Wednesday, June 19, 2013



( Journalist , Diplomat and Author )




“ FROM PARTITION TO OPERATION BLUE STAR ..Tales of a Journalist , Bureaucrat and spy. ”
Price Rs399/=
Published by Harper Collins
BY Som Nath Dhar

*Som Nath Dhar started his career as a Journalist based in Lahore sometime during 1946 . After partition of the country ,he moved to Delhi where he worked as personal assistant to Pandit jawahar Lal Nehru for some time . This assignment made him privy to some great events that shaped India’s future . Later he joined Central Information services and also had a diplomatic assignment .He also workedin Kenya and Austria as a senior officer for Country’s Premier Intelligence Agency RAW and finally returned to AIR as Director News . After retirement he taught at Indian institute of Mass communication and later moved to Singapore in 2010 to live with his daughters . He left for his heavenly abode in Dec 2012 . The book was launched in April 2013 by his daughters Pam ( Pamposh Dhar )and Tara ( Tara Dhar Hasnain) both based in Singapore .

It is a well known fact that Quite often what comes up on surface for public consumption on the political showground may not be the true inside story . But those who are witness to behind the curtain activity of events can measure the gap between what actually happened and what later appeared for public consumption. Som Nath Dhar was one such privileged person. As writer,he minces no words to reveal and truthfully convey behind the curtain activity of some such incidents that shaped the destiny of Modern India . He presents them in his truthful , impeccable and straight style that keeps the reader engrossed ....................

One chapter in the book deals with the  arrest of Sheikh Mohd Abdullah in 1953.  The author clears a lot of cloud and controversy with regard to role of Pandit ji in the arrest of his friend  and ally sheikh Mohd Abdullah .Contrary to popular perception and belief  on this issue ,  Nehru reluctantly bowed to all round pressure mounted on him for this action and  did not initiate this action at his level. I quote from the book.

“ Late one night in 1953 , my brother in law asked me to go with him to See Pandit Nehru . He had a letter with him from Bakshi Ghulam Mohd., The deputy prime minister of J&K. Bakshi was Sheikh Abdullah ‘s right hand man since even before the accession , but he felt that he could no longer support Sheikh sahib. I reached there in the middle of the night ., around 1.30 AM.  Nehru was  by now living in Teen Murti House .We found the lights on  in the first floor study of Pandit Nehru . **Mathai took us to meet Pandit ji in his study and we delivered the letter. Pandit  ji looked tired and unhappy.. Soon after this sheikh Abdullah was arrested  in   Gulmarg and replaced by Bakshi Ghulam Mohd as Prime Minister   of J&K  …..It was not only the Sheikh’s  own cabinet ministers  who opposed him. He had lost support at the centre too,  especially from Maulana azad and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai . Kidwai was one of those who persuaded Nehru of the need for action and Pandit ji reluctantly agreed…
Nehru was extremely unhappy  at the turn of events  and he could not reconcile to the incarceration of his friend and political associate Sheikh Mohd Abdullah .later when the Kashmir Conspiracy case against Sheikh Mohd Abdullah proved  to be weak ,  Nehru pushed for his release .

During the period Sheikh Abdullah was behind bars , Nehru did everything possible to mitigate his suffering , including looking after the well being of Begum Abdullah and their sons .Whenever the sons came back from UK, they were received at the Airport by Uncle Nehru’s car and at times by Mathai................................. ”

One  more  chapter in this book deals with death of Maulana Azad in 1958.  Apart from being a tall National leader ,Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was well versed in many languages viz. Arabic, English, Urdu, Hindi, Persian and Bengali. Maulana  was a brilliant debater, as indicated by his name, Abul Kalam, which literally means "Lord of dialogue" He adopted the pen name Azad as a mark of his mental emancipation from a narrow view of religion and life.
Som Nath Dhar   has presented Maulana in right perspective.  So has he presented Nehru as a lonely man after the death or absence of   his close comrades or those who had  worked with him for building a new India .. Nehru for sure  missed Gandhi ji , Maulana Azad , sardar  Patel and  Rafi  Ahmed Kidwai who had passed away . He equally  missed Acharya Kriplani, Purshotam Dass Tandon and C. Rajgopalachari who had been his close associates but had parted company with him.. He needed some one   around for support and guidance. i quote from the book…

