Saturday, September 26, 2020
 
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Keshavnath :First Kashmiri Pandit victim of terrorism in Kashmir




Dr Ramesh Raina



Forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is a blot on the face of Kashmir.The uninterrupted history of persecution is so strong in the mental memory of the displaced community that it refuses to fade away.Each anti-KP event ends up with the addition of yet another unpleasant layer to the already bruised mental picture of the displaced Community.As a continuum, this presentation is about the brutal Killing of Pandit Keshav Nath Ji,chief priest of Vicharnag Temple on 10thDecember1988.He is recorded as the first Kashmiri pandit victim of armed militancy that largely remained unnoticed and confined to the files of archives,despite he being Killed by a Policeman himself.



SOCIAL GEOGRAPHY OF VICHARNAG
Vicharnag is a monumental pride of ancient Kashmir,legendary Shreebhat hailed from this place.There still exists a Shreebhat mohalla in downtown and a shop with a vermillion on its board is known to the local people as “ Shree Bhattun Vaan”.Nine KM from Lal chowk,it is situated on Srinagar-Leh highway in the heart of Naushehra locality.It is adjacent to famous Anchar Lake and has a historical place Ananta Bhawan on its east.It takes its origin to King Megwahana which finds its mention in Kalhan Pandit’s Rajtarangini built by Megwahan’s wife Queen Amrit Prabha.



BRIEF INTRODUCTION
Keshavnath ji originally belonged to Gairoo(Noor Pora) Tral and was popularly known as Pandit ji to his devotees and the people living in and around Vicharnag.His devotees included both hindus and Muslims alike.As he was a strong devotee of Goddess Rajnya,would therefore often visit Tulamula on all the auspicious days on foot because of poor transport facilities those days.While on his way to Tulamula he would invariably prefer a night stay at Vicharnag.Given the calm and serene atmosphere of the place,Vicharnag Asthapan helped him to attain his spiritual pursuits.He thus started spending more time at the Asthapan.Thereafter at the insistence of Asthapan Trust Vicharnag,he made it his permanent abode.His permanent stay there encouraged the local hindu population of the area to benefit from his religious and spiritual knowledge by constructing a Pathshala to listen to his religious discourses.His softness and cool temperament made him the most affable and respected person of the area..




PRECISE ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENT
The outcome of 1986,anti-temple drive in Kashmir was a large scale destruction and vandalisation of temples belonging to Kashmiri Pandit Community.Resultantly,the insecurity had become writ large upon the face Kashmiri Pandits.Sensing the palpable mischief potential of miscreants,Government provided security to the vulnerable places of hindu worship,Vicharnag Asthapan too came under the vigil.Consequently two/three police personnel were stationed at the temple and housed in one of the rooms of Asthapan.One of the policemen namely Mohd Yousuf bearing short beard was a fresh recruit and visibly a short tempered and an arrogant man.His leanings lay probably towards Jamait-e-islami.It is said he would even rebuke Pandit Ji’s muslim devotees quietly by discouraging them to visit the hermit and his behavior even was brought to the notice of hermit who ignored it by advising his devotees that “the fellow is a young boy and a fresh recruit.It will take him sometime to be worthy of his uniform”.


Because of his illness and frail health,pandit Ji’s son had come to stay with him.On the intervening night of 9/10 December 1988,Police personnel returned late in the night after routine patrol.Hermit bade them good night,after serving them with Kahwa.As was usual with Pandit Ji to get up early morning at 3.30 am(10th December 1988),before leaving his bed he heard somebody repeatedly knocking his door.While opening the door somebody forcibly pulled him out of the room and thrashed him violently with stones of the stairs leading to the ground floor. Pandit Ji was heard shouting and crying with pain Wahi Ma jai by his son,who saw young policeman Mohd.Yousuf striking the head of the hermit with the butt of his Rifle and repeatedly yelling at the hermit Islam Kabool Karo,Oh Bhatta Islam Kabool Karo.His son got frightened at the ferocity of Mohd Yousuf,who closed the door and hid himself there.He noticed that policeman was shouting even at the Chowkidar staying with his family on the ground floor,asking him to put off the lights and close the windows and stay indoors.The hermit by then had fallen motionless on the ground and lay dead as he could not tolerate repeated Rifle butt assaults on his head.





POST INCIDENT SCENE
Post incident his son and Chowkidar raised alarm and on hearing the cries people assembled the Asthapan area.In the meanwhile Police too was intimated resulting in the arrival of Police contingent under the command of a Sikh SHO from Soura.The eerie Policeman Mohd Yousuf found himself surrounded by the people and Police in large numbers leaving no escape route for him.Sensing his nervousness,SHO engaged him in a long conversation till the time Police held him from behind and disarmed him.

To avoid any Law and order problem arising from the incident,Police wanted the dead body to be sent for postmortem as early as possible but the people were reluctant to remove the body till an FIR was registered against the Policeman.Leaders of both the communities along with the administration entered into long negotiations to solve the issue.Because of the strenuous efforts of Sh.Tika Lal Taploo and Sh AN Vashnavi,FIR was registered against the culprit.With the news spreading like wild fire,the Government machinery came into motion to diffuse the situation arising out of ghastly murder.

This incident put a chain of events into motion.Changing gears rapidly,people soon after morning prayers congregation at the adjacent local mosque came out in large numbers to block the road,shout anti-Govt slogans,damage public property and disrupted the traffic by terming the arrest of policeman as illegal.

This incident explains that the spiritual,cultural and religious motivators belonging to minority community were an anathema and seen as anti-Islamic.In this regard the brutal massacre of the hermit at the hands of a Law enforcement officer has a much larger massage than meets the eye.The first premise is that the public institutions of faith,trust and justice have been infiltrated by rabid radicals and fundamentalists jeopardizing the whole delivery of justice in the process.How can one explain the assassination of a harmless person who otherwise was revered by both the communities alike.




(Author is a Social activist and Doctor by profession)Feedback:[email protected]




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