By Dr. Ramesh Kumar
Dr. Saligram Kaul, the noted physician passed away on Feb ruary 17, 2005 at New Delhi after a brief illness. He had a distinguished career both as an able physician as well as an administrator. He served as Principal Govt. Medical College, Srinagar and Director Health Services, J&K before his retirement in 1973. As an academician he had few parallels. He never sought to promote his career by seeking favours. Imbued with sense of high idealism, Dr. Kaul never compromised on principles. He was a gentle colossus.
Ancestry: Saligram Kaul was born to Pandit Aftab Kaul Nizamat and Mrs. Devaki Kaul in 1913. The family lived in BreKujan quarter of Habbakadal. Incidentally, Pt. J.L. Nehru’s ancestor Raj Kaul ‘Naru’ also lived in the same mohalla before moving out to plains to seek fame and fortune’.
Col. Kaul’s ancestor Pt. Nidhan Kaul had two sons-Ram Kaul and Sukh Kaul. The former was a well-connected administrator during Pathan rule (1759- 1819). He got constructed a mosque in the adjoining Gadud Bagh Mohalla. The mosque came to be called ‘Bata Mashid’- a mosque constructed by a Pandit (Bata). Ram Kaul earned the sobriquet of ‘Nizamat’ for his administrative capabilities. He died at the of 95.
Ram Kaul had three sons- Chandra Kaul, Nath Kaul and Krishan Kaul. Chandra Kaul did not leave behind any descent and died at the age of 80. Krishan Kaul died quite young. Aftab Kaul was born to Nath Kaul. Aftab Kaul had three sons-Janki Nath, Jagar Nath and Saligram. Dr. Saligram Kaul had meticulously prepared his family pedigree a few years before his death.
Pt Aftab Kaul: Pt. Aftab Kaul Nizamat was born in 1886 and was educated in the CMS High School. Though always a topper in his school, he did not pursue his studies beyond matriculation. His father had died young. Pt. Aftab Kaul served as a subordinate official in the Audit Department of the Kashmir government.
Nizamat family’s compound used to be the common playground for boys of locality. It was called ‘Kola Angun’ (compound of Kauls). Pt. Aftab Kaul used to play with young boys here.
Since his childhood Aftab Kaul was restless and wanted to bring the much desired social change in the society. He alongwith Pt. Hargopal Kaul Khasta and Prof. Srikanth Toshkhani have been among pioneers in bringing social change in Kashmiri Pandit society in early twentieth century.
Dr. Annie Besant, the great Irish Theosophist had entered politics and was elected the first woman president of the Indian National Congress in 1917. Same year, she alongwith Dr. Margaret cousins launched the Indian Women’s Association in Chennai to ameliorate the condition of Indian women. She took keen interest in the developments in the Valley. Dr. Besant advised the local theosophists to do something for the uplift of the local women.
Whenever, the great theosophist visited Kashmir, my father would arrange all-religion joint prayer meetings. Father was able to get Musa Patigaroo and Hamza Shah from among the majority community to join these composite prayer meetings. Mr. Patigaroo displayed great dignity.
My father was instinctually drawn to reform of the society, Pt. Janardan Teng, some Pt. Munshi and three younger people worked with him in this eavour.
They would conduct meetings for social upliftment near Drabiyar temple. Since there was no daughter in the family, welfare of women held special attraction for him. He established Women’s Welfare Trust at Brekujan. Father had inborn instinct for philanthropy and helped the poor and needy people”.
Miss Mayo was sent by the Britishers to denigrate Indians. Her book on India carried a chapter on Kashmir. This drew strong protests in Kashmir in which the people made bonfire of the book. Pt. Aftab Kaul Nizamat launched his public career on this issue.
He represented the local theosophist chapter. He was a devoted theosophist for thirty five years and became the Secretary (1925) and the Vice-President (1948) of the Kashmir Lodge. Pt. Aftab Kaul worked closely with leading theosophists – Dr Venkatchalam and Dr. Jonarajan, who was later associated with Salar Jung Museum.
Women’s Welfare Trust: After the agitation on Miss Mayo issue was over, Pt. Aftab Kaul involved himself in Women’s Welfare Work. In September 1926 an organisation known as Women’s Welfare Trust was launched with an objective to “advance the Welfare of the Kashmiri women by imparting to them knowledge, by stimulating home industry among them and by promoting their physical health and wellbeing.