“Maulana  was the last of the National Leaders who called Pandit ji by his first name “ Jawahar ”. Pandit ji had immense respect for him as an elder statesman , a politician of vision , a thinker . a philosopher , writer , poet and a Muslim scholar  of International repute . The void created by his death could not be filled up by anyone. He  Had been a leader of freedom  struggle and then a cabinet minister of free India. He had been one of the most prominent muslim leaders to support Hindu Muslim unity , opposing partition of India  along communal lines. After independence, he became the education minister ,but his influence went far  beyond this portfolio , which itself was very important at that crucial period in history . At one stage , he had even succeeded in hammering out a tripartite agreement to give independence to a united India . Obviously this agreement did not hold good.
When Maulana died ,the entire central  Vista ( The vast India Gate Lawns ) was full of people ;it put one in mind of Mahatma  Gandhi’s funeral .Lakhs queued up to have last glimpse of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who had been in public life since 1920................”

This author has been witness to many proceedings or discussions  inside the parliament  involving  tall personalities  like Maulana Azad , Dr Ambedkar , Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Morar Ji Desai, Jag Jeevan Ram, S K Patl, Y B Chavan and many more  .  The author  observes as under

“ Whereas shyama Prasad Mukherjee’ speeches were full of emotion and sentiment , Dr Ambedkar used logic and argument . Nehru always spoke extempore . His speeches , particularly in English, were thought provoking and showed concern about the  future of India.................”

The author of the book is of a firm view that during the entire trauma of partition , Nehru’s vision and sardar patel’s indefatigable exertion  contributed largely in saving the situation for the country........................

The author has described in detail the signing of instrument of accession in Delhi where Sheikh Mohd Abdullah was already camping as Pandit Ji’s ( Jawahar  Lal Nehru) guest .The author also gives a vivid description of sheikh’s eagerness to go to Kashmir to lead civil  administration in driving out raiders .While in srinagar , Bakshi engaged himself in organizing people’s resistance against the Tribal raiders . I quote from the book .

“ During Tribal raid in Kashmir ,Bakshi Ghuilam Mohd organized the people’s resistance to the invasion as best as he could. He collected a volunteer force armed with hockey sticks , punting poles , daggers , and a few rifles and shotguns collected from shikaris( Hunters ) and police stations .He called this ramshackle force KASHMIR MILITIA . The volunteers were deployed in small batches around srinagar ‘s seven bridges and told to patrol the area and make a great din by shouting slogans and firing in the air to create the illusion of a big force preparing to meet the raiders who were camping at chattabal.a suburb of srinagar city .

With the signing of instrument of accession and the decision by the government of India to send troops to Kashmir , Sheikh Abdullah wanted to go to srinagar by the first available plane .late in the afternoon , kachru asked me to accompany V P Menon , Sheikh Abdullah to Delhi’s Palam Airport where an Air Force plane was waiting . Sheikh was anxious to get to Kashmir and help in driving out the raiders . we were in a chevrolet Impala which was being driven at 70 -80 kms per hour speed , But sheikh wanted to go faster and faster .Menon , Kachru and I were afraid that his impatience might land us in Hospital with broken bones . Despite the fast drive , the light was fading by the time we reached the Palam .
When we were told that it was too late to fly to srinagar , sheikh Abdullah was crestfallen and large tears rolled down his cheeks .Back at Pandit ji’s house , he was like a caged Tiger . Every few minutes he talked to Bakshi Ghulam Mohd who was holding the fort in srinagar . “Hold on for one more night ,For god’sake.I will be there tomorrow morning on the first flight ” he told Bakshi......................................... ”

Som Nath Dhar also has a word of praise for Vasant sathe . I add relevant excerpts from the Book ..

“ I was lucky that the first minister I worked with as Director News AIR was Vasant Sathe . I found him to be fair minister , ready to accept reasonable suggestions from those who reported to him. He did not interfere in day to day functioning of the news room and allowed us a degree of autonomy. He was that rare breed of ministers who actually stood up for his staff , as he did for me on at least one occasion. 
In 1982, Vasant Sathe was replaced by HKL Bhagat as minister for information and broadcasting .As Minister he was not only interested in furthering the interests of the congress party , but in bolstering his own image as well……. One day Bhagat asked us to cover three day SATSANG ( Religious gathering ) of his guru in Hissar . This was a bit too much for me .There were many such unreasonable requests resulting in tussles , but I managed to keep the worst out of the AIR news bulletins . Door Darshan did not always fare so well.”

