A Hope In Dark Times

Vidya Bhawan School at Khankah-e-Sokhta in Nawa-Kadal, Srinagar.

       By Yusra Khan

Vidya Bhawan School at Khankah-e-Sokhta in Nawa-Kadal, Srinagar.

It is not just a building made of bricks and cement. For him, the school is a monument of dreams– an edifice of the aspirations of Kashmiri Pandits, which he has been preserving for last sixteen years. The only regret that 72-year old Ghulam Mohammad Malik holds now is that his Pandit brethren never looked back after they left the Valley.

Malik, a retired teacher became the care taker of Vidya Bhawan, a school started by a trust run by Kashmiri Pandits at Khankah-e-Sokhta in Nawa-Kadal in down town area of Srinagar, before the community left the Valley.

The school was established by the ‘Rupa-Bhawani Trust’ in 1959, in the memory of a poet who lived in the same area. After the community left Kashmir Valley in the 1990, the school was abandoned, more so after its last Principal Shiela Kour died.  As the registration of the school was cancelled by the government, Malik, using his own savings, got the school registered and renovated it.

“I spent my own money to renovate the building and still pay a monthly rent to the trust for it. My daughter helped me a lot to rebuild the school,” he said.

The name ‘Vidhya Bhawan’ means a temple of knowledge, a place where children come to enlighten and educate themselves, Malik said, adding at one point of time he even thought of renaming the school. “I gave up the idea as I thought the name is perfect for the school. The institution was established by Pandits and it belongs to them. I feel bad that Pandits never visited the mandir or the school. The place belongs to them. It is theirs …I am only a care taker.”

When the minority community was allegedly hounded out of the Valley, a large section of Pandits accused that they were forced to leave by Muslims. Although a different school of thought attributes the exodus to the ongoing politics in the state then. “Kashmir witnessed communal division in 90’s and was ruined. Pandits blame us for their banishment in the valley but we never forced them to leave the state. It was their own decision,” Malik said.

Seventy-two-year old Ghulam Mohammad Malik in the school hall. He runs the school single handedly.

In the “happy” days, the school had strength of over 1,200 students but then it dropped and slowly and slowly the school was reduced to an empty building. When Malik took over the school after his retirement, the institute had only 23 students.  Malik claims to have increased the roll to 103 today.

Besides this, Malik takes care of a temple, which is housed inside the school. “When I started to run the school, I didn’t renovate the temple. But a couple of years back, a Hindu lady visited the temple and felt sad after seeing its condition. Only then I decided to rebuild it,” Malik said.

A new Shivlingam stands on the white tiled floor in the temple, surrounded by different idols, lamps and joss sticks. “We bought the shivlingam from Allahabad and last year the principal got the idols from Delhi. We decorated and maintained it like our home,” Shameema, the caretaker of the mandir, said.

Photos: Muhabit-ul-Haq

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3 COMMENTS

  1. MR MALLIK ,
    I USED TO STUDY IN THIS SCHOOL AND HAD PASSED MY 3 RD STANDARD IN YEAR 1990, I HAD TWO FRIENDS , TANVEER AHMED , AND ADIL WHO USED TO STAY NEARBY. DO WE HAVE ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THEM.

  2. Respected Mr.Malik Sahib has done and is doing a great human service.Regarding our exodus from 1990,which still continues even Muslims of valley and other parts of state have been displaced.A complex situation were lies r repeated on propaganda basis to project majority community as innocent which is far from truth.We understand, individually a Kashmiri muslim has no parallel in humanity in this world in his compassion and love and respect towards us,our hearts come to our knees in feeling their gratitude,as individual personality–i repeat.The moment he comes in contact with fundamentalists he gets a Virus and looks more dangerous than Wahabis.Today,Soffism which was bed rock our culture is on death bed.The real Spirit of Sheikh Noor Din Noorani(Pbuh)Nudhi Roish(as pandits call him) is missing in the Valley.Let us pray for real peace were Humanism prevails.

  3. While as 76-year-old Ghulam Muhammad Malik, retired government teachers effort is unique & worth praise there is more to truth that you are speaking.

    Kashmiris cannot speak the truth I suppose, there much more to Truth than you chose to speak & interpret???????? I know the place very rightly as our close relatives lived by. Let me tell you the truth then to you?

    The ace-cricketer Pt. Ramchand Tickoo & his son M.K. Tickoo also lived in this mohalla. His eldest son Sh. Prithvi Nath Tickoo was gunned down by the terrorists in June 1990. This is the time when Jag-mohan was not Govenor? This is the time when the Pandits like him had decided to stay put in the area? Sh. Prithvi Nath Tickoo was the person who was taking care of this shrine? This responsibility would not have fallen on the shoulders of Ghulam Muhammad Malik Sb, we were competent enough to do it? May I ask you a question? From an analytical mind how will you analyze a community’s plight if its religious place is not being managed of its own, is it not an broad indicator of something more. How do you think a community’s plight is if its religious figure ( Revered Rupa Bhawani Here) was born in a place which is occupied by person from other religion?

    In the same area Late Nand Lal ‘Begarz’, the eminent teacher and the first to write a short story in Kashmiri also lived at Khankah-e-Sokhta. His nephew Prof. Nilakanth Lala Raina, whom he had taken in adoption, was a scholar of eminence. He was a trained historian & teached in Islamia College Srinagar. His essay on ‘Northern Areas’ was widely appreciated. In 1990 Prof Raina did not want to leave Kashmir, he was gunned down by terrorists in late June 1990. In fact the terrorist that gunned him down had come in boat from across Jehlum Wattal Kadal masked themselves in full public view in the Ghat of Khankah-e-Sokhta? Who looted the books of this scholarly person? Muslims is the answer. And what the bull shit are you talking. This is the time when Jag-Mohan was not the Govenor?

    Just some furlongs away is the Ram Mandir, who made its condition so, I can post the link on You tube or you can go there to find out the truth? This is the time when Jag-mohan was neither the Govenor?

    Just move some steps more & see the temple at Kanth-paristan, who looted it? This is the time when Jag-mohan was not the Govenor?

    The persons of this area who had their cremation ground near Noor-Bagh, who occupied it? A Muslim? Even the places of dead were not spared by you people? This is the time when Jag-mohan was not the Govenor? And then your quote migration of Kashmir Pandits,

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