Sikh Gurus and Kashmiri Pandits || LIVE IMAGE

 



-Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo

Recently, some of our friends raised the issue of Shri Krishen-Janam Ashtami procession at Srinagar. They while describing the celebrations recalled the singing of songs in the procession by ‘our group’ paying tributes to Sikh Gurus. They also opined that the Kashmiri Pandits, in exile, have ignored to pay obeisance to the Gurus and instead have delinked themselves from the earlier traditions. Hence, it becomes important to give an account of the efforts that Kashmiri Pandits had/have put in the direction of remembering the great Gurus and strengthening the relationship with the Sikh community both before and after the exile. On this occasion, I take an opportunity, to give a brief account of the efforts made in this context; I can recall from 1974 (the last 45 years).

In 1974, I was inducted by the Sanatan Dharma Yuvak Sabha, Sheetalnath in its Youth wing. In a meeting in July 1974, the Youth wing took the responsibility of organizing youth bands for the procession on Janam Ashtami. We were successful in our efforts. I sang different songs en-route and in particular ‘Pita variya tey lal charu varey, tey Hind teri shaan badley………..’a number of times supported by my other friends in the group. The great Tikalal Taploo and our seniors like Ashok Braroo and Col. Ashok Kaul also sang wonderful Hindi and Kashmiri songs on the occasion. Undoubtedly, “Pita Variya….” was a hit, which we kept singing in all such processions thereafter till our forced exodus from our land of origin.

In 1975, Sheikh Abdullah took over as the Chief Minister of the state, soon after the ‘Accord’. In June 1975, Indira regime declared the state of emergency in the country (a god given relief and a gift for the Sheikh). Revered Pt. A.N.Vaishnavi was picked up from his residence and put in the jail at Hari Parbat. ASKPC (Yuvak Sabha) in its meeting in July 1975, under the chairmanship of Justice J.N.Bhat, the President of ASKPC chalked out its plan to celebrate Janam Ashtami. Members felt and expressed the absence of Vaishnavi Ji.


Major Radha Krishen Raina, Sr. vice President of the Sabha was made the Chairman of the celebration committee. Major Raina had great confidence in Ashok ji (now Col. Ashok Kaul) and he assigned him the responsibility of Stage Secretary for the Janam Ashtami public programme. I was a close confident of Ashok ji, so was privy to the developments that unfolded. It was decided that the chief guest on the occasion would be the Chief Minister of the state, Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah.


On the first day, as usual, a grand procession was taken out from Sheetalnath, and ‘Pita variya….’ was on everybody’s lips. Next day, on the right occasion, Ashok ji while conducting the proceedings of the programme at the Sheetal Nath grounds under a big ‘shmiana’ did certain important things. He made the hosts to present the book ‘Wail of the Vail’ (about 1967 agitation) to the Chief Guest. Next, he announced that the Kashmiri Pandit leadership, on every Janam Ashtami, remembered their Martyrs of 1967 and paid floral tributes to them, as a mark of respect, on their Samadhi. Thus, the Sheikh along with his wife accompanied the KP leadership and paid floral tributes on the Samadhi. The third thing he did was to request Shri Shiv Narayan Fotedar to present a brief of the events of 1967 to the Sheikh in the programme. It was indeed a very successful programme.
From 1975 onwards, we actively associated with the celebrations. In 1981, a special programe was organised at Ram Chander Mandir, Sathu on the auspicious day of Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s birthday. It was a nicely managed show. Ragis and learned ones from the Sikh and Pandit community raised the pitch of the programme. I.K.Koul, the President of the Mandir Committee, Ramesh Ganjoo, Chand ji Bhat and this author were the main organisers of the event. It was indeed a bright beginning.
In 1982, A great 4-day gala was organised by us at Ganpatyar Temple complex on the occasion of Maha Shivratri under the banner of Shri Bhat Ashram. An exhibition titled ‘Shri Krishen Ganga Pradarshani’ besides a big public programme was held on the occasion. Sikh Guru pictures were also portrayed in the exhibition. A Sikh scholar was also asked to speak in the programme.
In 1983, the Yuvak Sabha decided to hold a three-day Convention at the Sheetalnath grounds on the occasion of Janam Ashtami. It was decided to invite the representatives of all hues of minorities in the programme. Tikalal Taploo was assigned the responsibilities of the Chief Organiser of the great event. He took me and our younger group as his support. The chief guest on the occasion was none other than the veteran Kashyap Bandhu ji.