I have personally heard Vasant Sathe during early eighties in Srinagar . He had come for Shamim Ahmed Samim Memorial Lectures . He was impressive in his demeanor and oratory . He spoke inside the large Shamiyana erected near Residency Road  press enclave quarters ( Near State Motor Garages ) . His language was Hindustani, a mixture of Urdu and Hindi .I vividly remember the couplet of Allama Iqbal that he added to finish his speech ..

Amal Se Zindagi Banti Hai Jannat Bhi, Jahanum Bhi
Ye Khaki Apni Fitrat Mein Na Noori Hai Na Naari Hai
( Allama Iqbal )

By action life may become both paradise and hell;
This creature of dust in its nature is neither of light nor of fire......................................................

‘Wattan ki shaan ke Liye 
Gareeb Awaam Ke Liye 
Ye keh Rahein hain Kamraaj 
Ke congress ko vote do’

“ for Glory to our nation
For the poor masses of our country
Kamraaj appeals to everyone
To vote for congress party ”

This was an advertisement by DAVP played before the start of the movie “ Naya kanoon “ in Pladium cinema Lal chowk , srinagar . My father had taken me for an evening show of this movie. It was possibly 1966 if I remember correctly . I was a small kid and I still remember some loveliest songs of this movie .

1 Leejiye Dil ka Nazraana , Leejiye Aankh Ka shukraana

2 Shama mein Taaqat Kahaan jo ek Parwaane mein hai

3 Kuchh Aisi Pyaari Shaqal Mere Dilruba ki hai

These things apart , I came to know about a new word in the DAVP advertisement . KAMRRAJ ! I asked my father what is Kamraaj? He replied

“ Kamraaj is an illiterate man who has become congress president . He looks very simple in dress and appearance but is very tactful and clever politician . ”

Later as I grew I came to know more about Kamraaj.A dhoti clad man who preferred to move in sandals which he liked to through away once he sat on a chair .I also remember that he devised a Plan and killed many birds with one stone. I mean consolidation of congress party after the Chinese aggression , bringing in new faces for organizational work , getting rid of corrupt chief Ministers like Bakshi Ghulam Mohd and Partap Singh Kairon and changing some other Ministers and chief Ministers whom Pandit Nehru did not like. One amongst them being the inflexible Morar Ji Desai.….


Let us see what Author Som Nath Dhar says in his Book ..

I Quote

“By the time the scheme , which came to be known as Kamraaj Plan , was submitted to The All India congress committee , it had expanded to cover every important political leader at the centre as well as in the states .They all handed over their resignations to the prime Minister . Nehru allowed Home minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Finance Minister Morar Ji Desai to leave the cabinet ……..Kamraaj’s resignation was also accepted as the chief Minister of Madras ( Now Tamil Nadu )and he was elected as the congress president in october 1963.

Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohd also resigned as a courtesy to he was leader of national Conference and not congress party , this should have been a mere formality . But Nehru , Probably influenced by the charges of corruption against Bakshi Ghulam Mohd , accepted his resignation .This , in my opinion was Nehru second big mistake in Kashmir , after taking the Kashmir issue to the United nations back in 1948.It waas the second time the centre had played a role in removing a kashmiri prime minister , setting a precedent that could only increase mistrust the centre and the state ………This time the action was taken directly by the centre , although it did not have the support of some kashmiri politicians , including Ghulam Mohd Sadiq , Syed Mir qasim and D P Dhar .If corruption was Bakshi Ghulam Mohd’s crime , it did not stop with his ouster . But India lost a staunch ally in Kashmir and Kashmir lost a leader who had brought a great deal of progress to the state .. Worst of all , Bakshi was replaced by a nonentity , Khwaja Shamas Ud Din, who was so much a follower of Bakshi that he would not make any decision without first consulting his predecessor . So nothing was gained – but quite a lot was lost...................................... ”

He writes simple facts about some leaders that give the reader a great peep into their personalities . Incidents of turbulent 1947 in the country , Pakistan sponsored tribal raid in kashmir and accession of the state to union of India have been truthfully dealt with a journalistic precision. The author also covers events leading to indira Gandhi ‘s rise to power , her fall from grace and her comeback to supremacy . The book is full of interesting anecdotes tempting the reader to finish it in one go . Every page unfolds interesting stories that keep you immersed . The author does not pass judgments on events but skillfully conveys what he has observed .I find the Book interesting and quite absorbing..


