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LIVING SECOND LIFE: teachers who escaped from the clutches of terrorists in 2001
Rakesh Kumar Sharma9/19/2019 10:16:04 PM
It is a story of two friends who returned safely from the jaws of death during the period when insurgency and terrorism was at its peak in Poonch region. Sh. Dwarka Nath Raina Age 65 years and Sardar Kirpal Singh Age 69 years were good friends and lived in the same locality of Poonch town of Jammu and Kashmir. They served as teachers in Education Department of Jammu and Kashmir for quite a long time and are now living a contented post-retired life with their families.
Every passing day their life is a bonus added for last eighteen years when they had an encounter with death. They are thankful to almighty for giving them second life on 13th August 2001. In those days they were serving as TGTs in High School, Arai, Tehsil Mandi which is around 40 Kms from Poonch town. They are used to travel by bus from Poonch to Rajpur (Mandi) early in the morning and then walk for around 8 Kms towards a steep hill to reach the school before assembly every day.
This hilly region is predominantly inhabited by Muslim com-munity and all the students around 550 in this High School belonged to that community. Most of the teaching staff and headmaster were also Muslims except 3 Sikhs and one Hindu. On that eventful day two Sikh teachers were on leave. The Headmaster and teaching staff worked in a congenial atmosphere.
Speaking to the author regarding the episode of that day Mr. Raina said "For me its second birth. For a moment I thought my journey of life had come to an end when gun holding militants suddenly appeared before me while I was teaching in my classroom. They entered-into the class and threatened me with barrel of their guns to obey the orders for which I had no other choice.
All the students were bolted into the classrooms and I was taken behind the school building. To my surprise, I found my friend Kirpal Singh had already been a made a hostage. We both kept there for some unknown reasons but future seemed dim and shorn. That was the time when we both desperately looked into the eyes of each other and wished for a peaceful end.
On the other hand, recalling that day Kirpal Singh said "I was sitting with school headmaster Mr. Ghulam Maun Din discussing some important issues when suddenly four men with weapons appeared from different directions. They locked all the teachers including Headmaster in his office. They locked all the students in their classrooms and took me behind the school building threatening with barrel of guns. I was made to sit there surrounded by militants. I could not do anything except recalling a quotation from Gurbani Hukme aawe hukame jaawe hukame rahe samayee which means birth and death take place only on the directions of almighty. I was literally shocked when I saw that my friend Dwarka Nath was also escorted towards me and was directed to sit beside me."
The self styled area commander of Mandi Sarfraz Khan was their ring leader who discussed something with other three terrorists and after a short while they decided to move towards hilltop. Both these teachers were surrounded by terrorists and a civilian guide who seemed to be a local resident. Both friends were instructed to keep walking crossing many 'Dhoks' like Bhagsar, Tungawali, Jabbitotti etc. It was a difficult terrain crossing these "Dhoks" and dense forest.
'Dhok' is a local word which means a small grazing ground on hilltop surrounded by the forest and inhabited by small group of nomad families during summer months and these nomads move downwards every year during extreme winter. Their militant commander kept on marching and passed instructions in his own language.
During one halt Dwarka Nath grasped their interaction and joined the discussion in the same dialect that they were speaking. The militant commander was surprised and asked him that being an Indian how could he speak their dialect which is spoken in POK. Dwarka smiled and continued "your dialect is my mother tongue and it seemed as my father migrated from that area from where you come."
He asked his native place which was 'Balliyala'. Hearing this name, the criminal commander was surprised and elated. He informed that he was originally resident of village Gorah adjoining to Balliyala in tehsil Sudhnoti. Master Dwarka further continued that talk and added that during turmoil and displacement of 1947, his father migrated from this village along with his family and relatives and settled down in Poonch town but never gave up his mother tongue.
Then Dwarka Nath sang a local song (shahmalook) in same language which was applauded by whole group. This interaction changed the whole scenario and turned into a family like situation. Many topics of pre-partition days like language, culture, traditions and brotherhood among different communities were discussed.
The terrorist then spoke on wireless set to his boss Sayeed Salahudeen of Hizbul Mujahideen and conveyed this episode stating that teachers basically belong to their own area and speak same language. Their boss instructed him not to harm them and send them back safely. Orders were obeyed and an old man was summoned from that habitation with directions to escort these two teachers across the forest for return journey to give them a life again.
They rushed back along with the deputed old man and after a 3Kms walk in the jungle it was almost dark and the old man was sent back with bundle of thanks. After this friends walked alone with mixed feelings on that day's events. Nevertheless, they were freed from the clutches of death but presence of army and danger of ambush lurking large in the minds still prevailed. They suddenly came across former students in forest area. He was scared but elated on seeing their rebirth as he had seen his teachers being kidnapped in the afternoon. He helped his teachers by arranging "mashals" (light) from a relative and also guided them to a particular path. After crossing another forest area, the lights went off and they approached headman of the village who again helped them with another "mashals" till they reached police station Mandi with the help of a few Sikh families. It was almost midnight when both of these friends were re-united with their families under police protection and there were great celebrations in Poonch town when news of their safe return spread like a wild fire.
Today both teachers are in their early seventies but they spread the message of love and brother hood irrespective of religion, caster or regions. They feel that people living both sides of LOC carry same culture, language and traditions. They also feel if efforts though government and people are made families living on both sides of LoC can be united. Boundaries can divide area but the feeling, language, culture, humanity and traditions of the people shall remain un-changed. A day may come when POJK will reunite as of part of Indian state of J&K.
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