The happenings in Jammu and Kashmir for the past some time need no elucidation. The forces of fundamentalism and fanaticism have not only ruined the fibre of the secular character but have also been responsible for innumerable innocent killings. The list is too large to be enumerated.
And here is a towering personality who had made a place in the hearts of all Kashmiris, irrespective of their sectarian beliefs. He is Shaheed Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a proud son of Kashmir.
Born in village Soaf Shali of Anantnag district in November 1924, he passed the Master’s degree in Hindi with Honours and started his career with the All-lndia SphlnersAssociation (Khaddan Bhandar). Thus he got influenced by the Gandhian philosophy and involved himself in the freedom movement. He remained underground at the age of 17 during the Quit India movement and later took active part in Quit Kashmir movement during 1946-47. He worked on the Cultural Front, a counter, propaganda agency, to repulse the Kabaili raid on Kashmir.
After 1948, he had to leave the Valley under very odd circumstances and got employed in the Industries Department of the Punjab Government and then in the Central Government at Delhi.
He returned to the Valley in 1954, joined the Education Department of the State and served it for 23s years. During these years, he developed keen interest in social work which he advocated strongly through his writings. As a writer, he attained fame when his writings came in the form of life stories of saint-poetess Roopa Bhavani, a biography of saint-poet Mirza Kak and translation of Sri mad Bhagwad Gita in Kashmiri verse. His other notable works include ‘Kalam-e-Premi’, ‘Pyam-e-Premi’, ‘Rooda Jeri’, ‘Osh Vosh’, ‘Pantchasdar’, ‘Mahjoor ta Kasher’, ‘Kashmir ki Beti’, ‘Russ) Padsha’ Katha, prose translations of Tagore’s famous Gitanjali into Kashmiri. Among the Urdu, Kashmiri and Hindi translations of Gita, only Urdu translation has been published. Other translations are being published shortly. He has written a number of papers which he read out in seminars and symposia, highlighting the cause of national and international understanding.
Advocacy of secularism was highlighted by him whenever the situation demanded. For h~stance, he wielded his pen, when Sheikh Abdullah was arrested, in 1953, missing of the holy relic in 1964, Pakistan’s aggression in 1965 and 1971, Kashmiri Pandit agitation in 1967 and in the 1968 Anantnag riots, when militancy dawned in the Valley.
When some Kashmiri Pandits were being selectively killed, he condemned this publicly and through local papers knowing full well that the Valley was gradually getting into the clutches of fundamentalistic elements. He did not deviate from his love for communal harmony and brotherhood, for which he was respected by all communities.
He was deeply religious as well as liberal. He was widely respected in the area as in his long career as a teacher he had illuminated many minds and given them education – the most precious of all gifts. But the fact that the world of his poetic beliefs and sensibilities had ceased to exist and old loyalties and friendship had become powerless in the face of fierce assaults mounted by the forces of fundamentalism and fanaticism dawned upon us and the faith was ultimately shattered when on April 29, 1990, late in the evening three young masked terrorists, like hungry wolves most anxious to trap their prey, forced their entry into the house and let loose the reign of terror. They asked the inmates at gunpoint to queue in one room, with one gunman guarding its door. The other terrorists ransacked the entire house and stretched their ugly hands on what-ever they could lay, looted all their valuables after forcing the ladies to hand over their ornaments. They ransacked the library and destroyed rare manuscripts. While plundering, one militant shouted in surpirse: “Masha Allah, ye to Qurani Sharif he”. Shri Kaul had kept one copy of it reverentially in the library for his study.
This incident came most shocking, since only that day some Muslim neighbours had given full assurance of their help for protection. It was so because Premi had declared so openly that he had no plans of abandoning the village where he had fought for years together for the upliftment of the majority community and has not done any harm to anybody.
After packing the loot in suit-cases, they asked this noble soul to accompany them to see their higher ups who, they said, were waiting outside. They also asked Virindra (his son) to escort them up to the camp. They swore in the name of Allah that no harm would be done to him and his son. Their hand-folded requests had no effect on them. They carried both the father and the son at gunpoint and after two days of painful anxiety came the most tragic news of their assassination.
This happened to a man who had kept a copy of the Quran in his books for regular study, a freedom fighter, a humanist and a philantropist, an eminent scholar social worker and a well-known Kashmiri poet contemporary of Mahjoor and Azad. A man who has worked voluntarily for 3 months each in private Muslim and Hindu schools after his retirement as a love for children of both the communities.
(The writer of this article:-Rajinder premi,is the eldest son of Late. Premi)