Remembering the towering poet of Valley

Versha Koul
The Pakistan sponsored terrorism in last over three decades has taken a heavy toll and shattered the economy of J&K. It is unfortunate when whole world is fighting it’s war against the dreaded COVID-19, Pakistan is hell bent to send its armed desperadoes in J&K to foment trouble while a discernible change in the situation is visible on the ground.
The terrorists who indulged in killings right from 1989 after gun was exported to Kashmir from Pakistan killed renowned personalities, political leaders, academicians, intellectuals, religious and socio -political leaders who had contributed a lot in their respective fields to nurture the age old pluristic character of Kashmir.
Among the towering personalities who fell to the bullets of terrorists during the nineties include
ed Sarwanand Koul Premi a renowned intellectual, thinker and freedom fighter who till his last breath worked for fostering the bonds of Hindu Muslim brotherhood in Kashmir and even did not favour the migration of minority Hindus from Valley when over a dozen members of this miniscule minority including some well known KP leaders and intellectuals voice was silenced by prophets of doom till then. To name a few among them included Veteran BJP leader, Tika Lal Taploi, Prominent socio-political leader, Pt Prem Nath Bhat, Judge Neelkant Ganjoo, Ashok Qazi a KP activist and Rajinder Tickoo another social activist. Besides them veteran politician and ex MLA Mir Mustafa, VC Kashmir University, Prof. Masherul
Haq, Head if HMT Unit J&K, H L Khera were also eliminated by the Pakistani terrorists to create fear psychosis among masses so that no one should challenge them.
Despite the killing of members of minority community to force their mass exodus Premi visited village to village in his area which were inhabited by quite a few minority members of his community not to leave Valley at any cost as the community has thousands years of lineage with it. “We can’t afford to leave Kashmir where we have thousands of years old religious monuments and cultural centers”, Premi had said to some Kashmiri Pandits in his neighboring village after migration of minorities had started from Valley.
” How can we leave the Valley and live away from our Ishtdevtas and Devis”, he had told this Pandit in his neighbouring village advising them not to think of leaving Kashmir as Muslims are our brothers and we have lived together for centuries together. “I have a faith on them and I am of firm belief that they will not harm us come what may” is what Premi had told this Pandit.
Premi had never dreamt that he will meet such a quick end and will be killed along with his younger son Ravinder Koul who was just married a year ago through the wicked hands of terrorists on the fateful day of May 1as he had always throughout his life worked for welfare of the people in his area irrespective of their religion.
He had encouraged the Muslim children in his backward and secluded village Soaf Shali in Kokermag tehsil of Anantnag in South Kashmir to take benefits of education and was managing books and uniforms for poor children either from his own pocket or with the help of his friends. A highly respected person in his area Premi who besides was an authority on Hindu religious scriptures had also studied the holy books of other religions including Islam, Christianity, Sikhs, Bhudists and Jainis. But unfortunately this man who had optimism that that gun can’t rule roost in Kashmir and it will soon fell silent was proved wrong and he was not also spared by the merchants of death.
Premi had a great influence of Shair-e-Kashmir Ghulam Ahmed Mehjoor on him and he considers him as his teacher (Ustad) and an inspirational poet who initially guided Premi in writing poetry and Premi became his staunch admirer.
Among many admirers of Mahjoor, one was Late Pt. Sarwanand Koul Premi. He was one of the towering figures in the history of Kashmiri poetic culture. Premi was born in the small village soaf shali of Anantnag district on 2nd of November 1924. He was the one who later in his life, translated Srimad Bhagavad Gita in Kashmiri and Urdu would write the biography of Saint-poetess Roopa Bhavani.
After passing his matriculation from Lahore university with distinction in 1939, he started his career with the All-India Spinners Association (Khadi Bhandar), which was famous by the name of Gandhi ashram and Khaddar Bandar. This was the time in his life when he got influenced by Gandhian philosophy and also got involved in the Indian freedom struggle against Britisher’s colonial rule. During the Quit India movement, he went underground, at that time he was 17 years old.
His first poetry Roouda Jarea was published when he was 20 years old. While working in Khaddar Bhandar in Pampore which is near to Matri Gaam, the residence of Mahjoor. One day Premi along with his colleague and childhood friend Shri Arjan Dev Duda went to meet Majhoor. In his first meeting, Premi showed him his Roouda Jarea and the great poet became teary-eyed. The year was 1944, when Mahjoor became the philosopher, guide, and a close friend of premi. Their relationship became so healthy that Premi accompanied Majhoor to meet the Governor of J&K in Srinagar on 9th June 1945. This incident is mentioned by Mahjoor in his diary which is now with the J & K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages. The diary has been published by Academy. One can understand the influence of Mahjoor on premi in his collection of verse “Paan-Tsaaddar”. Premi has authored more than 24 books and has left many manuscripts.
A major chunk of Premi’s work is in Kashmiri, in which he has written a biography of saint-poet Mirza Kak, translated prose of Tagore’s famous Gitanjali into Kashmiri.
The great follower of Gandhi who started his life in Gandhi Ashram became a martyr-like him. Entranced with the image of his father, Mr Rajinder Koul Premi recalls the fateful night of April 28, 1990, when few militants barged into his home and the moment his life changed. It was a warm evening, and soon after lighting Sandhya Chong (a lamp-lit at sunset with clarified butter), Mr Premi’s family had begun preparations for the dinner. It was around 9 pm when Mr Premi heard some strange creaking noise outside, Within a few seconds, there was a knock on the door. Rajender koul opened the door and three young militants barged into their home. They started ransacking everything that came within their way. They asked the ladies to remove all the precious jewellery on them and hand it over. They did as they were told, everyone was scared. A few minutes later, while throwing away the books from the shelf, the young militant came across the copy of the Quran. Premi asked the militant to pay respect to the Holy Scripture. He was stunned to see a copy of the Quran at a Pandit’s home. Taking all the valuable stuff from their home. Later, they asked Sarwanand Koul Premi to come with them, as their commander would like to talk to him. The suspicious younger brother of Mr Premi, Verinder Koul Premi, asked the militants to let him accompany his old father. The Militant kidnappers swore on Allah, Quran, Khana Qaba that no harm will be done to them.
On 1st May 1990, few police officials called Mr Premi and told him that they have found his father and brother. It was a brief bio moment of relief for Mr Premi. On the following day, the officials told them that they both were found dead, shattering all hopes left within Mr Premi.
He has written a number of papers which his son Rajinder koul Premi read out in seminars. His son has undertaken to publish the left behind the manuscript of his father. He has published Urdu translations of Gita, Ramayana in Kashmiri, both Nastalik and Nagri. The Kashmiri translation of Gita has been set in audiovisual form.
The devotional poetry in the form of bhajans which have been composed in both Nastalik and Nagri is in the process of publishing.
His son is publishing his work to preserve the Kashmiri literature. However, due to exodus, there is no considerable readership. He has published his work of his own and is distributing it free of cost.