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Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora in Himachal Pradesh - Distt Solan

By Upender Ambardar

Nestled in the lap of the enchanting Shimla Hills and a part of the Mahasu district of Himachal Pradesh, Solan with an invigorating climate is a picturesque district having lush greenery, pollution free atmosphere and unassuming inhabitants possessing an easy face of life. Nomad after the Goddess Shoolini Devi, with it’s temple situated at the southern end of the town, the district Solan spread over an area of 1936 sq kms comprises the city of Solan, Nalagarh, Arki, Nouni, Kandaghat, Chambaghat, Darla, Badi, Parwanoo, besides the famous scenic tourist spots of Kasuli and chail. Apart from being remembered as the mushroom city of India, Solan is also known for its’ brewery ‘Dyer-Meakin Brewery’, now rechristened as Mohan Meakin Breweries in 1966. Set-up in the year 1835 with Anglo-German cooperation and subsequently taken-over in 1950 by Major Mohan, it is known for the excellent quality beer and whisky.

Situated midway between Shimla and Kalka, about 48 kms. from Shimla at a height of 1,350 metres (4,432 feet), Solan with its pleasant refreshing climate and spectacular sights is a refreshing place located in idyllic surroundings having excellent road and toy-train connectivities from Chandigarh and Kalka respectively. Supplemented with green carpeted grassland back-drops and lined with endless rows of mighty and charming forest trees, the area surrounding Solan is very rich in peas, tomatoes, ginger and beans, with maize and paddy being two major cereals . The juicy apricots and walnuts also grow over the hills.

Solan also has the distinction of having Dr Yashwant Singh Parmar University of Horticulture and forestry, the first of it’s kind in Asia, which is spread over 550 hectares of land in the village Nauni on the Solan-Rajgarh road about 15 kms from the Solan town. Established on December 1, 1985, its colleges of Horticulture and forestry offer specialised courses in the related fields and allied disciplines at the graduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels. The tranquil, grandeur of Nouni impresses everyone who sojourns here.

Solan has also refreshing and ideal picnic spots of Barog, Kandaghat, Chambaghat, with adjoining soothing and quieter pockets of Kotla Nullah and Saproon.

About three dozen Kashmiri Pandit families are permanently settled in the district Solan, mainly concentrated in the city of Solan, with a few families residing in the adjacent areas of Saproon, Kotla Nullah, Solan Bypass and a lone family of the community settled at nearby Chambaghat.

A short distance from Solan town on the Solan-Rajgarh road, Kotla Nullah is a refreshing cool spot, which is the residence of a few KP families. Notable among them is Dr. Ravinder Raina, who is a scientist in Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in the Department of Forest Products, Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni. Originally belonging to Naisadak, Habbakadal Srinagar, Dr Ravinder Raina has done his M.Sc. Botany in 1980 and subsequent Phd. in Cytogenetics in the year 1985 from the Kashmir University. Initially after having served as a lecturer for four and a half years at Islamia College, Sopore, he in January 1990, took the job of a scientist in the Department of Forest Products, Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nouni. He specialises in research related scientific work regarding the conservation of the Medicinal plants of Himachal Pradesh and in the process has developed a few good varieties of them. Dr Raina has also domesticated a few highly endangered medicinal plants like that of Chirata, Swertia Chiarayita and Gentiana Kuwroo which are prized herbs in both the modern and traditional medicinal systems. His main research thrust is on the Medicinal plants of the entire western Himalayas. A widely travelled person in Himachal Pradesh mainly in connection with his research oriented work, Dr. Ravinder Raina has received the deserving acknowledgment in the scientific world as a breeder in the medicinal plants of Himachal Pradesh.

He is married to Mrs. Jyoti, daughter of Professor TN Kaul, Retd. Principal of Govt. Degree College Bemina, Srinagar (Kashmir), who is working as a T.G.T. at the Govt. School, Kandaghat Solan. Dr Ravinder Raina during a chitchat articulated his feelings in an emotional tone, “Paradise is synonymous with Kashmir and every thought of ours is everlinked with the image of our home at Kashmir. Its very mention brings a surge of joy and excitement in the heart”. He also confided that even at Solan, the Kashmiri preparations and dishes are the most favoured ones. He also revealed that he has familiarised the Kashmiri Kehwa ‘Moughil Chai’ among his acquaintances and friends, who now relish the richness of its taste and flavour.

