Pandit Janki Nath Kachroo

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National Schools of Kashmir

An Institution with Mission

by J.N. Kachroo  

Introduction: National School, Srinagar, an off-shot of its mother institution at Baramulla has been rendering valuable service to the community for the last 65 years. This write-up is an attempt to put on record the events leading to the birth of a school, its uniqueness, subsequent developments and survival of its branch at Srinagar.

A Conversion: In the twenties of the last century, the catholic missionaries had a small convent, a small dispensary, a school named St. Joseph’s High School at Baramulla (they are still there), ostensibly their activities were humanitarian. But an incident of conversion revealed their true intention. These service outlets were perceived to be centers of mass contact to further their ulterior objectives.

One day in the summer of 1925, a young Kashmiri Pandit, (a cousin of my father), who was working as a teacher in St. Joseph’s High School went missing. Frantic enquiries about his whereabouts were made, but to no avail. The school authorities denied any knowledge. Soon it was discovered that a young lady, seen in the dispensary the previous day was also missing. The story was complete. Pandit Dinanath, a handsome youth had been converted to Christianity, married to a beautiful lady, Josephine by name and the couple surreptitiously smuggled out of the town in the wee hours of the summer day.

Reaction: The orthodox sections of the society, still mostly illiterate and ignorant were shocked. As if awake from a slumber, the people reacted sharply. The local Sanatan Dharam Sabha (S.D. Sabha), the only representative organisation of the sorts, passed a resolution condemning the incident, naming the missionaries as the agents of a colonial power. The Arya Samaj Sabha, Lahore, echoed its sentiments. The incident was reported in a section of Urdu Press at Lahore. The people responded to the call by the S.D. Sabha and observed a hartal. Some students of St. Joseph's High School boycotted their classes. This kind of protest is generally believed to be the first of it’s kind in Baramulla.

Repression: The British Resident at Srinagar smelt a rat. Had the Gandhian influence that was so visible in the neighboring Punjab in twenties, triggered the protest? Would this protest not spill over the borders into the Punjab? To nip the movement in the bud, the Resident motored into Baramulla and advised the administration i.e. the Wazir Wazarat (Present D.C.) to be tough. The district authorities obliged him, arrested the office bearers of S.D.Sabha and forced the shopkeepers to open their shops. The protesting students returned to their classes.

The authorities of the St. Joseph’s School accused most of the Hindu teachers of instigating the students to go on strike. The group as a whole, about 8 to 10 in number, resigned or were coerced to resign.

Resentment: A wave of resentment and anger swept across the town. People, irrespective of caste, creed or religion rallied round the sacked teachers. They formed a group hereafter called the Core Group (C.G.), and organised their activities, first under the banner of S.D. Sabha, but later, with the support of all the sections of the population. Their activities chiefly centered round indoor meetings to garner more and more public support and collect the views of the more influential sections of the people. There were few meetings of eminent citizens. As per certain records of the S.D. Sabha, the unanimous opinion was that there was need of weaning the young from pernicious influence of the sweet tongued “Padrees” in white robes. The solution lay in having a full fledged school which could break the monopoly of the missionary school.

Situation Eased: in September 1925 Maharaja Pratap Singh died. The state was plunged in grief. The attention of the administration was diverted. Normal activities came to a halt. Raja Hari Singh had to succeed Pratap Singh. The would-be-ruler was considered to be liberal and more assertive than his predecessor. The members of the C.G. carried their activities more openly. The administration relented.

Preparation: Winter of 1925-26 was fruitfully utilized for making a blueprint of an educational institution. The C.G. was actively helped and guided by certain officers and officials, albeit covertly. Pandit Tota Koul, father of the well known diplomat T.N. Koul and Shivnath Koul, a conservator of forest, were the moving spirits behind the scene. Some respectable persons, including two lawyers, G.R. Raina and Sri Kanth Koul Vakil, son of legendary Saligram Koul, supported the C.G. overtly. The scenario that unfolded itself in April confirmed the success of their efforts.