“Pandit ji’s Bunglow at 17 York Road was totally unguarded and anybody could walk into the main hall of the house , which was used as reception room.Looking at the tight security that surrounds prime ministers and other VIPs today , the free movement of people at Pandit ji’s residence seems like a dream . No entries had to be made in any register , No names were asked –People just walked in and out at will.

One evening , a uniformed Khaskar ( a member of Hyderbad based militant organization tacitly supported by Nizam ) carrying a sharpened Belcha ( Spade ), the khaskar’s weapon of choice , walked into the reception room and demanded to see Pandit ji. He said he was carrying a letter from his chief , Syed Attah Ullah Shah Bukhari , which he wanted to hand over to Pandit ji personally . Our pleas to him to give the letter to either Mathai or to me did not succeed . While we were arguing with him , Pandit ji came back from the office . He asked why we were arguing . Mathai told him about the letter and Pandit ji said ,”Don’t stop him. Let him come to me ”.
The khaskar walked up smartly to Pandit ji , saluted him and delivered the letter. Both Mathai and I watched the scene, crestfallen .”

“By 1960 , I started my assignment in  srinagar , There were already  rumours about corruption in Bakshi Ghulam Mohd’s regime .When I asked him about it , he did not deny  it, But offered an explanation of sorts .He said “ sheikh Abdullah had to be toppled . He had become a Phantom and in order to keep the Phantom bottled up , certain price had to be paid. ”

“ Nadir Shah was advancing On Delhi ,burning whole villages along the way .MuhammAd shah is said to have answered " ***Hanooz Dilli Door Ast "  ( Delhi is still far way ) and gone back to his singing and dancing sessions The Maharaja of kashmir , Sir Hari Singh , behaved like Muhammad shah Rangila after he was told that the Marauding Kabalis ( Tribal Raiders ) were converging on the state capital . Instead of taking command of his army and going to the front , he decided to go ahead with Dusshera celebrations on 25th October ,while the valley was I flames around him.. The celebrations consisted of colourful parade by the state forces , followed by a glittering Durbar at night , where all the nobles and important citizens presented the Maharaja with a Nazarana ( offering in cash and Kind ). ……. While Baramulla was being sacked , men and women being massacred the Maharaja merrily went through the ceremonies ........ The hall was lit with chandeliers imported from Vienna , Prague and the middle of the ceremonies , the lights suddenly went off . The whole of Kashmir valley was plunged into Darkness as the raiders had burnt and destroyed the Power House at Mohra .”
“ I prepared daily press digest for Pandit ji .Culling editorial opinions and preparing the digest after reading a number of newspapers kept me busy from morning till late in the evening , when Pandit ji read it . He was keen to know the opinions of a few leading editors like M. Chelapati Rau ( Known as MC ) of the national Herald , Lala Durga Dass of Hindustan Times , Tarun kanti Ghosh of Amrita Bazar Patrika and editors of Hindu and Tribune.Nehru appeared to value M C’s opinion the most , reacting very spontaneously to what he wrote .”

“ During Partition riots in Delhi , I continued to live with my sister and brother in law in Lodi estate . They were able to offer sanctuary to some of their Muslim friends . Two eminent Muslim leaders Saif ud din Kitchlu and Ghulam Mohd Sadiq stayed with us through the worst of rioting in Delhi.”

“ Although Nehru was born in Allahabad, he was, of course, a Kashmiri by ethnicity. The Kashmiri community in Delhi decided to invite him to dinner, to be held at Bamzai’s home. In 1947 none of us was aware of any protocol requirements. Nehru accepted the invitation and hectic preparations were put in to motion. It was meant to be an informal “biradari” (community) affair for all Kashmiris, Hindus as well as Muslims, including some National Conference workers and other friends of Bamzai’s. As the host’s brother-in-law, I was inevitably roped into helping with the preparations. One of my tasks was to invite people personally by phone since there were no formal written invitations. One of the people to be invited was T. N. Kaul, whom I had met briefly when he had come to17 York Road [Nehru’s residence] to meet Vijayalakshmi Pandit. When I called his residence, his sister Indira answered the phone. I did not know it then, but a few months later I was to meet Indira through a mutual friend and in just under a year we would be married! She has been my partner for more than sixty years.” On inviting Nehru for Dinner

“ There were old people who were beyond tears because they had seen women violated and men killed. These people were shocked out of their wits and were now living in a daze, perhaps beyond pain. They asked us to arrange refuge for them. I clearly remember till today an old woman walking up to me and asking me to arrange for some arsenic. ‘Mainoon senkhya (arsenic) la de,’ she said to me in Punjabi. She only wished to die. While we were talking, dead bodies were being taken out of the nearby well; bodies which had rotted beyond recognition and which emitted a foul smell. ” On a visit to Multan as journalist during Partition riots .