Sh P.N. Tikoo, originally hailing from Rainawari Srinagar, who came to Himachal Pradesh around 1950 is now permanently settled at Kotla Nala. Having done M.Sc. Botany and subsequent specialisation in forestry from United Kingdom, Sh. P.N Tikoo has contributed his expertise in the conservation and preservation of the forests in the state. Sh. P.N. Tikoo has retired as Asstt. Conservator of Forests in Himachal Pradesh. His rise to this prestigious post is an affirmation of his contribution in the related field. Late Sh. Vasudev Raina, of Kotla Nullah has also occupied the prestigious post of the Conservator of forests in the state. His rise to this spectacular post speaks of his valuable contribution in the state’s forestry.

The other members of our community now having their permanent residence at Kotla Nullah include the families of Mrs. Nehru, who has served in the state education department and that of Sh. Puran Pandita, working as a Developmental Officer in the United India Insurance Corporation, Rajgarh Road Solan. Mr. Ravinder Raina, working as Development Officer in Oriental Insurance and Sh. Nirmal Bhan working as a Technical Assistant in Dr. Y.S. Parmar University, Nouni are post 1990 settlers at Kotla Nullah, Solan.

Prof. B.K. Saproo, who has contributed his services in the education department and in lieu of his satisfying accomplishments rose to occupy the reputed post of a Principal in the Govt. College is also settled at Kotla Nullah. His son Sh. Danish Saproo is an Engineer the state.

Dr. Upender Koul residing at the Sunny side Solan and doing private practice at his Swati Clinic located at Red Cross Road, Solan is a man to be  reckoned with in the community and in  the social life of the town. Leading a life full of activity and action, Dr. Koul is intensely involved in the Socio-Cultural activities of the community at Solan. He is son of Sh. N.L. Kaul, original inhabitant of the village Hawal in Pulwama district, who came to Himachal Pradesh in search of livelihood around 1948. Sh. N.L. Koul has served in the Public Works Department of the state for decades and by dint of his hard and sincere work rose to occupy and retire as a Divisional Accountant from the state.

Sh N.L. Koul during his service career had the satisfaction of serving in all the districts including the interior and remote areas of Chamba, Manali, Kinaur and Kullu besides Shimla and Solan. His son Dr. Upender Koul, a social and political activist is occupying a post of prestige in the Rotary Club Solan, besides being the District Vice-President of the Congress Party. He is married to the daughter of Prof. O.N. Dulloo of Saproon, who is working as a teacher in a private school of Solan. One of his brother’s is an engineer at the Natha Jhakri Power Corporation, while the other one is serving at Chandigarh. Though having been born, brought-up and educated in Himachal Pradesh, it was a pleasant surprise to find him speaking Kashmiri with an amazing fluency and ease. He in a conversation bespoke of the unshakable adoration for the traditional Kashmiri dishes like ‘dum-alu’, ‘nadir-yakhin’,  ‘sochal-wangon’ etc., which still continue to be relished in their home. Likewise, his family enjoys to celebrate all the Kashmiri festivals and rituals with the traditional fervour.

Sh. B.L. Koul, retired Chief Engineer of Himachal Pradesh came here in June, 1961. Originally belonging to Rainawari, he is now permanently settled at Subathu road, Solan.

A B.E. civil from Kolkatta University, his phenomenal rise to this prestigious post is recognition of his sincere and dedicated years of service. Speaking with a beaming face and sense of satisfaction, Sh. Koul revealed that the construction of the roads and buildings got a flip in the state during his time. About 15000 to 16000 kms. of roads got added in the hilly areas of the state during his service, which speaks of his credible achievement. He is also instrumental in the construction of numerous bridges, various government buildings and hotels especially the famous, ‘Pine-Wood’ hotel of Barog. The said hotel is located in the charming woods of Barog, where one can enjoy an unforgettable exhilarating halt. He is also involved in the construction of Kangra airport during his posting as Xen at Kangra. It was in recognition of his services and contribution that he was elevated to the post of the Engineer-in-Chief of the State. In a conversation, he confessed that in addition to Kashmir, he now loves the adopted state of Himachal Pradesh with the same intensity.

