KASHMIRI PANDIT SABHA, JAMMU
V K WATTAL
he Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Jammu will be completing its 100 Years in 2013.
While walking on the road from the banyan tree near the Central jail, Jammu towards the B C Road there is a left lane before we reach the traffic island on the BC Road . The cement tiled lane wide enough for a truck is more than 200 meters long .Nearly at the end of the lane there are 3 shops ------ kashmiri bakery shop, Pandit Ji’s shop where most of the community people go for the matching of TEKNIS, WAZA BHAITAKH---- Kashmiri Cooks “retiring Shop”.The road gets wide in a semi circular and one is standing before the imposing gate of “KASHMIRI PANDIT SABHA, JAMMU”.The KP Sabha along with its buildings and a large lawn is spread over an area of more than seven Canals.
Before this writer writes about the KP Sabha it will interest the readers to know a little about the “DURBAR MOVE”which takes place every year in the month of Ist week of November and Ist week of May. This is linked with the formation of KP Sabha.
The history of DURBAR MOVE dates back to 1883 during the reign of the Dogra ruler Maharaja Ranbir Singh.It is said that after the sale of Jammu& Kashmir in 1846 ( Bynama Amritsar ) to Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh the Britishers had thought that by this they have cut the Sikhs to their size and they will have free access to J&K territory which will enable them to have eye on Czarist Russia. The Britishers suggested that the British Army should be allowed in the state in the supervisory capacity. Maharaja Gulab Singh denied this privilege to the Britishers. The sulking British started inciting the people of the valley that though being in the majority they are being ruled by the Hindu Maharaja. Maharaja Ranbir Singh took over the reigns of the rule after Gulab Singh. Being cool and calculated he checkmated their conspiracy by deciding to move the DURBAR to Valley for the 6 months of Summer and coming back to Jammu during the winter . By this decision he conveyed the message to the majority people of the valley that they are as much an important part of his kingdom as other parts and could get their grievances redressed by the administration very quickly. The other part was that Maharaja would be away from the scorching heat of Summer in Jammu. During May 1883, Maharaja Ranbir Singh shifted his Durbar along with a retinue of 150 to 200.
It is a known fact that among the people of the state at that time the majority of educated belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit Community. The other communities which formed the major chunk of the State such as Dogras, Rajputs, Muslims of Jammu and the valley were not that much educated. This result was while the day to day administration was mostly managed by the educated Pandit community the other communities joined the security forces like Army and Police which did not need formal education. This marked the start of the Pandit community moving down to Jammu during the 6 months of winter.
The valley was connected with Jammu through BC Road (Banihal cart Road) passing over the Pir Panchal Range. The 300 Kilometer road used to remain closed during the winter months due to the heavy snowfall in the upper reaches of Pir Panchal and the landslides. Though the other road connecting Valley with Jammu was Jehlum Valley Road(JV Road), but it was long circuitous going to Rawalpindi and coming back to Jammu via Wazirabad by rail.
Living in orthodox and joint family atmosphere one could not think of carrying his wife and children to the winter capital. The employees would come alone and form groups of 5or 6, hire a room or two and live there as pack of sardines for six months. The principle reasons being the scarcity of accommodation and the meager salaries. Living together in groups would save them some money for their families back in the valley.
It was quite natural for them while stationed in Jammu to feel isolated and homesick. This must have been the basic cause to nurse an idea to form a Socio Cultural organization where they could all assemble together to share joys and sorrows and also pursue cultural activities.
The year 1913 saw formation of KASHMIRI SAHAYAK SABHA. The Sabha had its office on the Shalimar Road hired at Rs.3.00 P.M. The name was modified to KASHMIRI PANDIT SAHAYAK SABHA( KPSS). The KPSS was registered on 21-2-1914, vide letter No :- 8489 under the command orders of His Highness Maharaja Bhadhur PRATAP SINGH JI. The order read like this :-
Sanction of J&K Government for establishment of the Sabha
Copy of the letter No :- 8489dated 21-2-1914 from the Secretary to thePrime Minister . J&K State to the Governor of Jammu Province, Jammu.
With refrence to your letter No :- 1799-H, dated 4th, February, 1914, I am directed to convey the sanction of His Highness Maharajah Bhadhur
It is understood that the object of the Sabha is to introduce social reforms in the community and to impart mutual help and relief among its members and that it shall have absolutely no concern whatsoever with political movement. Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, jammu as proposed, as well as those of the Kashmiri Pandits who are state servants being allowed to become members of the said Sabha.
