A people’s poet

Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’

It is a matter of pride for Dogri language that it got such talented poets and writers in the early stage who not only served the mother tongue with their creative works but also inspired many more for the same. It also gave birth to a mass awakening movement. Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant’s name can be reckoned in the front line among those famous litterateurs.
Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant was born on 11 May 1917 in the beautiful village of Panthal situated at the foothills of Trikuta hills. This village is situated near the religious city Katra. Till third standard, he got education in his native village school and after that he was sent to his sister at Reasi for further studies. But, at the age of 14 when his mother expired he had to leave his studies and was compelled to come back to his village Panthal. As his elder sister had got married and elder brother was studying in Jammu he was forced to carry on the responsibilities of home at a very young age. In addition to house hold works, he had to perform the role of a priest also thus performing the ritualistic worship at his village temple. But with the passage of time, the atmosphere of the village stirred him to such an extent that he left his home and went to Haridwar. After staying there for about 2 years, he came back to Jammu and got a desire to complete his studies.
He passed Prague examination in 1937-38, Hindi Bhushan in 1939 and Prabhakar in 1941. During the preparations for Prabhakar’s examinations, he got inspired from communist ideology. This was the period when his ideology got a solid ground and creative talent got awakened to achieve his rights and freedom.
As a result, influenced by the national movement and for promotion of national language Hindi, in 1942-43, along with some of his friends, he founded Hindi Sahitya Mandal. He composed poems on the contemporary subjects which were recited in fortnightly Kavi Goshtis and he became very famous.
From childhood, Pandit ji was a man of principles. He did not believe in casteism, untouchability, superstitions and social disparity. Later, these qualities reflected in his literary works also.
This was the period when Dogri language did not get much recognition. Of course, the inhabitants of villages or cities used Dogri language in mutual conversation but Dogri language could not get much exposure in terms of literature. The local writers here mostly used to write in Hindi or Urdu because Urdu and Hindi were more prevalent and literature of these languages was also available in abundance.
Panditji was deeply hurt by the indifferent attitude of the local writers towards their mother tongue. He along with his other companions tried to take the initiative that the local writers writing in Urdu and Hindi should also start writing in their mother tongue ‘Dogri’.
Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant was fond of writing since childhood and his poems were full of humor and satire. But in humor-satire itself, he would narrate the harsh realities of life in such a way that one who read or listened would not only be mesmerized but at the same time was forced to think over it as well.
He was astonished to notice that literary programs never had more than 50 or 100 audiences. Then he thought that why not to organize such programs in his mother tongue, in which the Dogras should participate in good number and relate to their problems and culture. Moreover anyone who writes in Dogri should also be encouraged in such literary gatherings.
His strategy was successful and the audience started participating actively in literary get-togethers. Now a large number of listeners started coming to the Kavi Goshtis and at the same time many people from the same audience also started taking interest in writing.
In 1943, Dogri language lovers got a poem which enriched Dogri language to the extent that today this poem has become a milestone in Dogri Language. The exposure that Dogri language got through this poem could not be repeated through any other composition. This poem overnight made Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant, the favourite poet of the masses.
After this, many of his more poems enamoured the audience that include “Uncle Dunichand da Byah”, “Mangu di Chhabeel” etc., which were always in great demand in Kavi Goshtis. These poems were so famous at that time that they would remain on everyone’s lips. And whenever they got a chance, people would enjoy humming, listening to each other.
This poem was a revolutionary step to bring the farmers and laborers together to raise their voice against the atrocities and to counter the superstitions prevalent in the society. Through this poem, Dinu Bhai Pant also made his mark as a revolutionary poet.
He was an exceptional playwright as well and wrote ‘Sarpanch’, raising voice of the people against the tyranny, in which the sacrifice of Data Ranpat is depicted. This play proved to be a milestone in Dogri plays and was staged with great success at different places of Jammu division. The play became very famous among the audience due to its storytelling, presentation and acting. At that time, this play played an important role in creating awareness among the masses and also encouraged play writing in Dogri language. The success of ‘Sarpanch’ encouraged Pandit ji to pen down another play called ‘Ayodhya’ which is based on Kaikeyi, a character from Ramayana. Pandit ji was also honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1985 for this play. Then he also wrote the play ‘Nama Gran’. He also wrote a long poem on “Mian Dido” and “Maharaja Gulab Singh”. His poetry collection ‘Guttanlu’ is an invaluable heritage in Dogri literature.
Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant was well aware of the fact that there was an urgent need for an institution to propagate and disseminate Dogri language well. Keeping this in view, on the day of Basant Panchami in 1944, Pandit Dinu Bhai Pant, Professor Ram Nath Shastri, Bhagwat Prasad Sathe, Sansar Chand Badu, D C Prashant and N D Mishra formed Dogri Sanstha. As a result, regular cultural programs organized which proved to be a boon for Dogri language. Gradually, Dogri Sanstha expanded its scope and took the initiative to enrich Dogri language by visiting different places of Jammu division by staging plays and organizing Kavi Goshtis thus providing platforms to local poets and writers of different places.
When the Radio Station was established in Jammu in 1947, Pandit ji worked there for some time as a staff artist and later on as a casual script writer. In 1948, he was appointed as a Publicity Officer in Rehabilitation Department. This department was doing a remarkable job of rehabilitating hundreds and thousands of refugees. Later he was made Panchayat Organizer in 1950. Due to his honesty and hardworking nature, he was given many responsibilities which he fulfilled with all dedication and devotion. He was rewarded for his commitment, hard work and dedication by promoting him as a senior cadre officer of the state. In 1978, he retired as Deputy Provincial Rehabilitation Officer.
On 23 March 1992, this great unique poet passed away. But he left behind a legacy of which every resident of Duggar Pradesh is proud.