Visionary Shri Gillu Ram Ji
( His 50th Death Anniversary falls on 21st June 2020 )
My father Late Shri Gillu Ram was an illiterate but visionary person. Due to his vision coupled with hard work, commitments to family and Dalit Samaj he toiled for whole life and saw that his low caste tagged short coming do not come in the way of his offspring’s. My mother Late Gullan Devi too was illiterate but poise, hard working, Co- operative and intelligent.
My ancestral place was village Raipur in present day Tehsil and District Samba. My family owned land at Raipur. My great grandfather Sunder Das son of Sh. Mal cultivated their agriculture land and had also built a well for use as drinking water source and also for irrigation purposes. This well is still there but is deserted. I am told that my Grandparents Shri Kashmiri Lal Son of Shri Sunder Das and Shrimati Malti had left village Raipur for reasons they divulged to none. Some say a fortune teller pundit (Jyotishi ) frightened them to leave village telling thatS they may not have any child born to them . So they migrated to a Village Patli, Tehsil Shakergarh in present day Pakistan, where some of their relatives were living. But this fact was kept concealed by them all their life, may be due to fear of tyrannical revenue authorities who may trouble them for land revenue. We came to know this fact around 1945-47 when a dispute had irrupted between Gujjar and Brahmins who had occupied our land at Raipur. Brahmins were troubling Gujjars and threatened them to dispossess them from our land under them. The Gujjar family traced us at our present Village Pakhri. By then both my grandparents had died. Raipur land ownership paper were got prepared but 1947 turmoil forced stoppage of further follow up. However this record enabled my father and others to get Permanent State Subject of J&K State on the basis of Raipur Land records.
My father along with his elder brother Sh. Tillu Ram and their three sisters namely, Kesri, Shahni and Gullan were all born and married off while family was at Patli. My father was tall about 6 ft in height, had fair complexion with strong body. Our family was handed over a shop possession in Morri Darwaja (Gate ) Lahore, now Pakistan by my grandmother’s brother. So both my father and Taya Ji ( Grand uncle) used to work in Lahore Shoe repairing Shop by turn. They earned quite a bit so their financial position was comfortable. They had made about 20 repairing and polishing shoes small boxes. These were given free to those who came to them for some job first time. I was told by my father that at times as many as thirty five persons lived with them. They all used to work during day in the city (Ferri-walas) and took meals in contributory kitchen kept in shop. One person daily took off from work and prepared meals on rotational basis. This way my father and Taya Ji provided means of livelihood to many families from their relatives and others known persons.
All elders in the family had great longing for education. My grandfather carried his eldest two grandsons ( Akloo alias Charan Dass and Chartu Ram ) to school at a distance from village. Muslim Moulvi teachers were liberals in admitting Dalit Children in schools. Grandfather stayed out till children were in school. After school he brought them back home safely, sometimes carrying them on his back . This was daily routine. In the village Brahmin dominated and the Be-gar ( Work without payment of wages) was prevalent . A Brahmin took up a quarrel and abused my father for not completing a given job in time. My father gave him a severe beating and ran out to his in laws, who were at Pakhri in Tehsil Samba District Jammu, a princely ruled state. He told my Nana Ji ( Faggu Ram ) that he wanted to purchase land and leave Patli village for good. A search was made and a Brahmin family agreed to sell 10 Acres (nearly 4 hectors) of agriculture land for about Rupees three Thousands in village Pakhri. It was some time in 1927. It was a great job during those days and whole news of land purchase by Chamar family from Brahmins spread like any hot news. Some advance money was paid for the land, but later they came to know that a Permanent Residence of state viz. State Subject Certificate was needed, which they did not had, nor there was any hope to get it in the prevailing circumstances. So the land purchase/sale deed was got registered in the name of my cousin ( my father’s sister’s son) Sh. Dhanu Ram S/O Wadhawa of Koulpur, a nearby village. I am told that Rupees Two Thousands and Two Hundreds were carried on horseback to samba for payment in front of Tehsildar. The money was counted by Zaikdar of Kali Village .He found even not one silver coin counterfeit, saying their earning was100% honest. This way whole family moved to new place. A well for irrigation purpose was also got dug, so our farming came on sound footing. The education of my elder brother Chatru Ram, and cousin Charan Das continued at Ramgarh Government Primary School till they passed 6th class. They had to leave schooling as there was no school beyond 6th class in the area. Both of them started working at Lahore. Although they were qualified to join service as Patwari or School teacher at monthly salary of rupees ten or so, but they preferred working at Lahore.
