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Sarvanand   Koul    Premi  – Martyr    to   a     belief

My  first  and   lasting   Impression  of   The  Great man

By B   L   SARAF

In   mid sixties of  the 20th  Century   I  was   pursuing         graduation  studies  in S P College Srinagar .  Coming from a   far off place called  Shopian and having been brought up in a rural atmosphere    it  seemed   natural    that     whenever   my    father  -Pandit  Saroop Nath ,  be  in  the city   he would ,invariably ,  send  for me     or, time permitting ,  himself   visit  the college.    Father   did  so  to enquire about my welfare  :  or  , may be ,    assure  himself   that  his  rustic   son, who was  new to the place ,  had not fallen   to the charm   of   “other side “ of   the   city   .    True   to the pattern , one day   in  early summer of 1964   father, who had come down ,  sent  a word that I should see him  after my class work was over . The  suggested  meeting place  was   the  office  of   “ Roznama  Khadmat “  then  an official news paper of the  ruling National  Conference party . The place  was convenient because it lay opposite  to my college – in   a lane    taking off from the Residency road , near India Coffee House  ,  abutting   the    “ Bund “.      The   iconic    Ahdoos Hotel   was    in close   neighbor  hood .

Those days  Khadmat    was  being   edited by Pandit Nand lal  Wattal , a veteran journalist and an authentic freedom fighter    whom I had   met  with  earlier  , in company of my father .   Before  Independence   my father  himself had spent    precious   period  of his life       fighting    the autocratic rule  which made him   suffer    incarceration    of  many   years      . He was one among  the  few Kashmiri  Pandits who had joined National  Conference ,  soon after  it   metamorphosed   from  its earlier incarnation of Muslim Conference, in 1939    . Sheikh Abdulla was instrumental in the   changeover   as  Jawaharlal Nehru  had  advised him to carry along all sections of the J&K   ,  so that a meaningful campaign could be launched  to usher in a democratic rule in the state   .

Entering the   office   I   bowed to  Sh Wattal , who was in the chair   and those  seated around the table – father included  .  I was signaled to take a seat in a corner   which I   did .  They were   in a  serious discussion     which at times had an animated    tone  – at times  it  assumed a  somber  note .   Sometimes they felt silent  . Nonetheless ,  their   silence  was too eloquent   to  miss the      underlying    worry    and concern  for the future .

The   seriousness of  the discussion was   palpable   and  quite understandable  . Pt   Jawaharlal Nehru had just passed away   . The   State,  in general,   and Kashmir  in particular had   ,in the winter  months ,  under gone a political and religious upheaval  of  a larger proportion  . People in the Valley had come out on the roads   in what looked to be a near revolt  against  India .  Reason   for   the uprising was a despicable act  .  A   Sacred Relic   was  found  missing  from the  revered   place in Hazrat bal  Shrine .  The diabolical    act   caused   widespread anger among the followers  which in  no   time assumed an anti India   color   . Knowledgeable persons   hold  that   had  it   not been the political sagacity of Maulana  Massoudi  , who lead the people in Kashmir in those tumultuous times ,  and the  political   cum   administrative deftness    employed by Shri  Lal Bhadur  Shastri  –  deputed by   Nehru  to  bring  situation  back from the brink –  game would have been over for India then ,in  January 1964 . The  political fallout locally , however  ,  couldn’t be  avoided   which effectively spelt the  end of  Bakshi Gulam Mohammad’s   political  carrier    and   ensured  rise of G M Sadiq  to the throne . Nehru ,too   ,  suffered a shock    which ,    apparently    ,brought    his   end     nearer   .

 When  the meeting  ended and people moved out of the  office , father signaled me to   follow him    close by .   After enquiring about my welfare and progress in studies   father  relieved  me    .   The significance   of  what  followed    thereafter   recalls  the whole scene to my mind ,  rather vividly .  No sooner had I moved towards  my destination   than  father summoned me back  and  told me to pay respects to a gentleman  standing alongside  him  .  Together , both had moved out of the Khadmat office . I  did as ordered .  Whereupon  father   gave a    detailed   introduction of  the person , his achievements   in the field of  art and literature  and  the role   he had played in  spread of education in  the    far flung  area of Kokernag    . Father  respectfully called him  Master  Premi JI   (  suffixed  was    his pen name    )   and recounted   his  association with  Masterji  when both were   incarcerated in quit Kashmir movement    .   And  the  illustrious  person      for  whom  I was summoned  back  to  pay    respects   happened to be   Pt     Sarvanand    Koul    Premi   of  Soaf –   Shali  ,  Kokernag  .  Then  I came to know that , driven by   his journalistic  propensity ,   Premi  JI   was a regular   visitor  to the    Khadmat   office . 

