On the unfortunate & tragic day of 26 th July 1990 my father Sh. Vedh Lal Bhat who was working as Principal of Higher Sec School, Sopore became the victim of Islamic terrorism and was martyred at the altar of shameful Indian secularism. He started his life in small village of Panjipora, which is at a distance of 5 km from Sopore town. With very meagre resources he got educated himself in adverse conditions as resources were less and it needed great determination and efforts during those days to get the proper education. However, with his grit and determination he had managed to get 1 st class grades in his matric & graduation. Later he got his MA Political science from Aligarh University & B Ed from Kashmir. He was passionate towards his studies as he believed that only education can bring out the desired change in family and society. First tragedy troubled the family during Pakistan sponsored tribal raid which is famously known as Kabaili Raid of 1947.The first wave of Pakistan sponsored raid snatched his mother during the tribal raids as Kabilis who were fully armed by Pakistani troops entered the village and brutally killed the mother of Vedh Lal ji. Due to these attacks whole family had to flee the village and took the refugee in Srinagar for about six months.Subsequently as things fell in right places my father joined the teaching profession and beyond his duties used to teach hundreds of local students mostly Muslims who reached high positions in their professions. The first discrimination he faced was in early seventies when State Govt started persecuting Kashmiri Pandit teachers by denying them the promotions and superseding them by junior Muslim teachers. A peaceful & legal struggle was launched under the leadership of late Sh T N Tiku of Sopore and my father was in the forefront of that struggle which was fought to the level of Supreme Court. After long legal struggle Supreme Court order was implemented and more than 100 Pandit teachers were promoted as Headmasters of High schools. My father was also promoted but faced persecution at the hands of the Govt. for spearheading the agitation & transferred him to far off and inhospitable places at that time like Surankote, Chandak Harni in Poonch Distt. and at other places. Despite all this he did his duties with dedication & honesty. After about 4 years he was transferred back and at home he took up social & locality issues and got them resolved from the administration.
During the course of his service he was again persecuted & posted as Principal Hr Sec School Budhal in Rajouri distt where he got good support & respect from the then DC Rajouri Sh S L Bhat. Then in 1988 during the last leg of his service he was posted as Principal Hr Sec School Sopore and it was the time when the law & order situation had started deteriorating in Kashmir. Undaunted he continued his duties with full zeal. During those times his friend Dy. Commissioner of Rajouri was transferred as Dy.Commissioner of Baramulla. Due to his good rapport with him he got various local development issues of his locality resolved and even got his village declared educationally backward under RBA Category the benefit of which is still being reaped by the local population.In 1989 when people started agitating against India he made it a point not to allow students to assemble and dissuaded them from any anti-national activities. The best part was that his words were respected and followed by the students who looked upon him as the role model. Due to the goodwill he had earned in teaching the local people and resolving their developmental issues of the area many secessionists forces who were hand in glove with Jihadis felt uneasy and they issued threatening letters to my father.Unworried he continued his duties to serve the people in whatever ways and means he could do as he always felt that his prime duty is to serve the people and empower them with education and wisdom. Then came the period of turmoil when armed insurgency erupted in valley. The killing of minority Kashmiri Pandit’s had become the norm of the day. Every mosque used to play the recorded tapes which spewed venom against minorities threatening them of dire consequences.As a learned man my father took a wise decision to send his family to the safer location in Jammu and at the same time visited all the relatives enquired about their well-being and also took initiative to send them to safer places. Though aware of the situation he continued to stay put as he wanted to complete remaining months of his service with honor and dignity among his people whom he had taught, as he believed the goodwill he had earned will deter the Jihadi forces in harming him in any way. As a true son of the soil my father was very passionate about his duties and he loved his motherland more than his life. During those days of worst terrorism, he once visited us in Jammu as his elder daughter in law was pregnant and he was keen to know about her welfare besides he wanted to meet his family members who were living in worst conditions due to Jihadi terrorism. He came to Jammu along with the salary of five of his Kashmiri Pandit colleagues as he knew that how difficult it would be for them to survive after getting uprooted from their land. He also carried with him mark sheet of few of his Kashmiri Pandit students whom he knew as he was concerned about their future education. After his fortnightly stay in Jammu he left for Kashmir on 25 th July, 1990 and straight way went to his sister’s house at Hanjivara, near Pattan. His brother in law Sh. Bansi Lal Bhat welcomed him and discussed with him the worsening situation in Kashmir. Then came the fateful day of 26th July, 1990 when my father went to his school to perform his duty. Not knowing that his being a Kashmiri Pandit would be not be taken kindly. On reaching the school he conducted the meeting of all the teachers and enquired about the welfare of the staff. He insisted upon them to perform their duties with right purpose and with a sense of belongingness. He conducted few classes as per the daily roaster. At around 12 noon all his Muslim teachers left the school for performing their Friday prayers, as this was the practice observed by them regularly as per the instructions of Muslim clergy.
My father was writing important notes for his next teaching session when a Jihadi terrorist entered his office and opened his gun and fired four bullets on him. After hearing the gun shots the local police post managed by Central Police Force rushed inside the school premises only to find blood pooled body of my beloved father laying inside his office. They immediately rushed him to nearby district hospital where doctors declared him brought dead. The news of this tragedy was conveyed to his brother in law where he had stayed previous night and his body was taken to Hanjivara at their residence where his cremation was done in hushed and secretive manner with utter disregard to sensitive human values as his immediate family was not informed. The news of this tragedy was conveyed to us only when the cremation was done. This only showed how the local administration connived with Jihadis and showed utter disregard to my late father because he being from minority Kashmiri Pandit community. The last rites of our beloved father were not done as per religious rituals which weigh heavily on us till date. Before he had left for Kashmirmy father met Sh T N Tiku who had been his mentor and teacher to whom he showed most of the respect. Sh Tiku tried to persuade my father not to return to valley due to threat to his life. My father was able to silence him with a quotation which read like this “What else a man shall die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers, for the temples of his Gods.” Its been now 28 years and we still look for the justice of our beloved father. We hope someday the conscience of this country will wake up and would try to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice, till then we will wait and wait with a pain in our heart and a hope for justice.
(As told by Manoj the younger son of the victim to Sunil Raina Rajanaka).