Both by father and his brother lived separately. My Grandfather died at an age of 95 years and grandmother some years thereafter but before 1947 turmoil. She had turned blind due to some eye problem. My family many members still live and cultivate land, I also own a piece of land as my family share.
A misfortune befell on my father when my mother died sometime around 194-42, leaving behind four sons and two daughters. We were named Chatru Ram, Jabro Ram, myself Hem Raj, Giano Devi,Punna Devi and a very young male child. My youngest brother lived few months after our mother’s death. My mother died because of child delivery related problems. I was also very young and do not remember anything of my mother. My elder brother Chatru Ram and sister Giano Devi were although married but being young were unable to share the family burden with our father. When my sister went to her in laws, my Bhabi Shrimati Vidya Devi was still very young, unable to carry house hold responsibilities independently. So father and young brothers had to bear the family chaos. Many relatives suggested my father to get remarried as it was difficult to carry on family responsibilities alone. But he refused saying he believed in fate. Now he should bring up his children to the best of his ability. He carried all family responsibilities from tilling of land to cooking, toiling on floor gringing stone ( Chhakki) , raring animals. But he carried this all with full vigor and responsibility with no regrets on his face. My brothers and sister rendered full help to him as per their capacity.
My family was still struggling with problems arisen out from my mother’s death, then 1947 partition turmoil came like a bomb shell. Our village was burnt down by Pakistani raiders, some persons were murdered, properties looted by them. People left the village for safety to higher reaches in kandi Belt. All Areas below Pathankot to Jammu National (then nonexistent) falling in Jammu province became barren, crops destroyed, housed burnt, properties including animal wealth looted and destroyed putting people to great loss. In a nearby village Palouta a Mahatama Jiagopal Giri along with his disciples was killed. There was no road link between Pathankot and Jammu. To provide an all weather road route between Pathankot and Jammu so work of construction of NH was started on war footing. Labour work on construction of NH provided means of survival to people.
Many families migrated to nearby Punjab State. My family also decided to migrate to Punjab. I was hardly 6-7 years and had to travel on foot from Samba to Pathankot. We reached Behrampur and settled temporarily at village Pindi Rangran. From here we shifted to Vadda Salimpur ( On Gurdaspur to Dera Baba Nanak Road) and finally to Kotli Shah pur , all these villages are located in the vicinity of Gurdaspur. My family worked there as farm labour and also continued with shoe making ( Desi Jutti). I was engaged in animal raring and caring animals of Mulkha Singh Jatt, a land lord but a deadly drunken person. He had provided us living accommodation in his house premises, previously vacated by a Muslim weaver to migrate to Pakistan. My schooling started from here. I was got admitted in Pry. School at Zayora Chhatran. But soon a school was opened in Varsola. The village Gurudwara served also a school Building. I joined new school at Varsolla. In school time many untouchability related problems were faced by me. On the instigation of a Brahmin boy Som Nath, all Jatt boys threw out their lunch saying my touch with them has polluted it. I also threw out my lunch telling them that they too have spoiled my lunch. In school on my disclosing the matter to Head Master who happened to be from SC gave a good beating. Village panchayat even offered my father some monthly grains to keep me off school and continue raring animals of Mulkha Singh. But my father declined all this, so my studies continued.
In around 1950-51 in my old village area people started returning to village and starting farming activities despite continuously troubled by nearby Pakistani night looters. My father and Taya Ji also came back and started living there and redeveloping agriculture land. The village was fortified and some 303 rifles were also supplied to village army retired persons by authorities to defend the village from Pak night Looters. Our family shifted back to Pakhri. I knew only Punjabi, where as in Jammu Hindi and Urdu languages were subject at school. I had studied a bit of Hindi at home which came to my rescue and took Hindi subject. I studied Urdu at Home and soon obtained reading and writing prophecy in it. Many difficulties including financial problems arose but my father always encouraged me to continue my studies, come what may. Many a times we had to vacate village due to trouble by Pakistan .In 1957 when J&K Constitution was promulgated, whole boarder was disturbed and people shifter to higher places. On 26th January 1957 I was alone in home from our family. My brother was blessed with his first male child Ashok Kumar on this day, but Bhabhi Sita Devi had gone to Gurah Salathian a Kandi village away from my village.
