DAULAT RAM BHAGAT
‘IN DODA, WE LIVE TOGETHER WELL’
This is the first of a four-part series, based on a conversation between Yoginder Sikand and Daulat Ram Bhagat, a retired school teacher from Doda in Jammu and Kashmir, who belongs to the Scheduled Caste Megh community.
I was 14 years old in 1947, when Partition took place. There was almost no violence in Doda tehsil, nothing compared to what happened in some other parts of Jammu. When the massacres began in Jammu and Punjab, Dalits and Hindus, who were a minority in Doda town, were fearful. But the local Muslims told us they would protect us and insisted that we not leave. The situation was very tense, because many Muslims from Chamba, Udhampur, Chenaini and Bhaderwah had fled to Doda to escape the violence there. Out of fear, some Hindus from Doda town shifted to Hindu-majority villages on the other side of the Chenab.
One night, some Muslims who had recently fled to Doda came to our house, unknown to the local Muslims. Some members of their families had been killed by Sikhs. They accused us of hiding Sikhs in our house. My father denied this and told them they could check and see. Then, as soon as he got the opportunity he jumped out of the window and rushed to the house of his Muslim neighbour, Muhammad Salim Kicchhoo, and told him what was happening. Kicchhoo Sahib ran out of his house, shouting, “Oh Muslims, have you died? These men are threatening to harm our Hindu and Dalit brethren. Don’t let them do so.” Hearing this, a crowd of Muslims rushed to our locality to save us and the men who had entered our house fled.
The situation was very tense, so our neighbours advised us to shift temporarily to Bhela, a Hindu-majority village across the river, till things improved. Most people in our locality went across, but my father stayed on for a few days in the house of a Muslim neighbour. Some days later, the Home Guards of the National Conference arrived and restored peace and we returned to our homes. When we came back, we found that almost everything had remained intact, including our houses and animals, although some personal things like blankets had been taken away.
Shortly after, the Indian Army came. I remember they killed eight or ten innocent Muslim civilians in a Muslim-majority village close by, including a man who was physically handicapped. He had no feet. He used to play the tabla in the Ram Lila celebrations. I feel very bad when I talk or think of this.
Contrary to what newspapers might claim, inter-communal relations in Doda are generally very harmonious. In Bhaderwah and Kishtwar, which are also in Doda district, Hindu-Muslim relations are not so good. One possible reason for this is that there both are roughly equal in number. But in Doda tehsil, Hindus and Dalits are in a small minority and our relations with our Muslim neighbours are good. SOURCE WWW.TEHELKA.COM
To be continued next week