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Sanity and Madness on 13th July, 1931

The communal pogrom against Kashmiri Hindus and Khatri traders was a pre-planned move by the leaders of 13th July agitation and their sponsors - the British Political Department.

Hindus became victims of the mad frenzy in Vicharnag, Maharajganj, Khankah Mohalla, in Srinagar city and at Shopian and Anantnag towns.

The events which took place in Khankah mohalla reveal an interesting pattern. While the members of the majority community displayed strong communal passions when they came to attack Pandits, the immediate neighbours played a positive role.

Five Pandit families lived in Khankah mohalla, opposite the Kali Shrine. These families included three families of Kouls - Ram Nath, Nilakanth and Rughnath. They were all cousins. The other two families - Niranjan Nath Wali and Dina Nath Wali lived jointly.

Soon after looting Khatri shops in Maharajgunj the big mob turned to Khankah Mohalla to attack Kashmiri Hindus. The neighbours of the Pandit families - Gh. Mohammad Qalinbaf and Ahad Sakka (water carrier) rose to the occasion and decided not to betray their neighbours with whom they had been living through generations. At the suggestion of these neighbours the Kouls hid themselves in attic storey (Brer Kani) of the house. Sakka had asked Kouls to throw some household refuse on the verandah and keep windows and doors open to mislead the rioters. The Pandits, on hearing about the atrocities in other parts of the city were gripped with fear. Ram Nath recalls, "we tied our womenfolk with rope lest they escape out of fear. We had also decided to poison them to death in case an eventuality of kidnapping/molestation arose".

When looters came, the families of Ahad Sakka and Qalinbaff told them that Pandits fled from their home on learning that the mob was on way to attack them. To keep rioters in good humour, Sakka and Qalinbaff mockingly abused Pandits and succeeded in turning the mob away. The mob stood for 25-30 minutes at Kaul's house.

Neighbours of Walis also tried to save Walis but the mob had its way. Niranjan Nath Wali was an affluent person. Some people in the mob owed him money. They succeeded in instigating the frenzied mob to attack Niranjan and loot his property.

After the looters left, Kouls shifted to the house of Ahad Sakka and stayed there for three days. This was the fortnight when Hindus observe shraddas of their departed near and dear ones. Members of the Koul family would stealthily during the night go to their home, prepare food and come back. At Sakka's home they took only pears and water.

3 days later Kouls shifted to Chinkral mohalla first and later to Sathu Barbarshah where Ramnath's aunt lived. Nilakanth Koul served in Police Department.

He shifted his family to police lines. Such was the terror that Ramnath's family was brought back to Chinkral Mohalla in a special police van, nicknamed by locals as 'Rat Trap'. The Kouls never went back to live in the Mohalla where they had lived for centuries. They sold their house to Gh. Mohammad Qalinbaf in 1932. This in itself is an indicator of the terror created by the events of 13th July.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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