In 1956 an agitation of J&K Dalit castes under taken at Village Chhan Arorian in Tehsil Hiranagar ( Kathua) against excesses committed on them by upper caste people and officers. The organization heading was was Harijan Mandal and leader Late Babu Milkhi Ram, later an M.L.A. A fast unto death had started ,which continued for over 10 days. Dalit Samaj was appealed to render all possible help for the success of the agitation. My father collected cash and ration donation from our village and carried it to Chha Arorian on foot, is over 40 kms from my village. This showed my father’s mind set for his community welfare and coopration. I arranged a demonstration in my village of school going children for which got beating from village Nambardar.
I was first civilian from my area to crossed Himalayan Banihal peak to go to Kashmir valley in 1957 in a Youth Camp. Then the Jawahar Tunnel Banihal had not come up. I toured whole valley. It had support from my family which enabled me to see Kashmir Valley as student I received Rs50/ then a big amount for valley tour. Many others students could not afford due to poverty.
I passed Matriculation in 1959 becoming Second person in my village history to get this qualification. I stood First in my School in Matriculation Examination. I was encouraged to continue education in G.G. M. Sc college Jammu from where I passed Intermediate ( FSc, Faculty Of Science) with Non Medical subjects. Many a times I was given grains to sell and get money to continue my studies. Here an opportunity arose for me to join Regional Engineering College Srinagar for my Bachelor in Civil Engineering. I needed about rupees Eight Hundred for college fee and other charges. My father and my brother Jabro Ram encouraged me to must not loose opportunity. They borrowed rupees Six Hundred equal amount from one Pandit ji of Tarore village and from my cousin Dhanu Ram of Koulpur.
I went to see my grand uncle ( Taya Ji) before going to join REC( Now NIT) and begged for his blessings. He pointed out to his while colored turban telling me “ Go , my blessing with you. But see that my white turban does not get spoiled by any sprinkle of any other colour because of your any undesired action:” It was my last meeting with him as he died before I returned on my winter Vocations.
By the sacrifices and hardships of my father assisted by other family members, I earned the distinction of being the first Dalit ( SCs, OBCs) Graduate Engineer of J&K State ( Now UT) history when in 1966 I passed this examination. In J&K STs include Muslims too.
My father had very clean habits of not using any intoxicants. He was a regular Hooka ( Hubble-bubble) smoker . When both my brothers and their family’s family adopted vegetarianism on the principle of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, my father instantly left hookah smoking at 60-65 years of age. I joined service in July 1967.
The vision of my father, his longing for education to family has shown dividends. In the present times out of His offspring’s nearly One and a half dozen are Engineers out of whom some with Post Graduate and MBA qualification and other qualification. Two of the grandsons of this noble soul, who had no chance to dream to attend school himself , have crossed seven seas for education and service are now in USA and Canada.
My father also visited Dera Beas with my brothers. On one visit he applied for incitation of Nam Man. It was his last visit to Dera Beas. He got it. On way back home he met all his relations including my sister. I know he used to go on days out side home to visit our relations, which had spreading up to Amritsar from my village. He normally went on foot, as relatives were in villages away from main road. He was regularly attended Radha Soami Satsangs in village near to our village.
In 1970 my father suddenly developed and then investigated liver cancer. He was admitted in Jammu hospital. He had almost re-covered from first phase of treatment and we were planning to move home in a day or so. Although I was posted at Udhampur, but I was in his regular attendance in hospital. On 19th June, 1970 he called me and asked me to go to attend my duties. I went to Udhampur same day. But in the day after morning I received a telephone call, giving me my life’s severest shocking blow . My father had passed away in the hospital during 20-21 June 1970 night. My brother Sh. Jabro Ram was by his bed side when he breathed his last. The end of the noble soul came on 7 Ashar 2027 Vikrimi correspondingly 21-06-1970 early morning. His cremation was carried in our village in the evening. Thus came the end of an angle that suffered all discomforts of life himself but stood like a rock against any discomfort to his family. He worked to bring education light and worldly comforts in family. He suffered to create comforts for his family besides to Samaj to possible extent.
May his soul get all comforts?