We invited Sardar Sant Singh Teg also on the occasion. He was surely the biggest recognized leader of the Sikhs at that point of time. He along with his team participated in the programme on the very first day, and spoke venom against the then government for its anti-minority policies. He complimented the Pandits for their positive role. Bandhu ji turned up on the ultimate day of the convention and was there for five hours. I made it a point to sit right in front of him at a distance of four feet...yes, my dream was turned into a reality. He spoke extempore for two hours uninterrupted in Hindi and Kashmiri.
We continued as usual to take part in the Janam Ashtami celebrations with our cherished song on lips…. “Pita variya ……” in the historic Sheetalnath. A number of attempts were made by the administration to shorten the distance of the procession every year. We did not budge, but ultimately they succeeded in 1987-88. The Sikh community post 1984 was in shambles. I remember, we in Srinagar made a number of bridges to connect them with the mainstream. We were partly successful.
Immediately, after exodus of the community, the first big demonstration rally was held at Gita Bhawan, Jammu. In February 1990. The chief guest on the occasion was Sardar Jivan Singh Umrannangal, the veteran and the senior most Akali leader. Shri Kidar Nath Sahni and a number of prominent people turned up and spoke on the occasion. Sardar Umranangal was at the centre of the heat. He tore apart the terror ideology and came out openly to support the Pandits. Vaishnavi ji, on behalf of the community, spoke and thanked the dignitaries.


In July 1990, ASKPC (which was revived by us after a gap of almost one year) organised a big convention in which it was decided to bring the displaced Sikh community in the fold of the mainstream displaced community of Kashmir for all practical purposes.
A landmark occasion in the post exodus history was the Margdarshan Convention in 1991. Two big portraits of Sirya Bhat and Shri Guru Teg Bahadur were put by us on the two sides of the giant stage at Abhinav Theatre. Tributes were paid to the Guru for his supreme sacrifice.
It was in 1995 that Panun Kashmir organised Krityagta Yatra and the Kashmiri Pandits visited Anandpur Sahib and paid tributes and obeisance there in recognition of the sacrifices made by the Sikh gurus for the KP community. Panun Kashmir activists visited Sheesh Ganj Gurudwara and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi on a number of occasions and particularly on the Kashmiri Pandit Balidan Divas and organised collective prayers there.


It was around the year 2000 that we came into contact with the members of Kashmiri Sikh Displaced Forum at Jammu. After a number of meetings, we finally decided to walk together. The forum endorsed the demand of Homeland. A number of programmes were organised by us jointly.
In the year 2007, we organised a very big Yatra for 50 days. The Sikh leadership joined the Kashmir Sankalp Yatra. The Yatra was inaugurated at Sheetalnath, Srinagar on 11th November 2007. It marched to Amritsar from Jammu. A special prayer programme was held at Guru Teg Bahadur Gurudwara, Satwari before we left for Amritsar. Three buses with the yatris reached Amritsar where we paid obeisance at Darbar Sahib. The Head Priest of the Darbar Sahib specially came out and felicitated us in the Information department of the Darbar Sahib. We were served ‘langer-prasad’ at Darbar Sahib.
After visiting a number of places en-route, the Yatra reached Nanded Sahib (Maharashtra). There also a special Ardas was organised by the management and the priests for Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits. On our return to J&K, we stayed at Kotli Gurudwara, Pathankot. We addressed the morning session of the gurudwara and paid our tributes to the Sikh gurus.


Again, in 2011, the Kashmir Sankalp Yatra (IIIrd phase) visited Nanded Saheb for the second time. The Yatra also went for the Parikrama of nine gurudwaras in Nanded. Most of these gurudwaras are on the banks of river Godawari. The Pandits have been observing Guru Teg Bahadur Shaheedi Divas every year at Gurudwara Kalgidhar Sahib, Rehari Chungi-Jammu. We have been visiting the Kalgidhar Sahib gurudwara every year on the occasion of Baisakhi as this day coincides with the commencement of ‘Kashmiri Pandit Nirvasan Samvat’ as well. In 2013, we organized Anadsaheb Yatra from Chandigarh after a three day convention at Panchkula which was among others attended by Dr. Jitendra Singh, Avinash Rai Khanna, Adv. Satyapal Jain, Brig. K.S. Chandpuri and Dr. Charudutt Pingle.
In January 2018, a big event of Anandpur Saheb Yatra was initiated by the Kashmiri Pandits from Gurudwara Sheeshganj, Delhi sponsored by Preeti Sapru, Punjabi actress. This author had the honour to sing the song  "Pita Variya......." in the wonderful programme held at the famous Gurudwara complex at Anandpur Sahib ji. It is an irony that the Hindus, by and large, are to be reminded again and again about their forefathers who paid a heavy price and also laid their lives for ‘Desh and Dharma’. Some leading lights in this regard from Kashmir valley, include: Kota Rani, Birbal Dhar, his wife and his daughter-in-law, Vasudev Harkar Bhashi and others. Shri Guru Teg Bahadur Ji truly lives in our soul.


Lastly, I strongly recommend to my community brethren to keep a copy of the book titled “The Kashmiri Pandit” in their shelf always. This book (a handy one) is a great source to know who we are……It has been written by the revered Pt. Anand Kaul Bamzai and was released first in 1924. All Kashmiri Pandits, particularly the young generation, are recommended to keep a portrait of Shree Guru Teg Bahadur Ji in their home always and ever, to pay gratitude and get inspired in life.
 

Feedback: ashwanikc2012@gmail.com)

Author is a columnist of repute in J&K and Incharge, Deptt of Political Affairs & Feedback, J&K-BJP 

 

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