Pandit Prem Nath Dogra – A Legend

Dr Satya Dev Gupta
A village near Jammu with the name Smailpur has produced legendary personalities among whom Maharaja Gulab Singh and Pandit Prem Nath Dogra were the great legends who served the nation, humanity with the utmost skill, valour, and dedication. As a tribute and remembrance, today we shall confine ourselves to legend, Pandit Prem Nath Dogra Ji who’s name itself reflects the deeds of this great man. God also creates problems and sufferings to mould the illustrious individuals in such a way that they become strong and capable to face the challenges from time to time. Pandit Ji was born on 24th October 1884, Kartik month of Vikrami Samvat, and soon lost his mother’s lap, grandmother nursed him for some time. His newly married stepmother extended her arms to bestow the motherly love but she also passed away.
As he was the only descendant his father Pandit Anant Ram, who was one of the courtiers of Maharaja Ranbir Singh of Dogra Dynasty was appointed as the custodian of Kashmir Property in Lahore, now in Pakistan. “Master Prem” spent his early life in Lahore residing in Raja Dyan Singh Mansion and studying in a nearby primary school and then in a Model School where he passed Matric in 1904. He was very good at studies as well as in sports. On annual sports day, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab endorsed his capabilities and showered a lot of appreciation and awards for his talent in sports (athletic events and football), literature, languages, and mathematics. After schooling, he joined Forman Christian College in Lahore and remained there from 1904 to 1908.
He passed the degree of Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1908 and got training in the Revenue Department. His first posting was in Akhnoor in Jammu and Kashmir as Tehsildar in 1909, in 1910 upgraded to Assistant Settlement Officer at Udhampur, and shortly in 1912, he was bestowed with the power of “Munsif” and sent to Jammu. Soon he was elevated to Secretary of Governor of Kashmir and posted as “Wazire Wazart” (Deputy Commissioner) at Mirpur. In1914 he was chosen as Lent Officer (personal Secretary) of then Yuvraj Hari Singh who was destined to become the ruler of the state as a successor of Maharaja Pratap Singh for 12 years. During this period, he acquainted himself with the prince’s nature, his likings, dislikings, knowledge, valour, and other virtue. Future Maharaja often spent some time in hunting in the nearby jungle where Pandit Ji used to accompany him and thus was able to read his highness thoroughly and at the same time, Pandit Prem Nath Dogra left an indelible impression of his high charactered personality on the Princess mind. Pandit Ji, per his name, was very kind and always ready to help others at any moment, place, and individual irrespective of any caste, creed. Yuvraj Hari Singh was not an autocratic loving individual but intended to respect democratic values.
Bhaderwah and Kishtwar of Jammu province are beautiful places which are equated and called Mini Kashmir. Nature has lavished it with all alluring, fascinating, and marvelous resources, that can bewitch any nature-loving individual. The natives of this place fell prey to dreadful venereal diseases, bad habits, and moral degradation further superadded with famine erupted at that time. Pandit Ji impressed upon the Government to take these problems on a priority basis and at the administrative level on war footage. He visited these places on several occasions and managed to send medical, food, all other help to the grassroots level as a result the Government and people were highly impressed by the services rendered by him and furthermore Pandit Ji recommended a proposal for financial help and scholarship for the needful people which was gladly accepted by the Government. The reflection of this deed came later when the people of this area reciprocated to call by Pandit Ji in the “Praja Parishad” movement against anti-national activities of Sheik Mohammad Abdullah.
After passing 12 years with Maharaja Hari Singh, he was appointed as Settlement Commissioner and then promoted as Wazire Wazart (now termed as Deputy Commissioner) in Muzaffarabad. Those were the days of the Round Table Conference organized by the British Government with Indian political leadership for constitutional reforms in India in 1931, where Maharaja delivered a speech in favour of India’s independence which was not liked by the British Government. A conspiracy was hatched out to destabilize Maharaja’s Government where Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah an educated youth and budding Muslim leader along with his companion were chosen as instrument to instigate Muslim majority population against Maharaja and Hindus which resulted in communal riots.
Muslim crowd targeted Hindu minorities and Police fired upon the Muslim mob killing many persons however Pandit Ji controlled the situation very elegantly. Without any lathi and bullet, he saved the town of Muzaffarabad from violence and anarchy. The essence of this episode although praised by Sheik Mohammad Abdullah but disapproved by some courtiers of Maharaja who were at the helm. They hatched a plan to dislodge Pandit Ji and compelled him to retire from the services. Being an apostle of love and peace Pandit Prem Nath Dogra never showed any grudge and hatred against these people. The destiny had some other important social and service work that was to be done by great persons like Pandit Ji.