His wife is serving in the state education department, and one of his sons Sh. Sanjeev Koul is an Executive Engineer in the Irrigation and Public Health Department at  Solan, while the second one, Dr. Rajeev Koul is serving in the U.S.A.. Prof. O.N. Dulloo, originally hailing from Narpirastan, Fatehkadal Srinagar, came out of Kashmir in the year 1948 after having done Matriculation from there. He straight away went to Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) and initially served there in different commission before coming to Himachal Pradesh in 1965. He completed his education in Madhya Pradesh, doing M.A. English from Sagar University. He joined the Himachal Pradesh Education department and during 27 years of his service in the state, he has served at Rampur, Hamirpur, Solan Education Training College and Govt. Degree College Solan, where from Prof. O.N. Dulloo finally retired as a Vice-principal. He is now settled at Saproon, a periphery of Solan. His son is serving in the Punjab National Bank, Solan. During one of his conversations at Solan, Prof. Dulloo revealed that even after such long separation from Kashmir, the taste for the delectable Kashmiri cuisines has not lessened and even today all his family members continue to relish the ever favourite “Sheer-Chai” (salted tea) after a heavy meal. His son Sh. Vinod Dulloo is serving in the P.N.B. Solan.

Dr. S.N. Peshin, who retired as a Professor from Dr. Y.S. Parmar University, Nouni (Solan) in 1996 is now settled at Saproon, a close-by locality of Solan. After having done his M.Sc. and Phd in Vegetable Sciences, he came to Himachal Pradesh in 1965. His research work has centered on the exotic vegetable varieties. He has been instrumental in the introduction of traditional vegetable varieties of Kashmir like “Sochal”, “Khanyar Hak” and “Vastu-hak” etc. in many areas of Himachal Pradesh, which are now being relished by the locals there. He is also responsible for introducing ‘Kashmiri Hak’ in Banglore and certain areas of U.P. He said with an element of pride that many Kashmiri students, who did their M.Sc. and Phd under his supervision are now holding top positions in the Agriculture department of J&K State. The nostalgic memories of Kashmir associated with the mock snow-fights “Sheen Jung” and the making of snow-man “sheen-insan” are ineffaceably writ on his memory chart as revealed to me by Dr. S.N. Peshin.

One of his two daughters, Dr Archana Peshin working, as a scientist at Indian Agriculture Research Institute, New Delhi is married to a Kashmiri, while the second daughter being M.B.A. is working at in a M.N.C. at Gurgaon.     

Sh Tej Krishan Koul, a post 1990 arrival at Solan is an Administrative officer in Urdu Development and Promotion Centre, Solan, having come here in the year 2004. After having left Kashmir more than three decades back, he served at the Institutes of Language Centres of Mysore and Patiala for about 16 years each.

Speaking in an emotional tone, Sh Koul said that love for "Mouj Kasheer" has increased manifold after separation from "Home". As a reminder of the nostalgic days spent in Kashmir, he delights in keeping "Samavar" and "Kangri" at his home.

Prof. C.L. Khushu, who retired as Principal from Govt. Degree College, Solan and his wife, who retired from the state education department as an officer are permanently settled at Rajgarh-road Solan. Having two sons and a daughter, their family is even now Kashmiri speaking.

Sh. B.K. Dhar and his wife have both served in the State Education Department for more than three decades and now lead retired life at Shakti Nagar Solan.

Late Prof. K.K. Dhar, M.Sc. Botany, after having rendered services in the different Govt. Colleges, retired from Degree College Solan. His wife Smt. Phoola Dhar is a teacher in a private school at Solan. Having come to Himachal Pradesh around 1950, they are now settled at Bypass Solan. They have two daughters, one is M.Sc. Microbiology and is married in a Kashmiri family, while the second one a Phd in Biotechnology is married to a local, who is a scientist at Palampur University.

Prof. K.L. Dhar, M.A. English, who came here around 1947 is settled at By-Pass Solan. He has served as  Principal of Govt. Degree College Kullu and State Council of Education, Research and Training Solan. After his retirement, Prof. Dhar established a private B.Ed. College known as Himachal College of Education at Solan, which is affiliated to Himachal Pradesh University. Sh. A.K. Dhar, a resident of Shakti Nagar, Solan has rendered his valuable services to the State Agriculture Department. He has retired as District Horticulture Officer, Solan. Sh Anoop Sher son of Sh. Girdhari Lal Sher, originally resident of Karan Nagar Srinagar is presently putting-up at Sunny side Solan. A post-1990 settler at Solan, Sh. Anoop Sher is an Area Manager in a Pharmaceutical concern. Prior to his present posting at Solan, he previously served at Shimla also. Late Sh. Nand Lal Kachroo, originally belonging to Baramulla, Kashmir, is a revered name in Solan and is remembered for his constructive and valuable contribution in the field of education. He was the first to start and head the first Govt. College of Education. One of his sons Dr. Avtar Kachroo has retired as a veterinary doctor from the State Govt. while the second one Sh. Vijay Kachroo is an engineer in the Electricity department at Solan. His another son, a senior officer in the Indian Bank is presently posted at Delhi. The Kachroo family came to Himachal Pradesh around 1950 after the tribal invasion of Kashmir. Their whole family having emotional allegiance to our cultural heritage and traditions are deeply involved in the various socio-cultural activities of the community organised at Solan. Mrs. Nehru, who has served the state education department is also a resident of Solan. Sh. R.K. Zaroo, a Central Government employee and his wife, a teacher in the Army School, also have their residence at Solan.