The founding members of the Trust were: Mrs. Margaret Cousins, Mrs. L.D. Van Gheel Gildemeester, Sri Kanth Toshkhani, Shridhar Kaul Dullo, and Aftab Kaul Nizamat. The Trust embarked upon an ambitious programme for advancement of education among women. The membership of the Trust was strictly confined to those who professed to be theosophists.
The rule was made to exclude people who did not consider all religions equal and thus avoid the taint of communalism. Soon after its initial success the trust also launched a school for Muslim girls in 1929.
Dr. Saligram Koul recalls, “I was reading in 9th class in 1926. Father was keen to conduct the ritual ceremony of Shradh of his father. After taking the fasting meals, he raised the issue of starting a school with Shiv Bayo. Till then there was only one school for girls, Nani’s school at Chinkral Mohalla. Kashmiris were reluctant to s female students to schools where teachers were invariably males. My father felt that parents might relent out of reverence for Guruji if Shiv Bayo was involved in it. Shiv Bayo’s school, which subsequently became Vasanta School, initially started at Gadud Bagh just opposite to where Narus lived. Later it was shifted to Dewan’s house at Kharyar. Donations were raised from public for running the school”.
Pt. Aftab Kaul would provide books and soap to school to serve the needy students. He also launched a campaign among poor students for undertaking bath regularly and maintaining personal hygiene. There was just one Anglo-Indian school at Nowakadal. Shaiv Bayo’s school ran very well. It started as a Primary school with just five girl students on its roll and one teacher to instruct them. Within four years, the number of schools managed by the Trust rose to ten (six primary, three middle and one high) and the number of students was 575.
In 1929 the Trust was emboldened to start the first Muslim school for girls. A moulvi was drafted to start this school, which was named after Maitriya. The latter was a great Buddhist scholar. Maitreya School was near Hamza Shah’s house. Still the response from Muslim girls was not encouraging.
Pt. Aftab Kaul before going to office, would take a potter’s daughter and one Sajjida to school. Mrs. Sajjida Zameer Ahmed, subsequently became Director School Education. Her concern for female education and secular views have few parallels in Kashmir’s contemporary history. Another school was opened in a rented accommodation near Rugh Nath Razdan’s house.
Badiyar School later was renamed as Kashypa School. Since education among girls was a taboo, Vasa boya was appointed in Kashypa School. Students, who passed out from these schools, later rejoined as teachers.
Ghulam Ahmed Ashai, Inspector of Schools, had authoritarian streaks and harboured extremely parochial views. He had susped PN Bazaz and Sheikh Abdullah in two different cases. At the instance of Jagar Nath Bazaz, the younger brother of Prem Nath Bazaz, Pt.
Aftab Kaul allowed the latter to join the Trust. He joined the staff of the Women’s Welfare Trust in August 1930 as Supervisor of the schools. Bazaz’s elder brother Dina Nath Bazaz was posted as teacher at Hanjura.
Through him two great intellectuals of Hanjura-Dina Nath Hanjura and Damodar Bhat Hanjura joined the Women Welfare’s Trust. The Hanjura brothers developed intimacy with Pt. Aftab Kaul and his son, Saligram. Dr. Saligram Kaul would often turn nostalgic while recalling his association with Pt. Damodar Bhat, who was a leading authority on revenue law in Kashmir.
In 1930, an adult school with three young women, Sidha Lakshmi, Posha Kujji and Radha Mal, was opened in a room of Nizamat’s own house. Leading role in the Trust work was taken by Prof. Toshakhani and Aftab Kaul Nizamat. Prem Nath Bazaz pays a moving tribute to Aftab Kaul Nizamat for his work, “Aftab Kaul Nizamat was the heart and soul of the Women’s Welfare Trust. It was the passion of his life to labour, night and day, for the progress of the institution…A patriot par excellence, he was a visionary who felt happy to dream about the bright future of a free Kashmir in which woman would find an honoured and a glorious place… Such was his ardent desire to see Kashmiri women restored to a position of dignity that every minute of his waking life, when off his official duties, he would sp in doing the Trust Work. Indifferent to praise or censure, to encomium or slander, to applause or abuse, which all were his lot in lesser or greater measure, he laboured incessantly for the cause till the very day of his death on 30th May, 1953.1came in close contact with him and had the pleasure to watch him work for years. I can say that among the builders of modern Kashmir who are not much known but who are entitled to the gratitude of posterity, Aftab Koul Nizamat is surely one. If ever we decide to construct a temple of fame for the illustrious sons and daughters who lived and died for the welfare of humanity and freedom of the Kashmiris, this noble soul should have a niche reserved for him in it”.