Pandit Prem Nath Dogra dedicated himself to the service of the downtrodden, poor, Dalit, and proletariat part of society. He endeavored for uplifting the poverty-stricken persons and infusing the moral values of humanity in the upper class and reminding them of their duties documented and well enshrined in Indian culture, towards the deprived group of the society.
He was an instrument in establishing ‘Brahman Mukhya Mandal’ which is now called “Brahman Pritinidhi Sabha”. His doctrine was for Brahmans not to be contented with BHIKHYA or DAN from the society but do efforts, gain knowledge, and endeavor for the welfare of the society and state. He emphasized that Sanatan Dharm Sabha is meant to work for boosting social, religious, cultural and educational aspects of Hindu society. He invited the scholars of “Hindu Darshan” from various parts of the country to enlighten the natives to excel in the proper and right direction. The great Hindu festivals were celebrated by the initiative of the Government and the general public used to enjoy them as spectators. He inculcated in the public mind that it was not always that they would get the support of the Government. With his efforts and inspiration, the social festivals became more attractive and meaningful when every person, family, and the group took an active part. He gave a thought that the temple should not only be a worship place but should have teaching facilities, library, playground and Vyayamshala.
First RSS ‘Shakha’ was opened in 1940 by youth from Sialkot in Dewan Mandir by Keshav Kapoor. Hundreds and thousands of person school-going children, college students, teenagers’ shopkeepers, middle aged joined the organization which imparted the sense and consciousness of patriotism and duties towards the country and society. In a short time, it spread in all parts of Jammu province and partly in Kashmir. Pandit Ji also joined RSS and took the charge as Sangchalak (Chief) and during this time India was divided on the altar of bloodshed and massacre. A lot of refugees from Pakistan migrated to India including Jammu and Kashmir. Relief committees naming “State Relief committee” and “Punjab Relief committee” were established, to help the hapless people day and night on one side and tackling and fighting the miscreants on the other side.
National Conference was a major mass-based political party with social ramifications in Kashmir province and started to send its tentacles in Jammu province, although some persons defected to form Muslim Conference in the Jammu division where Jammu was devoid of the political outfit of its people. The first semi-political party emerged naming “Hindu Sikh Nojwan Sabha” for cow protection movement but closed due to some reasons, then came “Hindu Rajya Sabha” but vanished. Jammu Hindus were desperate for a political party that could watch Jammu as well as Hindu community interests.
Praja Parishad was a political party mainly active in Jammu province. It was founded in November 1947 by the Rashtriya Sawyam Sevak Sangh (RSS) activist Professor Balraj Madhok after several political discussions with Pandit Prem Nath Dogra after which Praja Parishad served as the main opposition party in the state. It maintained close ties with Bhartiya Jana Sangh during its lifetime and merged with the latter in 1963. Its main activity was to campaign for the total integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India and oppose the special status granted to the state under Article 370. On the other hand, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and National Conference wanted a country within the country. In a later period, sheik conspired to drift away from Indian dominion itself. Under the leadership of Pandit Prem Nath Dogra in 1949, Praja Parishad started its agitation for one country, one flag, and one chief against the National Conference Government. The Sheikh Government took swift action and arrested 294 agitators including Pandit Ji, its president and Professor Balraj Madhok was sent outside the state. Tyranny and discrimination of the Sheikh didn’t stop here, a larger area with a bigger population of Jammu was allotted 30, and Kashmir was blessed with 40 assembly seats for 1951 elections. Praja Parishad initially contested 28 out of 30 seats. Ironically 13 candidates were rejected and Praja Parishad boycotted the election leading to the shift of all 70 seat to National Conference.
Pandit Ji became the source of inspiration for all youths of Jammu province. On 15 January 1952, students staged a demonstration against the hoisting of the state flag alongside the Indian Union flag due to which they were penalized and giving rise to a big procession on 8 February. The military was called out and a 72-hour curfew was imposed. Pandit Ji was arrested and brought to Srinagar jail. N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, the Indian Cabinet Minister in charge of Kashmir affairs, came down to broker peace, which was resented by Sheikh Abdullah.
In 1952 November the party undertook a disobedience campaign against the Government charging it for spreading communalism, favoritism for Kashmiris and Muslims, and sacrificing the interests of minorities and other communities. The agitation was well supported by Jana Sangh which sacrificed its President Shyama Prasad Mukherjee on 23rd June 1953. Further Sheikh was arrested by the Govt of India in August on grounds of anti-national activities.
After the end of the agitation, Pandit Ji remained busy in strengthening the party and dedicated himself on the lines of his previous principles. He remained MLA and later became president of Bhartiya Jana Sangh. On 21 March 1972, he breathed his last after from cancer and before his death, he made a public trust and dedicated all his property to the noble cause.
(The author is Chairman – Trikuta Samvad Kendra)