Wednesday, September 12, 2012



 He fought for the rights of Kashmiri labourers in Lahore .As a young boy in Lahore , Tara Chand saw the miserable plight of the Kashmiri labourers who would migrate to various cities of Punjab in the  winter .  These poor people faced exploitation ,unregulated working hours , shabby living conditions and wage retention (every time these people returned home after winters ) by some unscrupulous people ( from both  the Hindu traders and  the Muslim timber merchants in  the undivided Punjab ) so as  to force the hapless labourers to come again and again to the same exploiter.

       (   Bandhu ji with Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru ..Photo source Dr Ramesh Tamiri )

Young Tara Chand was hurt . He took the issue  seriously and  organised these poor labourers   into a  strong fighting force . He  formed the  first' Kashmiri Mazdoor Board' in Lahore. Acting on the advice of Allama Iqbal , whom he visited frequently , Tara Chand became the first secretary of Kashmiri Mazdoor Board ,Lahore sometime around 1927 . The board organized a massive rally in Ludhiana wherein Pandit Moti LaL Nehru was invited to speak. This is what he said :-

“ The Plight of these poor labourers is a cause of worry for all of us . So is the plight of the population in that part of the land of our ancestors . I can not overlook it .” said Pandit Moti lal Nehru in this conference .

 This is how begins the life story of Tara Chand ( 1899-1985 ) of village Gairu ,Noor Pura ,Traal, Kashmir .He wrote poetry in Urdu and Kashmiri under the  pen name Bulbul. I quote a couplet :-

Bulbul na yeh wasiyaat ahbaab bhool jaayein
Ganga  ke badle mere Jhelum mein phool jaayein .

(O Bulbul ! my friends should not forget this will of mine ,
“When I die , my ashes should be consigned to Jhelum instead of river Ganga.)

Tara Chand on his return to Kashmir in 1930 , came to be known as Kashyap Bandhu. The non availability of space for any broad based activity for Kashmiri masses ( created due to arrival of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah on the scene ) led this young man to focus on social evils of Kashmiri Pandit community though he remained steadfast in his commitment to the ideology of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and  other leaders fighting for the  'Self Rule' against the Maharaja. The demand for 'Self Rule' in Kashmir was raised from Muslim Conference platform on 27th August , 1938 and Kashyap Bandhu also addressed the mammoth gathering at Hazratbal along with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mirza Afzal Beigh ,Prem Nath Bazaz and Jia Lal Kilam. He raised his voice against the Maharaja through the news papers that he edited . For this he faced several imprisonments . He was also arrested along with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1953 and was in various jails of the state till 1958 . He is responsible for :-

1 Widow remarriage amongst Kashmiri Pandits

2 Introduction of Saree and Kameez Salwar in Kashmiri women

3 Spread of education among girls .

4 The reform movement aimed at stopping wasteful expenditure on marriages and other ceremonies .

5 Mass Mekhla ( Yageopavit )  ceremony  for young boys in the Kashmiri Pandit community .

Many elders recall the Pro Bandhu Ji and anti Bandhu Ji slogans raised by Kashmiri Pandit groups.


Traavee Zooj pootsch neree Vodda Nein ye

Chhuyee Mubarak Dhoti Mahaaraein ye

( Leave this zooj and pootsch connected with traditional Pheran. Move bare headed .Welcome to you  in this Saree,  O bride ! .)


"Tara Chand Bulbulo traav israar

Assi na ba traavoy na zooj nerivaar."

(O Tara Chand Bulbul ! leave this insistence .

Never shall we abandon Zooji and nerivaar.)

(Zooji and nerivaar is connected with traditional Kashjmiri  ladies Pheran  )

Kashyap Bandhu succeeded in bringing Saree and Salwar kameez to Kashmir. So strong was the reform movement in marriages that many marriages took place with just 5 Baratis . Many young followers of Bandhu Ji married widows from Kashmiri Pandit community .

'Kaashiro gaash aav bar mutsaraav
Gobruss saet saet koor parnaav."
( O Kashmiri . ! look for the light outside,
Impart education to daughter as well along with your son.)
Tis is what Farooq Nazki ,  well known broadcaster and poet told me :-

I have Fond memories of Bandhu Ji to share. In fact my father, Ghulam Rasool Nazki wrote a column “Desh Ke Ghani Ke Qalam Se"  in Desh ,  a news paper that Bandhu Ji edited.  Bandhu Ji also wrote a column “Haak Aanchaar ” in that newspaper  . It was based on satire with rustic village humour. Bandhu ji would also come to our house in Bandipora to meet my father. I was just a kid. They were close friends. He had his independent style of working . No one could force him to toe a particular line. He was media shy and avoided self publicity . I met him many times with a request for a radio / Doordarshan interview but he would always avoid it.Bandhu Ji will always be remembered for 'Graes Gand' agitation in rural kashmir .He also headed  Dehaat Sudhaar Department . His son was a pilot in British Airways. Kidar Sharma of AIR, Srinagar also Known as Munshi Allah Rakha   of  Vaadi ki Awaaz, K.H.Khursheed former President of POK and  Bandhu Ji’s son,  Bankey Bihari were close friends. Kidar Sharma would say in his style.”Jigri yaar thay ji.
  K K Nayyar the then Station Director, Radio Kashmir ,Srinagar finally succeeded and recorded a two hour interview of Bandhu Ji’ possibly in 1984 or 1985 .Bandhu Ji was forthright and frank on various issues except when Mr Amin Pandit writer and historian asked him , ' Bandhu Ji , It is reported that you met Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah for an hour on 8th August, 1953 ( when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was arrested ) and both of you had some secret parleys. Can you tell us what transpired between you and Sheikh Mohammad abdullah  ? ' To this Bandhu Ji said , 'This is a secret that lies buried in the silence of the graveyard after Sheikh Sahib’s death .As also shall it go to flames once I am carried on my funeral pyre. So do not seek it .'