Frankly  speaking  , even such a imposing    C V  of a man wouldn’t  impress, much, a young man  like me  ( as I was then )  who had  just come out of  adolescence    . At  that  stage of the life , for   young and college going   students   , generally ,   Cine stars and  film songs  –   not the     seriously written poetry   and serious looking poets   –   are  the objects of attraction and interest .  Nonetheless   , there was something in   persona  of   the  man that  I  felt compelled to have a second look  of  him  . Masterji        looked    a typical Kashmiri Pandit  ,  had    sharp   facial  features  and a slim physique   where on  his well tailored    Bandgalla  jacket and trousers   fitted  appropriate .  His  well tended  luxurious crop of hair was  properly  combed  and  ,   in the mould of so many male  matinee idols of the time  ,  had a  straight   parting line  . If I recall   correctly , Master ji had a   Tilak   dotting his forehead .  All in all , his  physical turn  out   exhibited   a   youngish and   an  immaculate demeanor ,  normally not a hall mark of  the  carefree and unassuming      rural  life and   the  raw   surroundings,     Premi JI  had come   from   . That   was my  first  acquaintance  with  the   person  ; and   thus  got the sketch  of   Premi ji   ingrained   in my mind !

Latter  on , at   number of times  I   did have   fleeting  glimpse   of   Premi  Ji   on    the dais    either in Tagore  hall or   in  Auditorium    of  Women’s College  Amira kadal , Srinagar  ;   where   he   would demonstrate his literary     acumen    in company of greats like Dina nath Nadim , Prof Hajni ,  Rehman Rahi , Amin Kamil  and dozens of other literary  giants .  In  Women’s College Auditorium   I  found  Premi ji  seated  among host of  political bigwigs of the period ; namely Syed  Mir  Qasim  ,  Pir Gyasudin  , Noor Mohammed , M  L   Misri , ON Trisal , Abdul  Sattar Ranjoor  ,  A G  Namtahli  and  many others .

My    serious and  fairly  profitable  interaction with the great man  took place in Village  Hangulgund  , in the house of  late  Pt  Radhakrishan   Hangloo –  an illustrious father of an equally   illustrious son – Prof Rattan  lal  Hangloo . It was   a pleasant  autumn   day , in Oct  1984  ,  when my younger brother  Vir JI    tied  marital   knot with     dear Teja ji –  daughter of   Pt Radhakrishan .   Pt  Sarvanand  Koul  ji  was there to  receive the   Baraat   .It so happened that  Mirza  Gulam  Qadir   Beg  ( elder brother of Mirza Afzal Beg ) was also present there .  The    three  political activists ( father included ) ,  known   to  one another very well ,  had a  very absorbing    discussion    among themselves   ,   of which  politics   constituted a major part     .  The   discussion provided me with a good measure  to assess the  brilliance , clarity of thought , firmness  of belief in Kashmir’s  pluralism  and  emancipated  articulation   cum interpretation  of religious  scriptures  – across religions –    Premi ji   was endowed  with .

Shaeed   Sarvanand  Koul   Premi was ,  undoubtedly , a multifaceted personality . As alluded  to hereinbefore, he combined in himself a  poet , author ,  thinker ,   scholar ,  an authentic   translator  and a socio-political activist  of high repute   . Journalism  was  another  feather  added to  his   cap  .     Range of his scholarship and command on vocabulary  , of  so many languages  , were   so wide  and  intense  as to  bring   home   ,both,   letter and   spirit   of  Tagore’s   Gitangali    to   the  readers  of     Kashmiri  language .   Premi JI’s   biography of Saint   Mirza  Kak  is  a cherished  possession of  the  devotees .