Mrs. Devaki Koul, wife of Pt. Aftab Koul Nizamat, was secretary of the Women’s League. This organisation, which too was affiliated to the Trust, used to hold debates and discussions on social evils and other important issues to raise political awareness among Kashmiri women. Mrs. Devki Kaul also took a leading part in regeneration of the community in 1931-34 and organised demonstrations in support of social reform. Pt. Aftab Koul Nizamat enjoyed the company of outstanding people. His fris included Nand Lal Mandloo, Pt.
Tota Koul Jalali, Vasa Kaul Shair, Shankar Lal Kaul and Kashyap Bandhu. Nand Lal was a poet of repute, who was rated as good as Mehjoor. He played in a play ‘Harishchander’ alongwith Akalal. Kashyap Bandhu was an Arya Samaji Pracharak in Lahore. He had left Revenue Department service to become a Pracharak. He stayed with Nizamat family, whenever he visited Jammu during winters.
Dr. Saligram Koul and his maternal uncle, Pt. Maheshwar Nath Kaul enjoyed Bandhu ji’s hospitality in 1926-27 at his Ganesh Gali residence in Lahore.
Dr. Saligram Kaul: Dr. Saligram Kaul’s initial schooling, upto 7th standard took place at Babapora School.
Later, he joined State High School. His baptism in politics was through an organization called ‘Fraternity’. Dharam Sabha, whose existence in Kashmir dates back to 1896, was spearheading a social reform movement. The moving spirit behind this was Pt. Hargopal Kaul Khasta. Spread of education among women and re-marriage of widows was the main aga of this movement. The conservative elements headed by Amar Nath Kak opposed widow remarriage. The conflict between two groups ed in open schism in 1930. Younger elements, who yearned for change, walked out to form ‘Fraternity’ to forcefully articulate the demand for widow re-marriage. The word’ ‘Fraternity’ was borrowed from the famous slogan of the French Revolution – ‘Equality, Fraternity and Liberty’. To become a member of ‘Fraternity’ one had to leave smoking, become a vegetarian and wear Khadi dress.
Among the prominent persons who were directly or indirectly associated with the ‘Fraternity’ were Damodhar Bhat, Dina Nath Hanjura, Mohan Krishen Tikku, Dr. Col.
Saligram Kaul, ShambuNath Gurtu, Dina Nath Bazaz, PN Bazaz, T.N. Kaul, Dwarka Nath Kachru, Dina Nath Parimu, poet Dina Nath Dilgir, Radhey Nath Kaul and the musician Ved Lal Dhar (Vakil). Damodar Bhat’s rented house at Malyar (Ganpatyar) served as ‘Fraternity’, office.
About the launching of ‘Fraternity’, Col. Kaul Says, “We formed Fraternity group with eleven people in the beginning.
It was a group of modernist, forward- looking young people. No political organisation was allowed during those times. I would join meetings of Fraternity’ at Malayar in Damkak’s rented house”. With the developments following the 1931 Muslim agitation, the ‘Fraternity’ was soon pushed to the forefront in an eavour to def the interests of the Pandits in general and renamed itself as Sanatan Dharm Young Men’s Association.
13th July Violence: On 12th July, 1931 Dr. Saligram Koul had gone to visit Hanjurah brothers at Hanjurah. He and the Hanjurah brothers returned to Srinagar on 13th July, the Monday. As tension built up, they went to meet Amar Nath Pyala, the Pandit leader. Mobs had attacked Bohri Kadal, Mahraj Ganj and Vicharnag Pandits and Punjabi traders. Dr. Kaul while describing the role of fraternity says, “we as ‘Fraternity’ members were silent. My father asked us to get active. On the same day we went to visit Maharaj Ganj and saw tea and turmeric bags strewn all over in Maharaj Ganj Chowk. It looked as if the road had been dyed.
Then we visited Vicharnag. Pt. Janki Nath Chandpora had a big house. It housed our trust also. 8-10 families from Vicharnag were brought here.