I am informed by  Farooq Nazki  that this precious interview was kept in radio archives for the posterity .Unfortunately,   this recording is not available . Perhaps lost in the din of unfortunate happenings in the valley after 1990.

  Dr Agnishekhar  told me this :

“Kashyap Bandhu Ji was the mentor of my father Pt. Janki Nath Sumbly who was the President of Kashmiri Pandit Refugee Committee that did a monumental social work to ameliorate the untold sufferings of the displaced Kashmiri Pandit villagers of entire Baramulla district. These people wereliving in hapless conditions in make shift arrangements inside various  temple premises of Srinagar city. Under the guidance of Bandhu Ji , my late father worked tirelessly for the victims of Pakistani tribal raiders in October 1947. Upon meeting Kashyap Bandhu Ji at his home in the village Gairu ,Tral in early 80s, Bandhu Ji narrated some aspects of the saga related to my father,whom  he described as his Lieutenant. After the raiders were defeated and pushed across present LOC, Bandhu ji had launched a re-conversion campaign  for  those Kashmiri Pandits  who had temporarily converted  to save their lives from the brutal killers   sent by Pakistan   in the far flung villages of Kupwara,Handwara etc. I had visited Him along with late Amar Nath Vaishnavi Ji to interview him on various issues of my concern as a researcher. Unfortunately, I lost that historic recording while fleeing from Srinagar in 1990.”
Both, Kashyap Bandhu from Kashmir and Dhanvantari from Jammu find lavish praise in the book, ‘ Torn From Roots: A Partition Memoir ‘ by Kamla Patel. 
About Bandhu Ji , Kamla Patel writes this:-
" Bandhu Ji’s aim was to eradicate poverty and illiteracy among the Kashmiri people. He made his homeland his field of work and literally buried himself in the task of uplifting his people. Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of Kashmir, had tried to persuade Bandhu Ji to join his cabinet, but having pledged himself to the service of the people, he refused the offer. He was a selfless Gandhian who was always clad in Khadi. Mridulaben had informed me about the special place that Bandhu Ji occupied in the hearts of the Kashmiris. The poor section of the society had a great deal of respect for him. On one occasion, in my presence, a shepherd presented a Pashmina shawl to him. A man sitting near Bandhu Ji praised the quality of the shawl, and without a moment’s hesitation, Bandhu Ji put the shawl on that man’s shoulder.
I asked him later, why he had given that shawl to someone else. He smiled and replied, ’That fellow was keen on owning the shawl. Let him be happy. Why should a crude and unpolished person like me, who has suffered hardships for many years, and even courted imprisonment, spoil his last years by using a fine shawl? ’ Apart from Sheikh Abdullah, he knew Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad from his childhood but totally disapproved of his modus operandi. When Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned after being removed from his post, Bandhu Ji was also put behind bars. After being released from jail, Bandhu Ji immersed himself in another kind of assignment. He took up the herculean task of a plan which had been shelved for years, of saving innumerable villages located on one side of Wular Lake that were inundated year after year, and resulted in much damage. I was indeed very happy when I read in the newspapers that as a result of his ceaseless efforts, this task was finally completed .” 


                                                  ( Kashyap  Bandhu  )

In his book 'A Life Recalled', poet Arjun Dev Majboor writes :

"Bandhu Ji resigned from a government job and went to Lahore where he studied Vedas and the Purana at Virijanand  Ashram.Apart from Martand, he also edited the popular  Kesri newspaper  . Kesri was banned by Maharaja Hari Singh. Bandhu ji also edited Khidmat after he joined National Conference. Once Bandhu ji  said," If I would have been a Muslim, I might have been among the tallest leaders of Kashmir ." With the slogan of Self Help Mantra, he got constructed a number of roads and minor irrigation projects.
Bandhu ji had married a Punjabi girl, who was inspector of schools. They lived separately for most of their married life. His son Vibhu Vasu is a retired Indian Air Force officer presently putting up at Jammu. Bandhu Ji spent the  last days of his life in his village Noorpora Tral. He was always seen writing something during   his last days.Once , on my enquiry he said, "I am writing down some hard political facts of yesteryears and at the same time analyzing the political careers of some big leaders."  As a matter of fact ,this book was not published for which he had kept aside the printing expenses. Bandhu Ji reprimanded Kashmiri Pandits for unnecessary expenses incurred on marriages. Bandhu Ji died on  December 18, 1985 in his his home village Noorpora Tral."

Bandhu Ji lived in Quetta ( now in Pakistan ) for some  time . Sitting on the bank of river Lora , he wrote a poem in Urdu :

“Aey Aab rood e Lora itni ho meharbaani

Jab Sindh beh kar aaye jhehlum se tujh mein  paani

Meri  taraf  se usko  Chhaati se tu lagaana

Ro ro kar usko meri phir dastaan sunaana

Kehna ussey khudaara aey  aabrood e Jhelum

Shaida hai door tera gurbat mein tujh se chhut kar

Godi mein jis ko tum ne paala hai misle maadar

Woh dukh utha raha hai “

  Recalling his pioneering social work , one is tempted to call him as Raja Ram Mohan Roy of Kashmir.

( Avtar Mota )
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