Atribute to Om Prakash Saraf Memory becomes a treasure

Special Correspondent

Today (May 3) is the 97th birth anniversary of veteran public figure and journalist Om Prakash Saraf who passed away on November 25, 2017. His body was donated to Jammu’s Government Medical College in pursuance of his will. He has not left behind a written account of his own numerous social, political and welfare activities. However, his contemporaries, followers, writers and observers have recorded several incidents in different publications. He founded and headed the first nationalist party in J&K namely the Praja Socialist Party (PSP). Observers have recorded that it was because of the formation of the PSP and Praja Parishad’s almost simultaneous affiliation with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (now the Bharatiya Janata Party) that “the process of political party integration between the state and the rest of India gained momentum.
It was a healthy development as it forged further links at the political level between the people of the state and rest of India.” The PSP and the Praja Parishad had serious disagreement over many issues but Om Saraf because of his personal integrity became a rallying point against a high-handed administration with all Jan Sangh legislators once voting for him along with a faction of the National Conference against official nominees in a close contest for the Rajya Sabha. The following are some of the historic developments concerning him as recorded by others which we reproduce here as a tribute to his memory. These are in addition to what has been recorded in these columns on his 90th birthday on May 3, 2012.
Jawaharlal Nehu’s letter to his Home Minister Govind Ballabh Pant: “My dear Pantji: Om P. Saraf, a PSP man from Jammu appears to be deeply involved in these matters. He often meets Mridula…” A footnote explained: “Om Prakash Saraf (b. 1922); founder chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the PSP in Jammu; contested the 1962 elections from Srinagar; patron of the Jammu and Kashmir Union of Working Journalists” (“Selected works of Jawaharlal Nehru”, letter dated August 13, 1956).
(PSP is abbreviation of the Praja Socialist Party, one of the largest political parties in the country till the mid-1960s. Mridula was Mridula Sarabhai considered close to Nehru and had done a lot of humanitarian work for refugees at the time of Partition in 1947. Nehru, however, appeared to be annoyed with her campaign against detention without trial of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 and criticism of the Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad Government. In the process, he had learnt that Om Saraf was too actively opposing the Sheikh’s arrest which Nehru interpreted as “activities against the Kashmir Government and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.” A lot of damage was done before the Sheikh was set free and Nehru sacked the Bakshi under his famous Kamraj Plan aimed at getting rid of controversial chief ministers in states. Bakshi was technically the “Prime Minister”, the designation then of the popular head of J&K. Nehru’s foreign secretary Y.D. Gundevia makes a bold bid to absolve his boss of all miscalculations in his book “Outside the archives” shifting blame instead on “Home Ministry’s files” which, according to him painted a distorted picture of opposition leaders who were pro-India but were opposed to the unscrupulous and draconian actions of the State Government).
Champion of individual liberties: The newly set-up democratic socialist party, a breakaway group of Jammu National conference which later merged with the Praja Socialist Party, condemned the presidential order for “restrictions on civil liberties, limited jurisdiction of Supreme court, elections of the states representatives to parliament as well as of Sadar-i-Riyasat through majority decision of the Kashmir constituent assembly and not by the people’s direct vote.” In a detailed note on the subject released on 25th September1956, chairman of the state unit of the PSP Om Prakash Saraf observed: —“the presidential order does neither go beyond nor falls short of the Delhi Agreement in any significant sense.
For this alone Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad deserves neither more credit nor more blame than did his predecessor.” He added, “The so called autonomy does not offer any right to the people of Kashmir but simply adds to the repressive power of the state government and indirectly to the executive of the union government,” PSP leader opposed denial of basic freedoms to the autonomous union institutions over the state. —Dr. Pradeepta Kishore Sahoo, Principal, Golaghat Law college, Law College Road, Bengenakhowa, Dist.-Golaghat, Assam. International Journal of Academic Research ISSN: 2348-7666 Vol.1 Issue-2(2), July-September, 2014.
Appealing all sections of society: The Praja Socialist Party, the third largest party in India at the time, made a bold bid to penetrate the power Bakshi had built up in the Valley. As the only all-India party to start direct functioning in the state, the Socialists had an initial appeal for the Hindus of Jammu, particularly the Harijans.
By raising its voice against the detention without trial of Sheikh Abdullah and by calling for restoration of civil liberties, the party also aroused some emotional response in the Valley. The party was led by former Jammu National Conference leader Om Prakash Saraf, and was the first to offer an inter-regional and inter-communal challenge to the ruling party. — Balraj Puri in “State Politics in India” edited by Myron Weiner (Princeton University Press Princeton, New Jersey, 1968).
Honest and outspoken: “At one time I told Sheikh Abdullah in his office in Srinagar: ‘Sheikh Sahib, you are always rightly claiming that you have rid the people of Maharaja Hari Singh. But would you believe you have imposed on them more than one Maharaja.’ Enraged over this he burst out: ‘I am already receiving reports about your changed attitude towards us. I would not any longer listen to you much less act upon your advice. If you persist in your present behaviour, I am afraid, I shall have to send you to the Central Jail (pointing his finger towards the Hari Parbat Fort).’ When I wrote to Om in Jammu as to what had transpired between the Prime Minister and myself, pat came the reply from him: ‘You might have also told the Sheikh that you have not been enjoying such a life as if put in jail, you would have to suffer much.” — Mulk Raj Saraf, Father of Journalism in J&K, in his autobiography “Fifty years as a journalist”.
Emancipated mind: “Om Prakash Saraf was one of the main founders of the Janata Party (in J&K after Emergency) along with Maulana Masoodi (a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly). He employed politics as a tool to serve the common man and adopted and encouraged Gandhian principles while doing so. His exemplary honesty, dedication and an emancipated mind were his tools. He considered journalism as an effective and powerful instrument of empowering common man.” —- Senior Hindi journalist Dinesh Tiwari in “Trikuta Sanklap”, January 2019.


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