The clothes of refugees had been torn. They had suffered big losses and remained here for pretty long. Father expressed concern and desired a strong organisation to address the challenges in the wake of communal violence. Raja Harikishen Kaul, the Prime Minister did not allow registration of any association.
So Sanatan Dharam Yuvak Sabha was started”. At the instance of Pt. Janardhan Teng, Yuvak Sabha papers were collected from Zana Kak.
The informal headquarters of the new group was also at Malyar. Its members were mostly the members of the ‘Fraternity’ group. Pt. Kashyap Bandhu came to Kashmir in summer and expressed desire to att SD Yuvak Sabha meetings.
Pt. Aftab Kaul was against allowing entry to Kashyap Bandhu in SD Yuvak Sabha. He feared that he would try to ‘grab’ it. Young men told him,” your are an Arya Samajist. Our organisaiton is a Sanatan Dharam affiliate. How can we allow you entry in our organisation”. Kashyap Bandhu insisted that he was with them and applied Tilak on his forehead.
Bandhu Ji was allowed to attend the meetings but was kept away from the core group.
In 1932 Kashmiri Pandits launched the Roti (Bread) agitation to protest against the recommations of Glancy Commission. The young school boys of ter age organised themselves into The Bal Sabha with a view to furthering the agitation at a time when the Roti agitation was losing steam. Col. Koul was President of Bal Sabha, by virtue of his being a member of Fraternity’. He was a student of Fsc. in SP College.
Gandhi had given a call for boycotting foreign goods and wearing Khadar Caps. Kashmiri Pandit students, with few exceptions like BK Madan, were not attending the college and were involved in picketing. Principal Macdermott was informed that Saligram Kaul was involved in picketing at Sathu. Kaul was rusticated. In Roti agitation Saligram Kaul, Amar Nath Pyala and Moti Lal Dhar (Later Vice-Chancellor, BHU) were key figures, who ran the underground movement.
Saligram Kaul had been advised to remain underground. Dr Saligram Kaul recalls, “I was introduced in Rainawari by somebody as ‘Miyon toth Boya’ (My dear brother). I lectured the audience on the need to intensify the agitation. Pt. Nilakanth Hak had returned after doing LLB.
We thrashed him as a government toady. I was to be arrested soon after the speech. I went underground. At night I would go to Amar Nath Pyala’s house. He was the Dictator of the agitation. To evade the police, we kept on shifting litho. My class fellow and fri Moti Lal Dhar would arrange Litho. A police official from Murran lived in his neighbourhood. My father knew about my activities. During night, in our Tahkhana (Wardrobe) posters would be cyclostyled. In the morning these would be circulated to different places.
As President of the Organisation, I would decide the places for courting arrest. Som Nath Dhar was my General Secretary. Amar Nath Pyala had undertaken the responsibility for coordination.” As per Dr. Kaul, Pt. Shanker Lal Kaul and Tota Koul Jalali were key figures involved in drafting the 128-page Roti representation.
Saligram Kaul’s father never imposed his views on his son and allowed him full liberty. Saligram Kaul’s marriage was probably the first love marriage among Pandits. He was only 11 and recalls, “My wife was just 9 years then. She was reading in Vasanta School. We fell in love. My relations did not want me to marry a commoner but my father stood by me”.
Pt. Aftab Kaul was vegetarian but allowed his son to take meat. He, however, told his son that if he desired to take up Medicine as a career, then he would have to think whether politics and Medicine can go together.
Dr Kaul was in the hardline group, which did not Dr. (Col.) Saligram Kaul was a Social Visionary allow JL Killam to open negotiations with the government. He did not have high opinion about JL Killam as a politician and considered him as a clever person.
The rank and file of the movement and the ‘hardline’ group had apprehensions that the government would not abide by the agreement reached. The government was only willing to give verbal assurances on revising Glancy recommations. In Col. Kaul’s opinion Roti agitation led to great political awakening among Kashmiri Pandits. At the of the agitation, Dr Saligram Kaul was reinstated.
Principal McDermott, an Irishman appreciated his role. He tauntingly told TN Kaul (later Foreign Secretary), “I admire those students who joined agitation for a cause. I detest those people who sneaked quietly to gain my goodwill.” Radhey Nath Kaul and his brother TN Kaul used to att college regularly during the agitation. Soon after the agitation ed, Dr Saligram Kaul left for Lahore to pursue career in Medicine.
That unfolds the second chapter of his life as a doctor.