Royal Permission: Raj Tilak of Maharaja Hari Singh was celebrated in March 1926. He announced his liberal educational policy. Taking an advantage of the situation, a petition for according permission to open a school at Baramulla and naming it in honour of the Maharaja was submitted immediately after his coronation. Within a week of his coronation, the new ruler was pleased to accord his royal assent to the request.

Managing Committee (M.C.): A temporary managing committee (M.C.) with Kh. Qadir Joo Kokru, Ziladar and landlord as President, Sardar Man Singh, an eminent landlord as VP and G.R. Raina as Secretary was formed. All the members of the C.G. were co-opted as members. Gobind Koul, an ex-headmaster of St. Joseph’s School, in its early stages, was named the Headmaster and all the members of the C.G. joined as teachers. A little later, three graduates and an undergraduate joined the C.G. All volunteered to work on honorary basis till funds became available.

Birth Of A School: A full-fledged high school, christened as 'Sri Hari Singh National School, Baramulla' was launched on the auspicious day of 14th April 1926. The inaugural function was largely attended. Donations on spot took care of certain initial expenses. The President M.C., kept two spaceous buildings, at the disposal of the school to start with. Taking a cue from the message of Pt. Tota Koul, praising the spirit of service and sacrifice of the concerned, the school adopted “Service and Sacrifice” as its motto and lived up to it.

Uniqueness: In 1925, Kashmir valley had four schools in Srinagar, besides St. Joseph’s School at Baramulla. Two of them were in government sector, while the other two CMS school and Islamia School in private sector. They were founded and managed by C.M. Society, London and Anjuman-I-Nusrat-ul-Islam respectively. But National School was the first ever non-denominational and non-proprietary educational institution. It was founded and managed by a M.C. comprising the workers (initially the C.G., steadily replaced by elected members) and eminent citizens, with executive powers in the hands of independent non-teaching members. This novel arrangement remains unparalleled and unchanged. This unique experiment has withstood the challenges of times.

Development 1926-1938: The period between 1926 to 1938 registered its all round development. On state gifted land, the school built a beautiful complex comprising three buildings, two hockey fields, a football ground and an agricultural farm. Feeder schools in the town, in Uri and Magam Tehsils and a hostel were also started. Almost all the junior teachers obtained teaching diplomas, while three graduates got their degrees in teaching. Results at the matriculation examination posed a challenge to its rival in the town. Its popularity became quotable. Its fame travelled beyond the district, the present Baramulla and Kupwara.

Srinagar School Opened: Banking on its reputation and also on government’s support, the M.C. opened a branch (full-fledged high school) at Srinagar in April 1938. D.N. Raina B.Sc. B.T. headed the school. J.N.Misri B.Sc. B.T. was appointed as Headmaster of Baramulla high school while S.L. Raina B.A. B.T. was designated as the Principal to look after the two high schools and all feeders etc. Pt. Balakak Dhar, Rais, landlord and Wazir Wazarat (D.C.) was the president M.C.

Loss Of Baramulla School: The government under the so called policy of 'Nationalisation of Private Schools' took over the Baramulla school, and its assets, moveable and immoveable, along with 25 qualified teachers on staff of both the schools in 1949-50. The M.C. was left to manage only the Srinagar School, registered afresh as National School, Srinagar.

Present Turmoil: The school survived many a storm in its journey, the present upheaval since 1990 being the worst. It was steered through this crisis by late S.K. Koul, as President M.C. till his death in 1998. Sh. Makhan Lal Dhar, a businessman and a neighbour succeeded him as president. G.M Rather associated with the school since 1984 has been the secretary of the M.C. Bashir Ahmed who joined the school service in late sixties bore the brunt of heading the school during the worst phase of the turmoil. Presently he functions as the administrator while Mtr. Hafiza M.A. B.Ed., an appointee of seventies, is the principal.  

The list of names of those who brought honour to themselves and fame to the school(s) is too long. They include leaders in all walks of life. Finally the Core Group (C.G.) consisted of A.N. Kuchroo, B.D. Koul, S.N. Pandita, D.N. Kokru, A.N. Bhat, N.L. Chalta, K.R. Bamoo, later joined by S.L. Raina, J.N. Misri, D.N. Raina and S.N. Raina. Kh. Qadir Joo Kokru resigned as president on health grounds, giving charge to S. Man Singh. 

