Sentinel Research Bureau
IN the wake of tribal raid and the economic persecution, around three hundred Kashmiri Pandit families moved to Delhi to seek livelihood.' These families started living in places like Seva Nagar, Lodhi Road, Sarojini Nagar, Laxmi Bhai Nagar, Kidwai Nagar, Rajinder Nagar, Karol Bagh etc. There was no community organization in Delhi till 1950-51. Old Kashmiri Pandit families lived mostly outside Delhi.
In 1951, one Mr Peshin fell acutely ill and required blood transfusion. His family members, in desperation, tried to contact few Pandits known to them. However, by the time Messers Shamboo Nath Khachroo, PN Shakhdar, Som Nath Gassi, Som Nath Koul and some others reached the hospital, Mr. Peshin had collapsed. It was then the entire Pandit families realized this need for forging strong community/caste kinship ties in times of need. Their tribute to the departed soul was that they should live and together. This was how Kashmiri Sahayak Samiti was born in late 1951 and registered in 1953.
Prominent people who took part in this initiative included --'Somnath Dhar PN Dhar, Manmohan Koul, PN Dhar II, TN Koul Bhan, Janki Nath Bhan (later founder of Koshur. Samchar), Pushkar Nath' Langar, Brij Lal Koul Chanian and his father Sansar Chand Koul (later first President of Samiti), Shambo-O Nath Kachroo (later first General Secretary of Samiti), Som Nath Koul, Somnath Koul Gassi, Shakhdar, Janki Nath Wangnoo ' Janki Nath Kak, Kanth Ram Malla etc., Pandit Sham Lal Shakhdar functioned as guardian of the San-dti. Initially the membership fee was 20 np, which was raised in steps to 11 Rupee. The families met on 'Zang Triya' and 'Navreh', initially in the premises of Lodhi Tomb and later in Budha Jayanti Park.
Kashmir! Samiti Bhawan
Pandit Sham Lal Shakdar became President of Sahayak Samiti in 1960. He used his clout to procure a plot for raising community Bhawan. The Samiti had Rs 400 in its Kitty. The plot at Hauz Khas was found unsuitable. Late Dharmvira, the then Union Minister for Urban Affairs sanctioned 1200 sq. yard plot at Amar Colony, Lajpat Nagar.
Among old Kashmiri Pandits, Late MN Koul and Hriday Nath Kunzru closely associated themselves with the Samiti.
To raise funds for building the community Bhavan, during his President ship, late Shakhdar organized a Food Festival on the day of Navreh at Mav Lanker Hall, Rafi Marg, All the MPs were invited. Speaker Hukam Singh was the Chief Guest on the occasion. 'Zah Qabar' play was staged. Sardat Hukam Singh donated Rs 500/-. A sum of Rs 2600, was collected on the occasion.
Construction -work for Bhawan started in 1961 under the President ship of Kanth -Ram Malla . Other associated with it included PN Shakhdar, Treasurer, Shamboo Nath Khachroo, Gen. secretary and Som Nath Bhat, Secretary. Bhavan was inaugurated in 1963 by Shiri Hridiy Nath Kunzru.
Another contribution of Pandit SL Shakhdar was to inspire Pandit families for community living. Through the efforts of Late Shakhdar, Pandki Shivpuri Prof. RK Bhan and others Pamposh Housing Society was started in early sixties 150 families were given possession of plots in 1971.
1967 was testing time for émigré Kashmiri Pandit community. Sahayak Samiti engaged itself in building awareness in Delhi about the communalization of the social milieu in Kashmir. Pt. Shamboo Nath Khachroo and other executive members worked quite hard. All the news about the ongoing agitation was communicated to Sahayak Samiti. Mr. Prakash Vir Shastri, MP, at the persuasion of Pandit Shakhdar, raised questions in Parliament on the communal aggression against Kashmiri Pandits launched by then State Congress govt.
1986 attack on Kashmiri Pandits in Anantnag was another major challenge for Sahayak Samiti. Pandits’ active social destabilization had begun. Kashmir’s main stream politicians cast off their pretensions of being secular. A young dynamic leader, Jawahir Lal Bhat, who happened to be the president of Sahayak Samiti along with Mr. A. K. Koul and Mr. DN Koul Gassi (later President of Kashmiri Samiti) rose to the occasion. There were other young leaders – Shanti Bhan, Sunil-Shakhdar, AK Fotedhar, Shiban Duda, Ashok Sher, Surender Sher, PL Challo, Virender Malla, who assisted them. The Sahayak Samiti leadership went to Anantnag and Srinagar to meet Pandit leadership and organized relief for the riot-affected victims. It had one positive impact. The strong protest pre-empted the move to install Congress ministry, as Pandits pointed their fingers at the then State Congress leadership. In the Valley the communalists were unnerved that the attacks on Pandit minority could have s erious repercussions. Enthused by its success in mobilizing opinion on threats to Pandits’ stay in Valley, Sahayak Samiti decided to rechristen itself as Kashmiri Samiti, Delhi.