Limitations     impede    me   to assess  the  literary  greatness of  Premi JI  .   The  domain  experts have done it   elaborately     .   The  exercise  , nevertheless , is   ongoing  one    .    With  the passage of time new and   hitherto unexplored   facets of    Martyr’s     literary and  political works   keep on    coming  to the fore   .  It  is  said  that   indigenous communities across globe have always attached profound cultural , political   and spiritual significances to    the great works of poets , painters  and  art  practitioners  .Poetry has been representing voice of the people ,their trials , tribulations and  aspirations in the language entwined with ideas , emotions touching the very core of readers hearts and minds  .  It is not an overstatement   to say  that   in   our times ,so far as  Kashmir is concerned ,  one of the   intense  ,passionate  and exciting   voices belonged  to Pt  Sarvanand   Koul  Premi  . It is   a   tragedy  -beyond words –  that such a  voice  got silenced  by  a demented  assassin .

Going   through  Premi Ji’s life   story  , his activism   ( both educational and political )   aimed at  ameliorating the  lot of down trodden ,  yearning for a democratic    form of governance   and literary out puts – of varied nature –  one could   safely say   that ,  as a true intellectual  ,  he was endowed with a quality  to hold multiple ideas in the mind at the same time   and still retain ability and courage to  concentrate   on    one  of them –  that of    the    syncretism  which  in our context is euphemistically  known as  Kashmiriat    .  It  is  the   firmness   of  that  belief   which     explains  Koul  Sahib’s   insistence   to  stay put   when  terrorists   had  ordered  his whole community  to  move   out of the Valley .      On the other side  ,  some   may say   that it was    too much   of  a   generous  attribute     he   ,  fatally , granted   to    his   neighbors  of     other faith .   And ,  that may  afford  a reason  for  them  to     raise a question     that   Sarvanand  Koul  Prem’s  intelligence  proved   inadequate when  confronted with the hard realities of the time    .  Could , therefore,    they   say  that   more than    assassins’ bullet  Premi Ji   fell  prey to   his  own  error of judgment   ?   My   answer   to it   is   emphatic    NO .

Well , history is replete with the instances where great men of learning  fell prey to the demented, despite having   fore knowledge of what   they  ultimately   came to   . Hundreds  of men  and women   who had made a mark  in their lives  , across globe and faiths ,  have been   crucified  at the   Cross    .   Generally  , the   hangmen  happened to   belong    to    the  tribe  which had  befitted most       of the  hard toil   put in by  those whom they  put   to the Cross     . In   the martyrdom   of Premi JI  and his younger   son  the culprits   have   committed  a   threefold  murder  . Trust   has  been the  third causality   :    Trust  ,  created by  Premi JI ,     of     which  his neighbors , of different faith ,    were  the measure   beneficiaries  .   A    Trustee   seldom   causes   a breach in the trust  .    In   the   martyrdom  of    Pt  Sarvanand  Koul  and   his  younger son    Verinder     onus is  heavy on the     beneficiaries        to  account  for  the  betrayal  . They   are as much  culpable , albeit  passively  ,  as   those who  committed    the dastardly  act , actually.

Terrorists may have snatched  his mortal remains  but   Master Premi Ji’s    humanism ,  in the genre  of  Abdual      Ahad Azad   and   Gulam  Mohammad  Mehjoor , will  remain immortal     to     sustain    hope  in   human  values   .    No    wonder  , it was   Mehjoor   who   gave   us      Premi    out   of   Pt    Sarvanand Koul  .

For   Pt   Sarvanand  Koul Premi    the   poet   has  very apt words ;
Hazaroon   Saal   Nargis  Apni  Be noory   Pae   Rotee   Hai
Badie   Mushkil   say   Hoteh  Hain    Chaman   Mein   Deedawar  Paida
 Respected     Premi  JI    ,   Rest  In Peace


BUSHAN LAL SARAF   is a former Principal District  & Sessions Judge .     He is   a   columnist and author of book     New Lexicon Of the   Kashmiris . He can be    mailed   at    bushanlalsaraf@ g mail.com    Mb No   94191 -61022  . He originally belongs to Shopian , Kashmir    and   is   presently living , in  exile , in Jammu. 181205

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