Pt. Gobind Koul acted as headmaster for a couple of months only and was replaced by S.L. Raina.  

In continuation to what appeared in the previous issue of Milchar, a brief account of the ups and downs of the Institution between 1938 and 1968 is attempted. Details are beyond the scope of this article.

From early forties, Pt. Balkak Dhar was succeeded as president by Late A.N.Kak, a prominent lawyer, an MLA and the elder brother of R.C.Kak, the then prime minister of J&K state. Late Srikanth Kaul Vakil was the secretary till his death in mid forties, when S.D.Dhar, Conservator replaced him.

The Institution had its golden period between 1938 to 1948. Following the opening of the Srinagar school, a large contingent of highly qualified teachers was inducted. Some of them were posted at Baramulla against some experienced ones, who were transferred to Srinagar. Thus both schools got a blend of experience and youth. This proved advantageous to both.

The Baramulla school showed consistent performance. It grew in prestige and enhanced its reputation in the entire area including the present Kupwara district. It began to be patronised by the elite of the times. It had the unique distinction of being adjudged as an 'Excellent School', entitling it to a bonus of 25% of the grant-in-aid. Late N.L.Kitroo, an upright and reputed officer was the Inspector of Schools. His judgement was endorsed by the Director of Education, K.G.Saiydan after personal verification.

The Srinagar school started with distinct advantages; its central location in Karan Nagar with a growing neighbourhood; the reputation of its parent institute; good will of the literate sections; qualified and experienced staff and government support. No wonder, it enrolled students from all over the city and from all the socio-economic stratas of the society. Some names of outstanding students of that period, given hereunder will bear testimony to the contribution of the two schools.

Crisis: The tribal attack of 1947 was a blow to the Baramulla school. Its buildings were vandalised, its furniture, equipment, library and laboratory damaged. Its two senior teachers, dozens of students were killed. When the school reopened after the town was liberated, the roll had drastically been reduced due to migration. The staff was impoverished due to loss, death of relatives and arson. No feeder or hostel survived.
 
The President of the institution, A.N.Kak had to leave the state because of political compulsions. S.D.Dhar assumed the role of acting president. The M.C. depended solely on the members of the core group.
 
The institution faced a series of crises. Ignoring their chronology, they were:
 
1. The Srinagar school building along its contents, excepting basic records, was reduced to ashes in a fire. Thanks to late S.K.Kaul, not actively involved with the M.C., and thanks to the owner Late D.N.Mathoo, the building was reconstructed and the school housed back. But the school could not be furnished and equipped for want of funds.
 
2. In the name of nationalisation of private education, the government ordered suspension of grant-in-aid, and taking over of private schools. The management was taken off guard. After protracted negotiations, the government took over the Baramulla school, its movable and immovable assets (building and play fields) without any compensation to the rightful owners., the M.C., which retained the Srinagar school. The staff was demoralised. About 12 qualified and young teachers migrated from the Valley. Almost 25 teachers joined the government service. The M.C. slashed the salary of remaining staff by 25%.
 
Imbued with the spirit of service and sacrifice, the resilient group of founders, with the belief that the institution would rise like the proverbial Phoenix, put their act together and decided to fight. The focuss of the mission was the service of the less privileged in the context of unfortunate deaths, old age of some and migration of a few. Non availability of young recruits added to their woes. However, they succeeded in retaining the services of three youngmen namely late P.N.Kuchroo, J.N.Patwari and the writer of this article. Unfortunately, P.N.Kuchroo died shortly after a few years. Keeping the size of the school in view, the number of eligible teachers was miserably inadequate. The management decided to hire on contract retired teachers. No means an ideal solution!
  
