here. In 1990 soon after he left his cloth shop in the heart of town was looted. Cloth worth 6-7 lakh rupees was taken away. The shop had sale of Rs 10 to 12 thousand per day. Subsequently, the shop was taken over by the government for widening of the road.

Fraudulent grab of orchard:

Pyare Lal's family owned an orchard, measuring 6 kanals and 10 marlas under Khasra No: 242 at Kanipora, Balpora (Shopian). The 58 walnut trees in the orchard produced 2 to 2.5 lakh walnuts annually. The present value of this crop is Rs 4 to 5 lakhs per year. This orchard was purchased by Pyare Lal's father Sh. Shamboo Nath in 1960 with proper registration and was under self-cultivation. They have also preserved the receipts of contractors to whom they sold the walnuts.

In 1996 the entire revenue record of the orchard was tempered by Tehsil and Revenue Officers and fraudulently transferred to Gani Bhat, son of Rehman Bhat and Musmati Sara, daughter of Rehman Bhat, R/o Kanipora. The Revenue officials fraudulently converted 'abi bagh into Abi Soem". Through a friend Pyare Lal came to know about the fraudulent occupation of his orchard.

Pt. Shamboo Nath Tickoo filed an appeal before the Financial Commissioner. Sh SD Singh the FC Revenue with Powers of Commissioner Agrarian Reforms in his landmark judgement dated 26th June 2002 after hearing the case for a year declared that "Mutation orders are assailed, amongst others, on the ground that the property in question was an orchard long before Kharif 1971, during Kharif 1971 and continuously thereafter and thus exempt from the provisions of the Agrarian Reforms Act; that the order has been passed at the back of the appellant without his knowledge; that Rehman and Akbar in whose favour the mutations have been attested were dead at the time of entering the mutation".

Sh. SD Singh observed that, "I agree with the counsel for the appellant that the attestation of the Mutations has resulted in perpetration of a fraud on the appellant and that this is in pursuance of a conspiracy hatched with the connivance of the Revenue officials. ..The circumstances under which such an illegality has been perpetrated warrant a thorough probe to fix the responsibility for appropriate action under law". The Financial Commissioner appointed Additional DC Pulwama, Sh AM Khanday as inquiry officer to hold a detailed inquiry in the matter and submit a report within a period of two months. What happened to the inquiry Tickoos do not know, though 4½ years have elapsed since then. With Kashmiri Pandits' leadership maintaining visibility on community's genocide, the nation is bound to ask 'who will deliver justice Pyare Lal Tickoo'. Till then he should suffer.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Kashmir History and Politics

 

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