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Amar Shaheed Sarwanand Kaul Premi: A  Profile

- Rajinder Premi

 A special article written on the occasion of Shri Premi's death anniversary.

Sarwanand Kaul Premi
Sarwanand Kaul Premi  

The happenings in Jammu and Kashmir for the past some time need no Rajinder Premi elucidation. The forces of fundamentalism and fanaticism have not only ruined the fibre of the secular character but have also been responsible for innumerable innocent killings. The list is too large to be enumerated. And here is a towering personality who had made z place in the hearts of all Kashmiris, irrespective of their sectarian beliefs. He is Shaheed Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a proud son of Kashmir.

 Early Years

 Born in village Soaf Shali of Anantnag district in November 1924, he passed the Master's degree in Hindi with Honours and started his career with the All-lndia SphlnersAssociation (Khaddan Bhandar). Thus he got influenced by the Gandhian philosophy and involved himself in the freedom movement. He remained underground at the age of 17 during the Quit India movement and later took active part in Quit Kashmir movement during 1946-47. He worked on the Cultural Front, a counter, propaganda agency, to repulse the Kabaili raid on Kashmir. He contributed to DAILY KHIDMAT, the of ficial organ of the National Conterence, and WEEKLY DESH in Srinagar. Many of his writings got censored during that period.

 After 1948, he had to leave the Valley under very odd circumstances and got employed in the Industries Department of the Punjab Government and then in the Central Government at Delhi.

 He returned to the Valley in 1954, joined the Education Department of the State and served it for 23s years. During these years, he developed keen interest in social work which he advocated strongly through his writings. As a writer, he attained fame when his writings came in the form of life stories of saint-poetess Roopa Bhavani, a biography of saint-poet Mirza Kak and translation of Sri mad Bhagwad Gita in Kashmiri verse. His other notable works include 'Kalam-e-Premi', 'Pyam-e-Premi', 'Rooda Jeri', 'Osh Vosh', 'Pantchasdar', 'Mahjoor ta Kasher', 'Kashmir ki Beti', 'Russ) Padsha' Katha, prose translations of Tagore's famous Gitanjali into Kashmiri. Among the Urdu, Kashmiri and Hindi translations of Gita, only Urdu translation has been published. Other translations are being published shortly. He has written a number of papers which he read out in seminars and symposia, highlighting the cause of national and international understanding.

 Secular Belief

 He had a firm belief in secularism and up to the last he fully justified the remarks of Mahatma Gandhi that if there is any ray of hope it existed in the Valley.

    It was his strong advocacy of secularism and the State's accession to India which may also have been a cause of anger among the subversives. He was fearless in speaking out this publicly through local newspapers even in the times of the emergence of terrorism in Kashmir.

 Advocate of Secularism

 Advocacy of secularism was highlighted by him whenever the situation demanded. For h~stance, he wielded his pen, when Sheikh Abdullah was arrested, in 1953, missing of the holy relic in 1964, Pakistan's aggression in 1965 and 1971, Kashmiri Pandit agitation in 1967 and in the 1968 Anantnag riots, when militancy dawned in the Valley.

 When some Kashmiri Pandits were being selectively killed, he condemned this publicly and through local papers knowing full well that the Valley was gradually getting into the clutches of fundamentalistic elements. He did not deviate from his love for communal harmony and brotherhood, for which he was respected by all communities.

 Although some of his friends and the family members requested him to leave the village which was dominated by the majority community (his being the lone Hindu family in that village), he would overrule and even rebuke by saying that he was so deeply rooted in the secular traditions of the Valley and he had most of his students and other friends in the area to take care of him and his family.

 He was deeply religious as well as liberal. He was widely respected in the area as in his long career as a teacher he had illuminated many minds and given them education - the most precious of all gifts. But the fact that the world of his poetic beliefs and sensibilities had ceased to exist and old loyalties and friendship had become powerless in the face of fierce assaults mounted by the forces of fundamentalism and fanaticism dawned upon us and the faith was ultimately shattered when on April 29, 1990, late in the evening three young masked terrorists, like hungry wolves most anxious to trap their prey, forced their entry into the house and let loose the reign of terror. They asked the inmates at gunpoint to queue in one room, with one gunman guarding its door. The other terrorists ransacked the entire house and stretched their ugly hands on what-ever they could lay, looted all their valuables after forcing the ladies to hand over their ornaments. They ransacked the library and destroyed rare manuscripts. While plundering, one militant shouted in surpirse: "Masha Allah, ye to Qurani Sharif he". Shri Kaul had kept one copy of it reverentially in the library for his study.

 Harmless Soul

 This incident came most shocking, since only that day some Muslim neighbours had given full assurance of their help for protection. It was so because Premi and declared so openly that he had no plans of abandoning the village where he had fought for years together for the upliftment of the majority community and has not done any harm to anybody.

 After packing the loot in suit-cases, they asked this noble soul to accompany them to see their higher ups who, they said, were waiting outside. They also asked Virindra (his son) to escort them up to the camp. They swore in the name of Allah that no harm would be done to him and his son. Their hand-folded requests had no effect on them. They carried both the father and the son at gunpoint and after two days of painful anxiety came the most tragic news of their assassination.

 This happened to a man who had kept a copy of the Quran in his books for regular study, a freedom fighter, a humanist and a philantropist, an eminent scholar social worker and a well-known Kashmiri poet contemporary of Mahjoor and Azad. A man who has worked voluntarily for 3 months each in private Muslim and Hindu schools after his retirement as a love for children of both the communities.

 Family Migrates

 This luminary was done to death by the terrorists in a most brutal manner along with his son. In this backdrop, the family had to migrate, abandoning their home and hearth then and there. It was for this reason that the rest of the family members were threatened with dire consequences if they reported the matter to the police. The family was told that no harm would come to them if they could stay in their native village but if these two persons would have gone anywhere, they were to be eliminated at any cost.

 What is most shocking and shameful that even after about 7 years, the criminals have not been identified although there had been Press reports that the government has made 8 arrests in this connection in early May 1990.

 The news of looting the house first and then torching of ancestral house of these victims was also published in the national dailies in December 1992. The local temple had been desecrated and burnt; cowsheds also burnt, the other houses ransacked. No information about the abandoned cattle, land, trees and orchards has come to them. This is the state of their plight, pain and agony, which has been suffered by all other Kashmiri families as well.

 

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