Ayodhya Nath Kerni
Chenani remained one of the oldest erstwhile twenty two Duggar States ruled uninterruptedly for fifty two generations by the ruling clan till 1947.
It has witnessed many events of glory and turbulence during long period and most of them are not found corroborated in History books despite trace of genealogy of remarkable kings. Only legends and myths inextricably blended in the mist of popular traditions are found alive.The state was reduced to the status of jagir in the latter period. The entire jagir remained backward as far as education was concerned due to lack of educational institutions. There were only three schools below middle standard in 1944-45 and even after 1947 there was not much improvement for a long time.
The spangled landscape glitters with drops of dew after a shower and so was the appearance of Dev Raj Gupta on the arena of Chenani. He was born to mother Ram Pyari and father Lala Goverdhan Dass on September 07,1928. He passed his Matriculation from Udhampur in 1945 and graduation from Prince of Wales College Jammu in 1949. He also completed MA (History) from Punjab University in 1963 and a Law Degree in 1982. His grandfather Lala Sant Ram remained treasurer of Chenani king. Dev Raj Gupta was appointed as Headmaster Central School Chenani in 1950. The school was upgraded to High School in 1958 by his concerted efforts and again raised to Higher Secondary in 1981. He was promoted as Headmaster High School and posted to Thana Mandi (Rajouri) in 1963. He remained TEO Udhampur -Samba from 1967 to 1972 and Principal Higher Secondary School Udhampur in 1975. He was retired from service in 1983.
When there was only one middle school at Chenani he started classes for 9th and 10th privately by devoting his off hours and running night classes. A local lodged a complaint against him leveling some false allegations including the aspect of running private classes. A departmental enquiry was ordered and charges were found false. The statements from students were also recorded and it was found that he was not charging even a penny for running the private classes. On the contrary, it was established that he provided financial aid to those students who were not capable of paying even admission fee for the examination. The charges were exonerated. His initiative, vision and attitude was appreciated The students who cleared their Matriculation under such odd circumstances later received jobs in various departments; do hold very high regards for him and always express thankfulness as most of them are retired now .
His motive of human service inclined him to launch a massive movement for education. He raised creative acumen among the masses to admit their kids in school. He utilized his summer vacations to accelerate the drive and camped in villages. He adopted various methods like beating of drums and loud sound messages for admission. He also gathered the villagers and delivered speeches citing the importance of education and successfully motivated them.’ People caught the glimpses of the temperament and outlook of his profound wisdom and fertile imagination of his vibrant intensity. He received overwhelming co-operation in the villages and some prominent contemporaries became his staunch followers to spread his vision. Some of them could be stated as Kesri Chand Madha,Dina Nath Magotra Bain, Krishan Chand Kud and many others. This venture yielded considerable increase in the strength of students in the school which formed a strong base for upgradation of middle school to High School in 1958.
He emphasised on self transformation through daily prayer period so as to pay attention to spiritual, moral, intellectual, social and physical aspect of education. He invited outsider experts in various fields during the prayer period to deliver short lectures on miscellaneous topics as he enjoyed influence on the intellectuals . The services of Amar Nath Nagar,Shiv Nath Purohit,Dr Gopi Nath and many others were utilized from time to time to provide essential knowledge of various topics not covered in syllabi. He also had the privilege to arrange picnics to the spots of magnificent view and heritage importance. The students formed small groups and prepared their meals themselves as carrying pack food from home was not allowed. This was done with a view to impart some training for cooking and extend mutual cooperation.
He introduced continuous Comprehensive Evaluation System during late 1960s which was later inducted in other government schools in 1990s which contains the pattern of intensive and extensive study by evaluating the percentage of the progress of quarterly and half yearly exams and spiking of marks towards yearly exam. This helped the students to bring good percentage and results.
He was most accomplished man of his age honoured with the appointment as Chairman Notified Area Committee Chenani from 1967 to 1974. Many development works were undertaken during that period. His personality can easily be gauged when Muslim Community elected him as chairman of Masjid Committee and masjid was constructed during his time to render prayers by them.This was the specimen of the unity and communal harmony in the town.He was also elected Vice Chairman of Dharmarth Trust Mandir Committee Sudhmmahadev. He successfully transferred the Mandir assets and liabilities to Dharmarth Trust . Since then lot of infrastructural progress was made in famous Shiva temple.
He always preferred the company of intellectuals by temperament for his gratification and to understand some peculiar phase of human nature. After his retirement he had shifted his residence to Udhampur but he loved Chenani much.He left for heavenly abode on 11 October 2000. With him, it seemed,passed away an age,an epoch but such men never die who leave behind a deathless legacy.
Ayodhya Nath Kerni