K D Maini
Yashpal Sharma was just like a Chinar tree which provides shadow and relief to those who come under its refuge during hot and hard days of life. He was popularly known as Yash (Pride) of the people of Poonch, Chacha for younger generation and Neta for needy, poor and downtrodden persons irrespective of caste creed, and religion; therefore he was living in the hearts and minds of his fans and followers. He was a social reformer, man of integrity, soft spoken, honest and helpful due to which he had great popularity among public. He remained last hope for deserving persons of villages, border and remote areas who had no approach and came to him for solving their problems. He welcomed them with smile, listened with sympathy and then met the concerned authority for redressal of their grievances. This quality of Yashpal Sharma had made him leader of the masses. During last assembly election he had got 26000 votes whereas the total Hindus and Sikhs votes were only 9000 which shows his popularity among all the communities. He remained a member of Legislative council for about 6 years from 2011 onwards and was busy in uplifting the poor people. In the last stage of his life, when he realized that Hindu heritage and culture is vanishing from Poonch area due to militancy and border conflicts, he with contribution and cooperation from public worked hard in reviving the old monuments of Poonch. He got constructed a big hall in Dashnami Akhara for pilgrims and community gathering, renovated Bagachi Temple, laid first floor on Gita Bhavan building, upgraded Khakha Naban historic temple and finally he arranged about 12 kanals land on the outskirts of Poonch city at an elevated place and got constructed Saat Grahh Temple which has now become a most attractive building and center of religious tourism.
Yaspal Sharma was born on 2nd January 1946 at Rawlakote (now in POK) in a very reputed Mehta family of the town. However during the turmoil of 1947 this family along with other Hindus and Sikhs shifted to Poonch from Rawlakote on 14th November 1947 with the last Carvan of Public and state forces. His family took shelter in an allotted house in Purani Poonch. However this family did not lose heart, but worked hard and again flourished in due course of time. His first uncle Master Nanak Chand, a gold medalist in Mathematics had become a teacher in Sunderbani area where he was known as Guruji due to his popularity. His second uncle Master Beli Ram remained firstly MLA and then minister from Nowshera area for about 15 years. His father Master Labu Ram was also a social reformer, poised and respectable personality among the community. Presently his brother Dr. Sushil Sharma Cardiologist and HOD in Super Specialty Hospital Jammu is known for his expertise and he is not charging any fee from patients in or outside hospital. His second brother Sunil Sharma is presently president of Municipal Council Poonch and doing great service in making the Poonch Town neat and clean.
Yashpal Sharma started his career in a private academy in Poonch, but lateron took admission in Golden Jubli Higher Secondary School Poonch and remained a good athlete. He passed matriculation in 1965. During Indo-Pak war of 1965 he organized a volunteer group and helped security forces in lifting the arms and ammunition from base camp to last post. After graduation he took admission in Jammu University for LLB. During this period, he came under the influence of Krishan Dev Sethi, his uncle master Beli Ram and Professor Rameshwar Sharma. Then he started reading Russian Literature and felt that there are only two religions i.e. Rich and Poor. Therefore, he started working for uplifting the poor masses and continued to work for the betterment of needy people irrespective of caste and creed.
In 1977, he returned to Poonch, started practice and joined social activities. In those days there was great discrimination in the service selection and merit was superseded on the recommendations of influential persons of the ruling party. There was great dissatisfaction among the educated unemployed youth in District Poonch. In 1978 after the selection of teachers without considering merit throughout in Jammu province, frustration started among the unemployed youth because the genuine educated youth were deprived of their rights. In these circumstances, the unemployed youth gathered around Yashpal Sharma for leadership so that they could fight against the injustice. He, therefore, met the agitators along with Mohd Zaman, Rajinder Singh Charkha and led the agitation. Thousands of agitated youths participated in this agitation. Within days this agitation spread in Rajouri, Jammu and Kathua where such selections were made without considering merits of the candidates. On the other hand, the ruling Nation Conference Government rejected all the demands of the agitators. In these circumstances, Poonch agitation took violent shape, four people were killed including a youth Waryam Singh and four CRPF Jawans also lost their lives during the agitation. Then the agitation spread in the whole Jammu province. Krishan Dev Sethi, Prof. Bhim Singh, Babu Ram and Lal Singh organized rallies in support of this forceful agitation started by Yashpal Sharma which was also backed by Dr. Karan Singh. The State Government was shaken due to this agitation and ultimately CM Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah was compelled to accept all the genuine demands of youth projected by Yashpal Sharma. The criteria of selection were then accepted on the basis of merit and session. Therefore the youth of Jammu province got their genuine rights and thousands of unemployed youth of Jammu province got employment. This had happened only due to able leadership of Yashpal Sharma.
In 1980 Yashpal Sharma organized a local party. Youth Democratic Federation, took part in Municipal Council Poonch election and won all the seats except one. Sharma became president of Municipal Council Poonch and worked up to 1984. He worked a lot for the betterment of the people of Poonch town. Sharma joined Indian National Congress in 1984, became president of the party and worked upto 1987. Then he joined Jan Morcha of Mufti Mohd Sayeed which was lateron converted into Janta Dal in 1996. In 1997 Mufti Mohd Sayeed organized PDP and Yashpal Sharma was appointed as vice president of the Party. During militancy days Sharma worked for those people whose kith and kin were killed or harassed and provided them relief in reviving their lives. In 2011, he was nominated to Legislative Assembly as MLC from PDP quota. After that he dedicated himself in serving the people in resolving their problems. He took last breath during January 2022. He is remembered by the people of Poonch for his love and service to them !
K D Maini