Monday, December 24, 2018

Pt. Rughonath Vaishnavi and a dead Temple. 1960

Remains of Bhairav temple Chattabal
2009. Pic: Autar Mota

In 1951, the Food Control Department of Jammu and Kashmir State encroached upon and occupied the Bathing Ghat and other premises of Bhairav temple Chattabal. They started using the place for distributing rations. The temple was desecrated. I grew up hearing stories of the desecration. But, I assumed may be post 1990, my family was exaggerating. My family comes from the area, my grandfather used to take me to the Ghat and show me the lock on the temple and the ruins. I was eight. Over the decades my grandfather saw the temple of his ancestors desecrated multiple times, in 1973 a mob threw chappals into the Hawan kund and in 2008 we saw a glimpse of the burnt remains of the temple. He was eighty. I wrote about it. The story was still not clear to me.


I recently came across postscript to the story in a small footnote in the book "Crisis in Kashmir"(1991) by Pyarelal Kaul (who was with Praja Socialist Party).

"That Shri Bhokhatiashwar Bhairov Nath Asthapan, Chattabal, Srinagar is and continues to be, an ancient, holy shrine of the Hindus -- That the said Asthapan Ghat is and has been with the Hindu Community in general, always used by the Hindus of Chattabal in particular, for the observance of religious rites and worship such as daily Sandhya, Kriya Karam, Shradhas, etc., for hundreds of years past. --
That the entire compound of the said shrine has been reduced to a public market place by the said illegal and unlawful encroachment by use and occupation of the said Bathing Ghat and other premises of the said shrine with night soil, urine, filth and rubbish of every kind."

Notice dated April 2, 1960 under section 80 CPC to the Chief Secretary of State for removal of encroachment and payment of damages. The advocate for Pandits was Pt. Rughonath Vaishnavi, the man who Tahreeki propagandists now like to market as "Pakistani Pandit" ignoring the fact that during Bangladesh war he was one of the men who supported liberation of Bangladesh.

Why did Pandits chose Vaishnavi as a representative?

It is true, Vaishnavi was a man with political opinions and stood by his ideology. He believed in democracy. Resolution through non-violent means. Even if it all meant Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan. But, as this notice shows, he was concerned about what was happening to his community. It was something that concerned him directly. He was physically living in Kashmir. So, the meaning of it was clear to him. Perhaps he saw this act as an extension of Muslim ultra-nationalistic tendencies being fanned in the valley for all kind of political gains. Today, most KPs who remember the destruction of this temple, blame the ghat boatmen Hanjis, people of nearby locality Nalbandpora, which was hotbed of Plebiscite front politics (which back them was just another front for getting NC back in power) for the desecration of the temple with the motive of usurping the temple land. Few remember the politics behind it. 

This act of Vaishnavi  sets him apart from the new age "Pakistani Bhattas and Bhattanis" of present generation who are incapable of doing the same, [among them is Vaishnavi's grand-daughter  Mona Bhan]. All they can do is push stories of "Kashmiri Muslims performing last rite of Kashmiri pandit" and then while living outside Kashmir write about dead pandits who loved Kashmir to be part of Pakistan. They can sell fear of Hindu India and at the same time sell the idea of peace with Muslim theoretic state of Pakistan and a Sharia compliant paradise Kashmir. Forgetting that from Bazaz to Vaishnavi, all of them have written about obvious growing religious fanaticism of Pakistan. It is they who are also enablers of the environment today in which a pandit writing a petition about desecration of a Hindu temple in Kashmir would be labeled "Sanghi Batta". Vaishnavi today would have been labeled Sanghi Batta out to demonize Kashmiri Muslims. No matter what they say or write the true meaning of these events cannot be changed for the victims. The temple is dead.

It was this dispute from 1950s that foretold that my family would be forced to leave their ancestral place someday. In late 60s, some of the families from our extended clan started leaving the place. Some moved to Delhi and some to other localities. My grandfather stayed on but he did purchase a piece of land in Jammu in late 60s after selling a piece of land in Chattabal near Lakad Mandi. All of them knew what was coming, they didn't know the date. All of them were preparing for the inevitable.

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