Change in Times

Change in Times

By Tribhuwan N. Bhan

In December 1946, my father Shri Gobindji Bhan, my brother Brijmohan (now Dr. B.M.Bhan), my cousin Prof. Somnath Dhar left Srinagar by bus for Rawalpindi on way to Lahore. My father had to undergo treatment of his eyes under the care of Dr. Sidhnath Kaul, at Sir Gangaram Hospital at Lahore. On way to lahore, we passed through Baramulla, Mohara, Domel and Kohala. Kohala was the last point, where the boundary of J&K State culminated and the boundary of Punjab commenced. Further, on entering Punjab we reached Murree, one of the most beautiful resorts I have ever seen. At Murree, the passengers were allowed to have a long break while the buses were being cleaned and washed. Reaching Rawalpindi in the evening, we took a night train for Lahore. At lahore, we checked in at a hotel on the famous Anarkali Bazaar. After settling down in our rooms, we had the most pleasant surprise to discover that our next door neighbours at Srinagar, Dulloos' were also staying at the same hotel. My father and Shri Amarnath Dulloo hugged each other very warmly. Our joy was immense. The next day my father had to go to Sir Gangaram Hospital to fix an appointment with Dr. Sidhnath Kaul. He was able to get an appointment after a week, i.e. in the first week of January 1947.

We had more than a week of free time. During this free time, we visited the zoo at Lahore and also the museum. It was considered to be one of the best museums in the country those days. Rest of the time we spent strolling up and down the Anarkali Bazaar, which was easily the most clean streets of Lahore. On the day of appointment, Dr. Kaul conducted some preliminary tests of my father's eyes and prescribed some eye-drops which he had to use for about four days prior to the second appointment.

Two days later the volatile politician of Punjab, Master Tara Singh delivered a very provocative speech at some political rally. Due to this speech, Hindu Muslim riots broke out in Lahore and spread to other parts of Punjab. Curfew was imposed in Lahore city. We were confined to our rooms at the hotel for more than a week. At times the situation was so bad that we could not venture even to look out of the windows of our rooms. The fashionable Anarkali Street, once crowded with shoppers wore a deserted look. Luckily there was enough food in the store of the hotel and we could survive. Everyday we heard stories of how people massacred each other. This included next door neighbours who had been living in amity for generations. Lahore was burning with communal frenzy and hatred. After more than ten or twelve days, the curfew was relaxed and we managed to reach Lahore railway station on tongas. From there we took train to Rawalpindi. My father could never keep the second appointment with Dr. Kaul at Sir Gangaram Hospital.

At Rawalpindi railway station, we met Jalalis. Mr. Jalali was a police officer at Srinagar. So Jalalis, Dulloos and we parked ourselves in the waiting rooms of Rawalpindi railway station. We remained confined to this hall for nearly eight days, intending to take bus to Srinagar. But due to the riots, the bus service to Srinagar via Kohala had been suspended. One day we got the news that the bus service had been resumed. Very quickly, all of us packed our bags and decided to leave for the bus terminus. But some one brought the news that the only bus for the day had already departed. So we again unpacked our luggage. All of us were disappointed for having missed the bus to Srinagar. Next day in the afternoon, we got the horrific news that all the passengers of that bus were killed on the way. No one was spared, not even the bus driver and the conductor, who were both Sikhs. We thanked God for having saved our lives but at the same time, there was gloom writ large on everydody's face. After a few days, we managed to board a passenger train for Sialkot which went through Gujranwalla and Chaklala.

These days, I am told, Chaklala is one of the main airforce bases of Pakistan. From Sialkot onwards, we managed to reach Jammu Tawi railway station. My father, Mr. Dulloo and Mr. Jalali hugged each other as they could not believe that we had reached our home state safe and sound with all of us alive. Needless to say that the train travel from Rawalpindi to Jammu Tawi via Gujranwalla, Chaklala, Sialkot etc. was the most horrible travel I have ever undertaken as the conditions in the train were really inhuman and pathetic. There were crowds and crowds of people trying to board the train. At Chaklala, a group of armed Pathans tried to enter the compartments but they could not do so as an armed Sardar ji fired at them and made them run away in fright.
After a night's halt at Jammu, we boarded a bus for Srinagar. On way, we stayed for the night at Ramban where Shri A.N.Thusu, civil engineer incharge, lodged all of us in the government Dak Bungalow. We enjoyed his hospitality. He proved to be a very generous host.

On reaching Srinagar and finally our home Karan Nagar, every one from the locality came to greet us. My mother and aunt had tears of joy in their eyes, on seeing all of us alive. We had no contact of any sort with our folks back home for over a month. No one knew whether we were dead or alive. Not only people from Karan Nagar, but some of our Muslim friends from the near by locality Chota Bazar came to meet us that day and the following days too. Chotta Bazar is a completely Muslim dominated locality. I went to the house of my friend Ghulam Mohd. Malik at Kani Kadal. His mother was overjoyed to see me. She wouldn't let me go unless I had a hot cup of a favourite salt tea 'sheeri chay' and 'telvor'.

After a couple of days' rest and meeting relatives, I returned to C.M.S.Central High School at Fateh Kadal. One by one, the teachers would call me to know the first hand account of the tragic happenings in Punjab. My brother Brijmohan had already passed out of the school and was a student of S.P.College, Srinagar.

In October 1947, the Pakistani tribals 'Kabailis' raided Kashmir and reached Shalla Teng, as close as about 2 miles from the Srinagar town. It was from this point the raiders were pushed back by the Indian army. Maharaja Hari Singh had already left Srinagar from Jammu after conducting last Dassera Darbar in his palace at Srinagar. It was on the evening of this Dassera day that Srinagar city was plunged into darkness, as all the lights went off suddenly. This had given the signal to everyone that the raiders had reached Mohara where the main power generating station was located. There was no electricity in Kashmir valley for months together then.

Later on Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah being the undisputed leader of the state, took over the reins of the government, assisted by his team of dedicated colleagues from the National Conference. He was called the Prime Minister of the state, till he was summarily dismissed and put under house arrest at Kud in August 1953.
Years passed, Sheikh Abdullah again became Chief Minister followed by his son Farooq Abdullah. Later on, the state had to undergo the traumatic experience of militancy from 1989 onwards. Before this period of militancy, I used to visit the Valley at least once a year. I had been to the Valley in May 1986 for my annual visit.

It was in June 2000 that I did go to my homeland after a gap of 14 long years. As the plane landed at Srinagar Airport, I could feel the freshness and the nimbleness of the unpolluted atmosphere. Reaching my home at Karan Nagar, my childhood memories came back to me. First thing I did was to meet Ghulam Hassan of Cheerful Cycle Works. I have known him for the last more than half a century. I wanted to visit some of my childhood Muslim friends' families at Chotta Bazar. Someone however advised me thus, " All your friends and their families are not staying there any longer. And I would advise you not to go to that locality as it is now a den of militants". It was the same locality, Chotta Bazar, from which people had come to welcome us with open arms in February 1947. I was however treated to the most delicious Kashmiri Wazwan by the family of my Muslim friend Mukhtar Kanth at Safa Kadal and by the family of Ghulam Mohd. Mullick at his new residence. After visiting Kheer Bhawani temple at Tullamulla and offering prayers at the holy shrine, I had to leave Srinagar and resume my work at Mumbai. How I wish, my stay at home town would have lasted till eternity. Nevertheless, I am content with the factual reality that no doubt Kashmir valley is my JANMABHOOMI, but Mumbai is my KARMABHOOMI, as I have lived and earned my bread and butter for the last four decades and four years here.

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