Struggle for survival: The period between 1949 to 1953 was the worst, with no funds. August 1953 political events brought some hope. Grant-in-aid was restored. But the revised rules complicated the proceedures to earn grants. The school hardly managed the salary expenses, no capital investment was possible. The following were the main features of the Struggle Period:
 
a) Luckily most of the students on roll in 1950 continued with the school
 
b) Admission in lower classes dwindled, especially from the neighbourhood and the middle class. To make up the numbers, admissions were liberalised. Quality of the new entrants could not be controlled. 9th and 10th classes grew in numbers beyond what the faculty could hold. Academic standards declined. The quantitative results tended to touch the nadir. The only silver lining was offered by some exceptionally bright students who would lend some semblance of quality to the otherwise poor show.
 
c) Again the old guards, especially late B.D.Kaul rose to the occasion. He persuaded late S.K.Kaul to take over as President. Other members of the M.C. were Justice J.N.Bhat, P.N.Kaul IFS, Conservator (Secretary), S.D.Dhar (Actt), J.N.Hashia IPS, G.A.Burza, MLA, G.R.Dar, Joint Director Education, as government representative and the writer as employees' representative, D.N.Raina, J.N.Misri and S.L.Raina as ex-officio members. The Committee took a historic decision of retiring all employees who were 64 plus, on April 1, 1969. Only D.N.Raina continued in his service for sometime more. He took over as the Principal and I was designated Head Master in my own grade and pay. The task of reconstruction started from 1969.
 
D
uring the period ending 1968-69, the following (positions they held at that time or in due course of time are shown in brackets), brought honour to themselves and to the school. The list is based on my memory. Omissions are inevitable, but not intentional. The details are subject to amendment.

Ghulam Mohidin Shah and Harbans Singh Azad (Cabinet Ministers), P.N.Kaul, R.C.Raina and Prof. Nasarullah (Chief secretaries), M.S.Pandit (Ex Financial Commisioner, now Chairman, Muslim Auqaf Trust), Mir Mukhtar Kanth, Dr. O.N.Wakhlu and Dr. O.N.Kaul (Principals, REC, Srinagar), M.L.Shalia (Central Railways), J.L.Kak (CPWD), M.L.Mattoo (BPCL), S.N.Kaul, B.L.Misri, C.L.Mattoo, G.R.Lone (Chief Engineers), Dr. Assadullah Lone (Principal, Medical College, Lahore), Dr. Hameed Karra (Director, medical Education), Dr. A.K.Kaul (Principal, College of Dentistry), Dr. H.K.Koul (HOD, Pathology, Medical College, Srinagar), Dr. R.K.Chrangoo (Surgeon, Medical College, Jammu), Dr. Nissar A. Wafai, Dr. Naresh Kaul, Dr. B.L.Kaul, Dr. Ashok K. Kaul (all working abroad), Dr. Ajay Dhar, Dr. Wali (AIIMS), Allah Bux (DIG Police), Late Dr. Duni Kumar Razdan (Director, Gardens & Parks), K.L.Zutshi (Chairman, NHPC), Rajen Kaul (CEO, Arya Communications), M.K.Kilam (ED, ONGC) Dr. C.L.Kaul (ONGC), B.M.Kher (GM, ONGC), Surinder Kachroo (GM, WTC, Mumbai), P.K.Wattal (Head, Processing Division, Nuclear Recycle Group, BARC), Romesh Kachroo (VP, Arya Communications) T.K.Bhan, M.K.Khosa, Kuldeep Raina, R.R.Khosa (all engineers working at different places), S.K.Kaul (HPEB), Late Moti Lal Misri, Late Tika Lal Taploo (Social/political activist), Late Bansi Parimoo, Veer Munshi (Artistes), M.L.Kemmu (of Banda Pather fame), Late Virendra Razdan, Chand Dhar (TV artistes), Dr. K.N.Pandita (Director, Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University), Prof.Hassnan, M.L.Kher (Zonal Education Officer), Dr. R.K.Tiku (SKUAST), Surrinder Tikoo (Manager, Central Bank), Prof. B.L.Raina (Maths), Dr. Ravi Raina (Research Laboratory, Jammu), B.K.Das (Principal, M.Dass School, Jammu), Prof. M.L.Raina (now in USA), Dr. B.K.Moza, Dr. Ashwini Chrangoo.