“ Having prayed at Sharika Temple , Sufi Muslim shrine of Makhdoom sahib and a Sikh Gurdwara , Zapper Deud would be ready to return home. As a child I took this multi religion pilgrimage in my stride , believing it to be normal , in fact , I still believe it was the norm rather than the exception in Kashmir for people to treat the holy spots of all religions with deep reverence . ” On going to Hari Parbat with his Mother’s sister or Masi.

“ Old men like me tend to look back at their lives; Young people prefer to look forward. This is as it should be , But some times it is good for the young to understand what lies behind as well. ” In his Foreword to the book

(Autar Mota...19.06.2013. time 11 PM Good Night )


*This som Nath Dhar is not to be confused with another writer by this name . He is Prof. Somnath Dhar who started his career as a lecturer  in SP college and later worked with Hindustan Times and Ministry of external affairs as First secretary in various mission abroad . He writes essentially  about kashmir’s History ,culture and folklore.

**M O Mathai ( 1909-1981 ) was assistant to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru . Born in Tamil Nadu ,he essentially worked as a stenographer and used to filter guests for Pandit ji ' He also prepared brief for Pandit ji . Mathai worked with the United States Army in India before becoming an assistant to Nehru in 1946. Serious Controversy existed in the media with regard to role of M O Mathai in Nehru’s household.. It was alleged that he was an American Intelligence Plant. Mr. Mathai wrote two books that caused controversy, ''Reminiscences of the Nehru Age'' in 1978 and ''My Days With Nehru'' in 1979. In his books he mentioned the attraction of Nehru for several women and wrote critically about Nehru's daughter, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

***HUNOOZ   DILLI   DOOR  AST  is linked with Hazrat Nizam ud din Aulia and also with Muhhamad Shah Rangeela by people and recorded  history . I add ......

It was the rule of Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq and he was envy of the Great Sufi Saint Nizamuddin (May God Almighty Allah be pleased with him) Reason of his being envy was Hazrat Nizamuddin was too popular among people irrespective of their faith. Another reason was that Hazrat Nizamuddin used to arrange food for all every day composed of best menu. While Hazrat Nizamuddin used to observe fasting and eat vegetarian food, just a dry bread and water.
When King Tughlaq was returning to Delhi from DevGiri, after looting the treasure there, He sent a message to Hazrat Nizamuddin to leave Delhi before his arrival. When the message was delivered to him, Hazrat Nizamuddin said to his desciple; just write on the letter;
“Hunooz Dilli Door Ast” in Persian and it means “Delhi is still far away”
When King Tughlaq arrived near Delhi, he was greeted by his successor Alagh Khan who erected a grand pavilion outside the Delhi Fort, where King and his body guards can enter into it riding on their elephants to celebrate the victory. It is said when the King Tughlaq and his men entered into the pavilion, the main central pole of the great pavilion tent gave away and it fell on the King and he died instantly along with his commanders. So it was the curse of Hazrat Nizamuddin on the king.
Since then this saying is famous among people.

Mohammad Shah Rangeela the  ruler of INDIA in 1739 was in his cups, drunk to his gills, in the Diwan e Khas in Delhi, when a courtier arrived and told him that Nadir Shah of Persia had entered the confines of Hindustan. From the haze Rangeela was in, he muttered" Hunooz Dilli Door Ast'.'Delhi is still far away'.

As Nadir Shah progressed towards Delhi, his advance was reported repeatedly to Rangeela who responded with the refrain about the still intervening distance from Delhi. Finally Nadir Shah entered the gates of Delhi, sacked it thoroughly and left a mountain of skulls, burnt debris, fires and unbelievable sufferings for the residents.

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  1. Thank you for this wonderful review of my father's book! I came across your blog, and this review, quite by chance today. I'm so happy to read this!


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