Witness to an Era

Witness to an Era

By Pt. Radha Krishan Sher

Sh. RK SherPt. Radha Krishan Sher was a noted Commentator on Kashmir affairs. He lived a principled life and never compromised with official/administrative apathy. The Community's exile had left a indelible mark on his personality. Pt. R.K. Sher was a staunch disciplinarian and a nationalist to the core. He passed away recently at Jammu. We reproduce his memoirs published in Sept. 2004 issue of Kashmir Sentinel as a tribute to this great Kashmiri Pandit. --Editor

My ancestor Pt. Tika Ram Razdan was a highly placed officer during the Pathan rule. Once, the Pathan Governor had gone out for hunting a Lion was spotted. The Governor who was on ‘Machan’ shot at the Lion. He missed the aim. The Lion came to attack him. Tika Ram, who was accompanying the ruler, put on his iron glove and thrust it into Lion’s mouth. He pulled his tongue out. The Lion fell down and died. The Governor ordered that, hence forth, Tika Ram would be called Tika Ram Sher. Since then this epithet has stuck to the family.

Pt. Tika Ram had two sons-Kailash Ram and Chanderjoo. The latter migrated, probably, to Gwalior. Kailash Ram had a daughter, Zoonmali and a son, Gopal Joo. Pt. Gopal Joo died in Askardu in 1915 AD. He married four times. My father Pt. Mukand Lal Sher was born to his first wife. My family belongs to Bulbul Lankar Mohalla of Ali Kadal, Srinagar. I was born in 1922. Pt. Mukand Ram Sher served as a Patwari for twelve long years in Bijbehara, an ancient town. I had my early schooling in Lower Middle School, Bijbehara. We lived in the Pandit locality of Haer Mohalla.

13th of July, 1931:

During the turbulent days of July, 1931 we were at Bijbehara. Many of the locals, belonging, to the majority community would often drop at our residence to have a chat with my father; One of these gentlemen was Hakim Ghulam Rasool, our neighbour.

On 11th of July Hakim Saheb came to advise my father to remain indoors on 13th of July. He informed him that some locals come to him on the pretext of ‘nishandinee’ of their land and take him out of the town.

Exactly what the good Samaritan Hakeem had told my father happened. Two Muslim gentleman of Jamia Masjid Mohalla dropped at our place on the morning of 13th of July. They requested Pt. Mukand Ram to accompany them for ‘nishandihee’ of their land. Subsequently, we came to know that there was a plan to murder Pt. Mukand Ram. Pt. Balkak Dhar, Wazir-i-Wazarat, Anantnag helped my father to come out of Anantnag district.


During the Roti agitation (1932), mohalla elders used to take out children to shout slogans against the government. I too joined them. The children’s procession would terminate at Shital Nath, the headquarters of Yuvak Sabha. Those days lorries plied regularly between Srinagar and the district headquarters. In winters the Banihal Cart road would remain closed. There were few schools for senior students - Bagi Dilawar Khan and SP High School. In Rainawari, Hari Singh School was upgraded only in 1936.

In 1938 I passed Matriculation. At SP School, my class fellow was Syed Mir Qasim, who later became Chief Minister. My family wanted me to join the state service. Jobs were scarce. The state had little revenue. During the best years of RC Kak administration it totalled just Rs 21/2 crores. Pt.. R.C. Kak was my father’s class-mate at Bagh Dilawar Khan. His in-laws, Tikoos were also our neighbours. My father made many requests to him for my job. Pt. R.C. Kak abhorred favouritism.

As a matter of policy, he did not want to do anything out of turn. Kak hated to do something that would eventually sully his reputation. He practised a fair-minded approach in governance. It was at his instance that a Session Judge from Jammu, who happened to be a Muslim, was brought as Chief Secretary of the State. My yearning for the job also made me to meet Kash Kak, the great Saint, who lived at Manigam (Ganderbal). Those who visited him, for getting some wish fulfilled, did not have to communicate it. He would answer on his own. It was through my father, then Patwari at Harwan, that RC Kak purchased 4 kanals of land from Pt. Narid Lal Zutshi. When the popular government took over, its supporters vandalized his new bungalow and the land was also encroached upon.