Some of the above responded to my earlier appeal. I expect more to oblige.

Change of Guard: Late D.N.Raina had a short tenure of just over a year as the Principal. The time was well utilized as a transition. I stepped into his shoes in 1970. Shri J.N.Patwari, my colleague for nearly three decades was promoted as headmaster. These changes ensured continuity of the spirit of the school motto and traditions. Late L.K.Rambal, Principal, College of Education and Prof. Dr. Susheela Bhan were coopted as members of the Managing Committee.
From day one, the challenging goal of modernising the school was relentlessly pursued with predetermined priorities.

Staff: Without violating the spirit of Grant-in-Aid Rules, an attractive salary structure including a provision for pension in addition to usual retirement benefits, provision for sponsorship for in-service training, and induction of female teachers ensured recruitment of young talented staff. Shri Bashir Ahmed, who was on deputation from the government joined the school service on permanent basis after resigning his government job. The practice of hiring on contract retired teachers was restricted to exceptional cases in the interest of maintaining standards in certain disciplines. (Ref: Appendix Pt.1)
1969-70 was mostly spent in planning, selecting staff, improving infrastructure starting from the bottom and the top at the same time, preparing a well equipped Kindergarten class, and imparting intensive teaching in 9th and 10th class. Teaching of English was reinforced as a prelude to changing the medium of instructions to English in a phased manner. This was achieved in three years. The result justified the efforts. details are of academic interest. (Ref: Appendix Pt.2)

Co-curricular Activities: Believing in imparting education beyond the text books for an allround development, a blend of sports and literary programmes constituted a workable calendar.

In spite of certain infrastructural shortcomings, games, sports summer camps, hikes, sports, especially races became regular features. Besides participating in inter-school events, the school had the distinction of representing the state at many national levels. (Ref: Appendix Pt.3)

Annual symposiums, debates, elocution contests, quiz and essay writing competitions, cultural meets, musical programmes and mock Parliaments formed an integral part of the 'School Action Plans'. Invariably the subjects or themes of each of these activities were topical intended to educate the students and increase the awareness of the parents, who formed the bulk of the audience at the presentation occasions. These public functions were chaired by VIPs, intellectuals, academicians adding credibility to the efforts. (Ref: Appendix Pt.4)

Enrolment: Close rapport with parents, completion of 'Annual Action Plans', vibrant activities of students and good results at the matriculation exams, revived the popularity of the school. It became co-educational. Roll of the school rose to over 1700 in 1982 against less than 800 in 1969. It catered to the less previleged and weaker sections in particular.

Finances: With increase in roll and certain amendments in Grant-in-Aid Rules, the situation was eased. But certain illogical provisions hampered growth. A struggle to get the rules modified gave birth to 'Kashmir Aided Schools Association', with late D.N.Nadim as President and J.L. Taimiri as V. President. I was elected its Secretary. The Association met with little success till late S.M.Abdullah came to power in 1975.

S.M.Abdullah's Patronage: A two hour impromptu meeting with late Shaikh Sahib in January 1974 at Delhi proved very propitious for the aided educational institutions in general and National School in particular. J.N.Patwari, V.P.Gurtoo and late J.L.Dhar were with me. Soon after he assumed power in 1975, an 'Advisory Committee on Aided Education' with four non-official members headed by the Finance Minister D.D.Thakur was constituted. Late S.K.kaul and I were nominated as members. The other two never attended any meetings. This Committee got the rules rationalised. It proved a saviour of small schools and defendant of honest ones.

National School used to hold a symposium on the life and works (or related topics of late J.L.Nehru on 27 May every year. Sheikh Sahib condescended to preside over this function on 27 May 1974. Starting from that day, he regularly graced one or the other function every year. On his advice, National School would hold its Annual Day on 2nd October to synchronise it with Gandhi Jayanti. He presided over it almost regularly.

A Catastrophe: In late 1970's, the school building was crying for repairs. But the landlords were trying to rope in a powerful party to convert it into a commercial complex. The school could not be ousted without government support. The C.M., late Sheikh Sahib did not favour the idea. Instead he advised the School for a settlement, assuring government aid.