All India Kashmiri Samaj:
To build a nation-wide campaign on communal violence against Pandits, Kashmiri Samiti decided to coordinate efforts with Pandits living in other parts of India. This coordinating body was named as All India Kashmiri Samaj. It had a limited mandate – just to coordinate efforts to build nation-wide campaign on impending destabilization of Kashmiri Pandits in Valley. Affiliates, rather than the All India Kashmiri Samaj, had the authority to take any decision. In fact, office of the All India Kashmiri Samaj shifted to the affiliate unit, whose President was elected as President of All India Kashmiri Samaj.
Kashmiri Pandits in Valley remained distrustful of the role and capacity of Kashmiri Samaj to intervene positively for the community. They disliked its elitist character and bureaucratic attitude of its leadership.
With the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, AIKS played more sinister role. While Kashmiri Samiti Delhi tried to identify with the aspirations of Displaced Pandits and played an activist role in launching struggles against anti-Pandit policies of the government, the AIKS was captured by those elitist groups, who wanted to hijack the community platform for personal aggrandizement by facilitating the agenda of forces inimical to Displaced Pandits. Kashmiri Samiti Delhi has so far been successful in keeping at bay those people, who want to capture this platform for playing the fifth columnist role against the Displaced Pandit Community.
In 1990 Kashmiri Samiti again rose to the occasion. On 25 December, Kashmiri Samiti decided to declare the day as the Dedication Day. At the initiative of Sunil Shakhdar all the past presidents of Samiti and members of the executive in the past were called. The assassination of Tika Lal Taploo, a leading member of the community, provided the backdrop. A seminar was held, where members deliberated on how to fight the separatist challenge. The function was presided over by Prof. R. K. Bhan, who happened to be the teacher of Pandit S.L. Shakhdar.
Kashmiri Samiti played host to a conference of AIKS on January 19 and 20, 1990. It was presided over by Brig (Retd.) RN Madan. As the meeting was in progress at 12 Noon on the first day there was a SOS call by Mr HN Jattu’s son from Srinagar. Massive processions of the majority community had begun to terrorize the Pandit community. An elderly Kashmiri Pandit of Zaindar Mohalla, Late Ambardar, was forcibly dragged into a procession and put at the front. He was killed in police firing. Pandit' houses and ladies were also attacked Kashmiri Samiti formed a committee under the leadership of Sunil Shakhdar. In two hours they collected four hundred members of the community. They decided to gherao VP Singh and other officials. VP Singh was out of town. Madhu Dandavate, who was officiating in place of VP Singli, was gheroed for two hours. Agitationists, which included among others Late Virinder Razdan"Vidur', went to gherao Shiromani Sharma, the Home Secretary and Rajiv Gandhi, the leader of the opposition.. They later on called President R Venkataraman. Rajiv Gandhi also phoned up the President, asking him to intervene.
Kashmiri Samiti, under the leadership of Jawahir Lal Bhat collected volunteers to go to Srinagar. Food, vegetables and medicines were taken to Habbakadal. The then union Minister for Civil Aviation, Arif Mohammad Khan exempted the airfare for these volunteers.
Kashiniri Samiti Bhavan started functioning round the clock. Free food and beddings were provided to the refugees from the Valley. The first refugee registered was Chand Narain Mukoo. It was on 28th January.
With the migration of the entire Pandit community from the Valley, the contribution of displaced members 'in making Samiti more strong and responsive to the needs of the people, in throes of genocide, has been awesome. Young and dynamic leaders like Sunil Shakhdar have actively associated with the aspirations of the Displaced Community. Active role played by the youthful leadership of Kashmiri Samiti in baring open the conspiracy of AIKS to Pandits has destabilize Displaced Pandits has been widely appreciated. The joint press conference, held recently in Jammu, in which Kashmiri Samiti, declared open support to Panun Kashmir demand is a defining moment for Kashmiri Samiti Delhi and Kashmiri Pandits.