College Years :

I graduated from SP College in 1942. Prof. Ram Nath Kaul and Late Jia Lal Tameri were my class fellows. The year I joined the College, Principal Macdermott was shifted to as Director School Education and Prof. Molvi A. Ibrahim took over as new principal.

The same year Prof. Kanji Lal, an outstanding scholar of Sanskrit, also retired. SP College had some of the finest teachers in every subject. These included Prof. Giani Ram and Prof. Shamboo Nath Kaul (Mathematics), Prof. Chand Narayan, a Lucknow Kashmiri Pandit (English; and Prof. Jagadar Zadoo (Sanskrit). Prof. R.C. Pandit taught us poetry. Two teachers from Mirpur, Prof. Maqbool and Prof. Ehsan-ul-Haq, who taught English, were fine people and taught well. It pained us when we learnt that Prof. Maqbool, who was on way to Lahore in 1947 to collect the results, was murdered at Jammu.

Early Years :

I was appointed to the post of clerk in ‘Peshi office’. The Peshi officer, Mr. Ramaswamy was a Madrasi. My good handwriting was one of the factors hat influenced my selection. This office maintained record of criminal matters and ‘Shikars’ (Huntings). Soon, I was sent to the Palace, where I had the privilege to work under Pt. Dina Nath Jalali (of Rainawari), Private Secretary to Maharaja. A great man with simple habits, Pt. Jalali even treated his subordinate staff with great affection.

One day, Pt. D.N. Jalali had called me to his room, when some one from the staff shouted: ‘Sarkar agai’. The Private Secretary came out to receive the Maharaja, while asking me to remain in the room. I had strong curiosity to see His Highness. I half-opened the door to have a glimpse of the Maharaja. As Ireached to the door, in fear I tumbled down. Maharaja. As I reached to the door, in fear I tumbled down. Maharaja had already seen me and opened the door. He reached for my arms to lift me up, when the other members of the staff joined. It was my second encounter with His Highness, as a college student to Tawaza, where Shri Raj Lal Khajuria, a conservator Forests, was on deputation to Department as Director. Later on Maharaja asked the Chief Secretary to absorb me and another Muslim gentleman in the political department, when Tawaza was closed down. P Shamboo Nath Labroo, PA to the Chief Secretary sat over Maharaja’s recommendation. I had to seek intercession of Pt, Amar Nath Kak to get the order issued.

Political Department :

In 1945 I joined the Political Department. Lala Madan Gopal, who spoke Kashmiri more fluent than a Kashmiri, was my Superintendent. He was my real teacher, who taught me the intricacies of office procedure. My stint in the Political Department at a period when crucial historical events were taking shape, provided me a ring-side view about men and matters in the state.

RC Kak was a man of sterling character. He never bypassed protocol. During Quit Kashmir Movement, Pt. Maharaj Krishan Dhar, Governor had come to seek his advice to tackle the situation created by Nehru’s defiance at Kohala. RC Kak told him curtly, “You are the District Magistrate and enjoy full powers. 1 do not wield such powers as you do. Why do you ask me for guidance on such matters? It is your business,” When RC Kak submitted his resignation, two other senior officers-Sham Lal Dhar (later Home Secretary) and Justice Shahmiri (Sessions Judge) were also prematurely retired. They were subsequently rehabilitated by Sheikh Abdullah.

Violating all the norms of civilized behaviour, the new NC government humiliated RC Kak. The latter maintained his dignity and said, “I had to do whatever I did because I was loyal to his Highness”. Despite cool relations with Maharaja later, Pt. Kak never spoke or wrote anything that could have lowered the prestige of Maharaja. There are few instances in history, where the loyal servant took upon himself the responsibility for acts of ommissions and commissions of his superiors.

As NC government continued to rough handle Pt. Kak, Nehru’s image suffered a dent. There was strong pressure on Nehru from the British government. Nehru wrote a DO to Sheikh Abdullah, asking him to release Kak forthwith. This DO, which the writer had the opportunity to go through went on to praise Kak for his administrative acumen. Nehru told Sheikh, “You would have earned a name for yourself as a good administrator had you tried to utilise Kak’s services by befriending him”.

Nehru also reminded Sheikh Abdullah about the flak he was facing on the Kak issue. Kak was released the following day. We also heard that Nehru had sent Raj Kumar Amrit Kour to RC Kak, requesting him to assist Nehru administration at the Centre. In 1958, after his release from Jail, Sheikh Abdullah desired to talk to Kak. The former Prime Minister bluntly told the messenger, “that time is gone”.