Negotiations, swinging between outright purchase and effecting repairs with revision of rent, belied any conclusion for over two years. Hardly a month after the passing away of Sheikh Sahib, the school building was destroyed in a fire in the wee hours of 7th October 1982. The C.M., Dr. Farooq Abdullah visited the site within hours and assured help for rehabilitation.

Before noon of the same day, the school management was served an injunction forbidding change of status-quo. A legal fight ensured which reached the apex court more than once.

The police investigating agency picked some important persons for questioning. However, the scene changed fast. The investigating agency instead of solving the mystery of fire, kept the school staff on tenterhooks. The C.M's enthusiasm to help the school waned. The school was advised to shift to the outskirts of the city. The stalemate continued for nearly four years. The story is painful, but illustrative of how public interests can be got trampled.

The school continued to function in shifts. The classes were held in ramshakled rooms in the ground floor of the burnt building, in tents and a make-shift barrack made on a 16 feet wide road leased by the Muncipality a few years earlier.

Resurrection: The impasse was broken by the G.M.Shah government which acquired the property under Land Acquisition Act and transferred it to the school on payment of 50 % compensation. The other 50 % was paid by the government as Grant-in-Aid. This was also challenged in the Hon'ble Supreme Court which did not agree to any plea to oust the school from a building specially designed and built for the school. Also the court upheld the validity of the acquisition. However, the plantiff's lawyer withdrew the case before the Hon'ble Court could record a judgement. The building was finally handed over to the school on 15th May 1986. The building was rebuilt and roofed by October 1986. It seems that the school has yet to claim building grant under rules.

APPENDIX
National School, Srinagar - Recollections 1969-1986

1. Staff 1980: With one M.A.B.Ed. at the top, the School had 25% trained post graduates;
2. 50% trained graduates and 25% other special line teachers.

3. Results after 10 years of change: Pass percentage in 1980 was 95, in 1981, it was 88 and in

4. 1982, it was 92. 40% of the successful candidates were placed in Ist Division. The School figured in the State Merit List (first 20 ranks) every year, capturing 30 places or 10.7% of places from 1969-1981. Figures of 1982-86 not available. In 1973 (Nov), the School captured Ist (Pankaj Koul), IIIrd (Ravinder Wattal) and XIVth (Surrinder Bhat) positions.

3. a) The School represented the State at national level 3 times at R.C., two times at Camps organised by the Central agencies at Delhi.
b) Presented Iqbal Night, Lalded Night, Kashmiri Folk Music at Tagore Hall.

4. The following graced the School during the period:
Swami Ranganathananda (R.K.Mission), L.K.Jha (Governor), Mekhala Jha, Syed Mir Qasim, Sheikh Abdullah, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Mirza Afzal Beg, Begum Abdullah, D.D.Thakur, M.K.Tiku, P.L.Handoo, Mohd. Shafi, Prof. Rais Ahmed (VC, Kashmir University), Dr. Agha Ashraf, M.S.Pandit, S.L.Pandita, Prof. A.A.Suroor.
M.C. during the crisis: J.N.Bhan, S.K.Kaul, G.A.Burza, M.K.KIlam, Prof. J.K.Pandita, Dr. K.N.Pandita, J.N.Patwari, Qazi A.Rashid, Bashir Ahmed and J.N.Kachroo.

5. They brought honour to themselves and to the School:
a) [Pre-1969 .. in continuation] S.N.Kaul, M.L.Seeru (C.Es), Prof. Dr. A.K.Raina (DU),
b) Prof. Dr. M.K.Teng, Dr. M.L.Peshin, Dr. C.L.Peshin, Dr. R.L.Kaul, Dr. Mohd. Yousuf, Prof. P.N.Kak (Physics), Prof. M.L.Raina (English), G.L.Sumbly.
Makhan Lal Dhar - A businessman, now the President of the School.
Business: Mohd. Yousuf Beigh, Mohd. Amin, Gh. Hassan Beigh, A.K.Kaul, Nazir Ahmed.
c) Post 1969: Ashok Sultan (BE IIT, C-T ITI) Chittranjan Kaul (BE, MBA IIM), Kuldeep
d) Peshin (CPWD), Dr. Anil Karihalloo (Scientist USA), Anil Zutshi (Eng - USA),
Dr. Pankaj Kaul (UK), Dr. Ravinder Wattal (Mumbai), Rajeev Khashu (Siemens), Sanjeev Khashu (Eng - USA) Dr. Pradeep Mattoo.
(Most of the above under 5 contacted)