Further, Sh. Ravinder Raina, a Development Officer in Insurance Corporation, Sh. Puran Pandita, Sh. Susheel Raina and Sh. M.K. Bhat, all employees of Insurance Corporations are also putting-up at Solan. All of them came here after 1990. A lone Kashmir Pandit family of Dr. Bihari Lal Dhar is residing at Chambaghat, which is a refreshing spot a few kms. away from Solan town located in panoramic surroundings. It is known for the reputed Central Mushroom Research Institute. Dr. Bihari Lal Dhar is Principal Scientist and Head of the Mushroom Production Division at the Institute. Originally a  resident of Khankai Sokhta Safakadal Srinagar, Dr Dhar has done his B.Sc. Agriculture from Sopore, M.Sc. (Mycology) and specia-lisation in Mushrooms from College of Agriculture, Himachal Pradesh University. After having done his Phd  from the prestigious I.A.R.I., Pusa Road, New Delhi, he joined the prestigious Indian Agriculture Research Service in 1977. He has served at Jullandhar from 1977 to 1983 and eventually was transferred to Chambaghat Mushroom Centre in 1983. He is married to Smt. Chanda Dhar, MA. English. His son, Squardon leader Nishant Dhar, a fighter pilot in Indian Airforce is married to Ms Ojasvi Labroo of Bhagwati Nagar, Jammu. The isolation of the place and prolonged separation from the native place has not diminished their love for their cultural and traditional moorings.

Wakhnaghat, almost midway between Solan and Shimla is a spot of unspoilt natural charm away from the usual din of the city commanding a spectacular sight of the surrounding hilly terrain. The place is also known for the reputed Jai Prakash University of Information and Technology. Dr. Sunil Khah, having a doctorate in Physics is a Professor in the J.P. University of Wakhnaghat. Belonging to Mattan, Anantnag, he along with his family is putting up in the University Campus.

Among the locals, those having the surname Raina even today acknowledge and proclaim their Kashmiri origin and lineage. Except for the retention of "Raina" surname still preserved, nothing of the traditional Kashmiri attributes are evident among them. They seem to be the 'lost' members of our community who are now fully absorbed in the local milieu. The distinguished among them are Dr. J.N. Raina, resident of district Kangra having a P.H.D. in Soil Sciences, who is a Professor in Soil Sciences at Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry Nouni. Likewise Dr. K.K. Raina, a Phd in Social Sciences belonging to Palampur is also a faculty member at the above University. Dr. Rajeev Raina, a resident of Kangra district having a Doctorate in Pomology (Fruit Production and Cultivation) is presently working as a scientist at Bota Research Centre, Hamirpur. A cruel irony of the past persecution and political upheavals in the native Kashmir seem to have uprooted them from their birth place hundreds of years back.

Parwanoo having refreshing and panoramic surroundings is the first entry point from Chandigarh into Himachal Pradesh. It is also the industrial hub of the state. Parwanoo is the adopted home of a few members of Kashmiri Community. Sh. Rohan Lal Dhar, Sh. O.N. Fotedar and Sh. M.K. Bhat, all serving in the State Bank of India, Parwanoo are residing here. All of them are post 1990 settlers.

Suffice to say, a combination of commitment, competence, sincere efforts and determination coupled with the will to battle against the heavy odds have brought them success in their chosen fields. Their valuable contribution has made them to carve-out a niche for themselves in the distant land away from their native 'Home'. Their success is a majestic affirmation of their credible achievements against the impossibilities. The nostalgic reminiscences of the happy days spent in Kashmir still haunt them, which they recall every now and then.

The craving to return 'Home' is overpowering in them for they reaffirmed umpteen times during their conversations that there is no substitute for the lost 'Home' and the 'Paradise'. After every conversation I would part with a heavy heart to seek refuge in my residential quarter at the Summer Hill, Shimla, being reminded of Emerson's remark "Few have wealth but all must have a "HOME".

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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