Scott’s Mischief:

The role of Brigadier Scott, the chief of staff of Maharaja’s Army was quite sinister. Britishers had permitted Maharaja Hari Singh to keep troop strength below ten thousand. This included three thousand non-combatants. The state had a long border to defend. During the turbulent days of 1947 the small army was hardly sufficient to tackle the situation. Brig Scott further complicated the problem. On the eve of the tribal raid he, without seeking Maharaja’s consent, he dispersed the troops in such a way that they could not put up effective resistance any where. Maharaja strongly protested against Scott’s arbitrary decision. The latter said, this has been done for ‘border ki hifazat ke liye’ (for protection of border), Maharaja Hari Singh was a leader who always led from the front. When raiders attacked Kashmir, he had desired to lead the state army himself. He was restrained. He did not leave Kashmir on his own. There was every apprehension that raiders would like to capture him and coerce him to sign the instrument of accession. GOI had this consideration in mind when they asked him to shift to Jammu wide no loss of time. In 1947 it was at his initiative that arms were distributed to partisan groups, who wanted to take on the infiltrators. The role played by Ichama front in saving the Srinagar airport is yet to be acknowledged by scholars. During the raid days National Conference also played a very good role in the city. Ultimately, it helped Sheikh Abdullah.

The role of Hari Singh, RC Kak and Sheikh Abdullah in 1947 has remained a matter of intense debate. A correct picture will emerge only when the classified papers of that period would be thrown open to scholars. It is said Jinnah, who lived in Karachi, had snubbed Sadiq byrefusing to meet him. Jinnah told the waiter “to tell emissary of Sheikh Abdullah that the Kashmir leader was master in emotionally exploiting his people” and added that Kashmir was a blank cheque in his pocket.

Emergency administration:

Sheikh Abdullah reinstated Pt. Sham Lal Dhar and appointed him as Home Secretary. Justice Shahmiri too was rehabilitated. Prem Nath Bakaya, Triloki Nath and RK Sher were on his personal staff. 1953 was inevitable to happen, because Sheikh Abdullah was pursuing such policies, which were bound to take Kashmir out of India. During those days Indian intelligence was quite effective. GOI sent a strong DO asking Sheikh to explain the dangerous policies he was pursuing.

Bakshi-A clever politician:

Bakshi was all out to help his community. There were no Muslim candidates available. The administration had to rely on Pandits. Among Pandits, he was only helpful to the people of his locality (Khankah-e-Sokhata/Nawakadal). He recruited

around a hundred people from among his neighbours. That was the period when he had plenty to offer. The beneficiaries played main role in crafting up his image as a great secular leader.

Bakshi pursued patently discriminatory policies against Pandit students in selection of trainings. It was Bakshi who was architect of 70:30 policy-30% was reserved for non-Muslims, which included Jammuites also. Hardly 2-4 seats would go to Pandit boys. During Bakshi era Pandit boys sought admission on their own in colleges outside the state. Bakshi created a new Muslim middle class and neorich mercantile group to bolster his political authority.

It was Bakshi, who thrusted Deputy AG, Gh. Ahmed Shonthoo as Chief Secretary. Shonthoo remained at the helm for ten years and had little ability. His nothings never went beyond ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Both Bakshi and Shonthoo admired sycophancy. A new practice was started, where a Government servant was required to pay obeisance at the gate of Ama Shonthoo if he wanted an undisturbed service career. This writer hated such a practice and suffered terribly. Mr. Abdul Aziz Fazili and SAS Qadri, the competent and non-parochial bureaucrats undid some of the wrongs committed by the Chief Secretary. I retired on 31/1/1977 as Superintendent, when many of my colleagues reached the coveted posts of Secretary/Commissioner.

Sadiq-a man of Integrity:

Sadiq was a man of strong integrity. He governed efficiently, without any bias. He always addressed his subordinate staff with great respect (Toih, not Chah). Sadiq always went through the files himself. In intricate cases it was he who took the final decision. Sadiq never compromised when it came to defending principles. Many of the wrong decisions associated with him were virtually imposed on him by the vested interests. Sheikh Abdullah injected communalism and vindictiveness in bureaucracy and governance. We are reaping the fruits today.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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