It was subsequently renamed as KASHMIRI PANDIT SABHA, JAMMU (KPS), in 1916. The first President of the KPS was Pt. Nand lal Kaul ( 1914), the then Governor. The K P Women’s League was formed in 1931 under the Presidentship of Smt. Deviki kaul.
In November 1932, the KP Sabha, purchased 64 marlas of land near Ambphalla Chowk for Rs. 668.00( as per the records) and the present community hall named Kashyap Niwas was constructed on this land.The total cost of the construction of the community hall was Rs.3500.00. The employees contribution was Rs.2500.00. It may interest the readers that the employees to supplement their meager donations also did KAR SEVA by carrying construction material such as bricks etc on their heads. A commendable job which should be highly appreciated by all the community members. The boundry wall of the Sabha was constructed in 1944. The then Governor of Jammu Raja Upendrer Krishen Kaul contributed Rs.2100.00 for this purpose.The construction activity never ceased and continued with the construction of Sharika Temple in 1951, installation of idols of Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha in 1954, Mahalaxmi Temple in 1960. Digging into the old records the Sabha had requested for the permission of construction of second storey on the Kashyap Niwas community Hall but it was rejected and the reason given was that it will overlook the activities of the Central Jail. The objection might look comic in the present situation because many constructions have come up between the Kashyap Niwas and the Central Jail almost touching the outer wall of the prison.
The present Kashyap Niwas has been completely renovated, reshaped , refurnished and wood panelled giving the auditorium a corporate look with all the modern facilities. It now serves for holding Socio, Cultural and Literary meets.A huge building complex has been raised in the adjoining land which serves as a banquet hall and lawn for the marriages.
The Sabha has been able to fulfill the religious aspirations of the community in particular and of other Hindu communities living near the vicinity. Premises have become the hub of Socio Cultural activity. Besides holding of the important festivals like Navreh, Shivratri, Hora Ashtami. Zang Trai, Janam Ashtami the Sabha has thrown open the premises for Yagneopavit and marriages keeping in view the shrinking open spaces and the astronomical cost of the private banquet halls. The rates charged are quite reasonable within the reach of the common people which has been highly appreciated by all.
The KP SABHA which will be completing 100 years in 2013 has made the journey without showing any signs of fatigue or rest. A remarkable feat in itself is a monument of our consistent march towards brotherhood and oneness. The credit for this should go to the galaxy of those Presidents of the Sabha who by their selfless dedication, honesty, sincerity and transparency steered it through this long journey. The credit should also go to those unknown employees without whose help it would not have been possible to complete this long journey. The names of the presidents will be given at the end of the write up.
The Sabha which had been conceived as a Socio Cultural centre, has not limited its role to celebrate the different festivals only but has lent a full support whenever the community demanded it nor did it restrict its role only in Jammu region. The Sabha’s role in 1931 when the community in the valley became the victim of communal frenzy from the die hard zealots, 1967 agitation and during the 1990 mass exodus from the valley is commendable. The Sabha gracefully accepted the challenge thrown by the unprecedented and sudden exodus from the valley and rose to the occasion with dignity and aplomb.
The Sabha has a very good office in its premises equipped with the modern gadgets like computers which provides valuable information to the community members. The Sabha has a rich collection of books and interesting records. The letter sent by the His Highness in response to the congratulatory telegram sent by the Sabha on the birth of Dr.Karan Singh. A poem written in memory of those drowned in the Wular Lake tragedy. Shuffling through the records takes you back to 100 years back and can be of great use to the researchers.
The Sabha has been visited by people of all shades irrespective of their political and religious affiliations. The notable one is that of Smt. Indira Gandhi in 1977. She came to the Sabha on the day of NAVREH and greeted the congregation. She had KHEWA in a “KHOSU”. The other notable visitor to the Sabha was Sheikh Mohd Abdullah (this writer was present) and the occasion was again Navreh . He spoke and greeted the community members in chaste Kashmiri and told them he used to be a witness when community members would come to Vichar Nag and take bath in the holy spring , in his younger days.
The KASHMIRI PANDIT SABHA, JAMMU, is nearly a Historical monument for the community and it is the duty of us all to preserve it any cost in its original character. The community members who in future will be at the helm of managing the Sabha should contribute their bit honestly, sincerely and with complete transparency irrespective of their political and other leanings.
The names of the successive Presidents since 1914 :-
*The writer lives in Shalimar Garden, Ext II, and is Administrator “ ATH ROTT FOUNDATION” The writer expresses its thanks to Sh. Bushan Parimoo, former Secretary, K P Sabha and to Sh. S N Pandita, eminent author and Research Scholar
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