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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Remembering Gandhi's Valley Visit!

Gandhi Jayanti day always reminds me of my most memorable day of Gandhi 'darshan', the only day in my life when I saw and stood so near the Mahatma. My father had sent us – me, my mother and sister – to Srinagar from Lahore, to safely stay with my brother serving as a bank manager there till peace returned to Punjab, particularly Lahore, where communal flareup and fanatic frenzy were increasing by the day. It was during that most anxious time when thick black clouds of communal clashes were spreading all over in the neighboring Northern states that we saw a silver lining of hope and peace in the surprise visit of the Mahatma to the Valley.

Mahatma Gandhi, a symbol of non-violence, truth and moral values paid a 4-day historical visit to strategic and sensitive Jammu and Kashmir State during a crucial period in first week of August, 1947 and played a pivotal role. This was his life’s first and the only short visit in Kashmir which gave some turning points to course of events on the eve of Independence as well as thereafter by providing much-needed healing touch to the people in this sensitive and strategic border State. The Father of the Nation always had his hand on the pulse of the people and his gospel of non-violence, truth and sincerity of purpose had already won the hearts of masses in Jammu and Kashmir as elsewhere in the country. The visit was at a very momentous period on August 1-4, 1947 and had much historic importance for Jammu and Kashmir as well the entire country. It was a significant event then in 1947, but a spotlight on it now is also of much relevance for the people in this part of the country. Gandhiji’s message of peace and harmony has always stood the test of time and is so still very much relevant in our time now.

The Indian National Congress leadership: Gandhiji, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Sardar Patel and other stalwarts had been source of inspiration and ideology during the movement in Jammu and Kashmir for attainment of responsive and democratic governance in place of the monarchy. The struggle in Kashmir was spearheaded by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who stood by the high principles of peaceful method and uphold the Hindu-Muslim unity at all cost. The Sheikh was imprisoned at the time of the Mahatma’s visit. On August 1, 1947, Gandhiji reached Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir State, to an affectionate welcome and grand reception by Begum Akbar Jehan wife of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and about 500 women social and political activists. He freely met the masses in Kashmir then. The Mahatma did not address any public rally during his three days stay in Srinagar but held two prayer meetings during which he gave expression to his ideas, impressions and idealism and at the same time highlighted the supremacy of the masses. He admired the masses for their exemplary role during the freedom movement as also in maintaining exemplary Hindu-Muslim unity at a time when there were dark clouds of strife and observed that he saw “a ray of hope” in Kashmir despite communal frenzy elsewhere on the sub-continent.

After enactment of Indian Independence Act by British Parliament on July 17, 1947, the Paramount powers of the Crown over rulers of Indian States was to lapse from August 15, 1947 and Lord Mountbatten called upon the princely States to join either of the Dominions- India or Pakistan- by deadline of Independence Day (August 15, 1947). There was pressure on the ruler from Muslim League led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah who propounded two-nation theory while the people of Kashmir led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah totally rejected the two-nation theory. The Maharaja of J&K State was unable to take decision in this complex situation. The J&K State’s then Prime Minister, Ram Chand Kak, was removed within a short while after Gandhiji’s meeting with Maharaja Hari Singh during the visit. Mahatma Gandhi was all praise for the tallest leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah for his adherence to communal harmony, deep concern for down-trodden masses, democratic aspirations and nationalistic views. The Sheikh and his party, while firmly rejecting the two-nation theory, had consciously sided with the ideals of peace, progress, democracy and secularism.

During this visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja, Hari Singh and Maharani Tara Devi, cordially invited Gandhiji to the Palace and had an elaborate meeting. He was affectionately accorded traditional welcome with Arti and tilak by the Royal couple and also then young prince, Dr Karan Singh. (Interestingly, it was also the day when Prince Karan Singh and I passed Matriculation from Punjab University, both with very high scoring). Later, the details have been recorded by Dr. Karan Singh in his book titled “Heir Apparent”. Gandhiji during his visit also had met a number of delegations and preached his ideas and ideology both in Kashmir and Jammu. Mahatma Gandhi’s 4-day visit on August 1-4, 1947 to Jammu and Kashmir forms a proud page in the chapter of my life which I will cherish for ever.