School in Financial Distress!

Can such a distinguished institution which has rendered meritorious service, Starve, much less Perish?

Its assets: Thousands of its students across the globe.

A Midnight Torpedo:
meeting with the Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, in his assembly chambers in summer 1983, proved a turning point in the struggle of the school. Those present in the meeting included late P.L.Handoo, Revenue Minister, Mohd. Shafi, the Education Minister and some officials. The school was represented by late S.K.Kaul and me. Mr.Shafi Shaida, who was incidentally around agreed to stay at our request.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah was frank enough to tell me “not as the C.M., but as a friend of the school” that he would not like the school to be run in the premises as the financial stake of the owners was large. I pleaded that it would not be in the public interests to shift the school from the area. The Education Minister strongly supported me, but to no avail. Finally late S.K. Kaul succeeded in giving an official colour to the meeting. He offered the willingness of the school to vacate the premises only if the C.M. allotted a suitable site, to be identified by the school. The suggestion was accepted. The Revenue Minister and the Principal (of National School) were entrusted with the job of identifying a suitable site and taking further action.

The school had already identified a big chunk of land. Its lease had been terminated a little earlier. The site was visited by the R.M. accompanied by some officials and the Principal. The freehold status of the site was confirmed by the Director of Land Records. The official procedure was started at the instance of the R.M., ostensibly with agreement of the C.M. The dedication with which Bashir Ahmed followed the movement of the file from table to table for four months, first at Srinagar and then at Jammu, where I joined him for about six weeks, is praiseworthy. The Revenue Minister was being constantly informed.

On 31st December 1983, at about 9 p.m. I was informed telephonically that the C.M. would formally handover the possession of the allotted land next morning. The D.C. had been informed. I was advised to contact him. The D.C., when contacted confirmed the message and advised me to come for the handing over ceremony next day at 10.a.m.

Reaching the site at about 9 a.m., we were delighted to see a team of revenue officials demarcating the boundary of about 8.5 kanals of land from a large piece of land formerly known “Hadow Mills”, next to the Govt. Woollen Mills, just opposite Karan Nagar post office. Soon a crowd assembled including some teachers whom I could inform, to take part in the “Ceremony”. A disappointing news was whispered into my ear by a revenue officer, an old student of the school. Some powerful bureaucrats had met at the residence of a Senior Physician who had conveyed to the C.M. disagreement with the decision. Soon a fleet of cars, bringing the C.M., the R.M. and district officers, arrived.

The physician received the C.M. and took him aside. After about fifteen minutes, the C.M. accompanied by the officials came back only to inform me his inability to transfer the land to the school, as the students would be exposed to infections because of the nearness of the hospital. However, he advised us to occupy a private building (Dewans building) just opposite the hospital gate. It was only an illusion. The expected ceremony ended in a drama.

Pretending concern for the school, the villain of the piece advised us to seek help from Delhi. It was the unkindest cut of all !

With gratitude for those who stood by, especially young children who suffered silently, I retired on October 6,1986, with two satisfactions:

1. The school was re-housed in its own building.

2. The new Principal M.K.Dhar, an old student, colleague and a relation of late S.D.Dhar was no stranger to school tradition.

1. Note: Pt. Maheshwar Nath Wokhlu was also one of the founder teachers.
2. Corrigendum: Please read 'one M.A., M.Ed' for 'M. A., B Ed' In line no. 3, page 24 of Milchar Jan-Feb.2004 issue.

Source: Milchar

 

 

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