March 2003.It was a sunny bright day. My Enfield-Bullet bike was in a dire need of a proper service. I took my bike to the local mechanic-Akram in Ghaziabad. As he was inspecting my Bike, an Ambassador car halted in front of me. The glass windows of the car rolled down. I saw an elderly Sikh in an orange dress. He called on me , “ where is this Agarsen Chowk?”.I came closer to the car, gesticulated, and said, “ turn straight and then turn right from the first crossing.” “What is your name?” The turbaned old man asked me abruptly. “My name is sandeep Koul” said I. “Oh! You are a Kashmiri Pandit! Come in my car.” He said excitedly. I was irked by what he said. I hardly knew him and here he was, urging me to accompany him. It looked as if he read my face. He pulled the wallet from his coat, opened it, looked for something and finally picked a card which he handed over to me. “Here! Take my card. My name is B.L.Sharma- “prem”. I am a former MP from BJP.”I looked at the card in my hand. It was white and green in colour and had an emblem of four lions(as seen in Indian currency coins) at the top. The name written on it was indeed B.L.Sharma “prem”(Member of parliament).
I was exited now. For the first time, I was face-to-face speaking to an M.P. with alacrity, I sat besides him in his ambassador. “We have a rally today at Ghaziabad. It seems our local team of Ghaziabad and I are talking on different tracks. There is some miscommunication and we are not able to track each other. Though, they are somewhere nearby. You please talk to them, since you know this place”, he said to me. He dialed some number from his mobile and handed over the phone to me. The voice from the other side in a gushed tone said, “ Sharmaji, where are you?” I answered back, “I am sandeep. We are on NH-24, Near Rahul Vihar. The person on the other side said, “You wait there. we will reach there within 5 minutes.”
Sharmaji told me briefly about his life, his family and his mission. The 1947 partition. He told me that to protect the Hindus, he has embraced Sikhism. At that time, the chief-minister of J&K was Mr.Gulam nabi Azad. He also expressed his views on Him, Hindus of Jammu and as well as Kashmiri Pandits. Soon, his local team traced us.
The local-team were all motor-cyclists. There were at least 20 motor bikes. Each bike carrying two persons. Many of them had Swords in their hands, which they waved at us and at each other with enthusiasm .A person came close to the window of our car. He said to Sharmaji, “Please follow us. we are nearby to the venue of the program. Sharmaji nodded his head in approval and said, “Alright. By the way he is Sandeep koulji. He is an uprooted hindu from Kashmir”, as he pointed towards me. The person’s faced beamed with glee as he said, “ Sandeeji, welcome. you please attend our program.”I did not wanted to attend, as politics was not my cup of tea. But on the behest of Sharmaji, I agreed.
Soon, we reached “Agarsen-chowk”-our venue. Hundreds of supporters had already gathered there. As the crowd saw us, they raised their hands in the air and chanted loud, “Jai shri Ram”, “Bharat Mata ki jai”.I alighted from the car. Sharmaji too followed me. With folded hands(namaskar), he greeted the crowd. Many people rushed towards him and touched his feet in reverence. Many people mistook me for some leader and touched my feet too. Sharmaji was used to this treatment but I was not. I was blushing, feeling embarrassed. I tried to gently push away the crowd, touching my feet.
Sharmaji went up to the podium. I sat down on a chair. But the associates of Sharmaji insisted me to sit on the podium alongside Sharmaji. Before the actual program started, An announcer announced about the program. He spoke about many issues pertaining to Hindus. At last he said, “Today, a special guest has come with Sharmaji .A kashmiri pandit refugee from Kashmir.I request my colleagues to felicitate both of them.”A line of his associates garlanded Sharmaji and me. Though, I had started enjoying the attention, But, Clearly I was not prepared for this impromptu.
Soon, Many speakers spoke in length about the infiltration on the Hindu culture. Examples were cited from the history. Many tales of the 1947 genocide were told poignantly. The mass-exodus of Kashmiri pundits was also cited. “See, how pathetic, the lives of Kashmiri Pandits have become. You can ask our Kashmiri pandit brother here. ”a speaker said. And everybody spoke about Kashmiri Hindus .Each time, Kashmiri Hindus were spoken of, a finger was pointed towards me. Frankly speaking, I was feeling as if I am a culprit.
A member of the organizing team came up to me and said in a low-voice, “you too say something. It will have a very good impact on the listeners.” Their- pointing- fingers –at- me had already made me feel guilty. An object that is loathsome-yet important(this holds true even today). So, I humbly turned down his offer. I went up to Sharmaji and took his permission to leave. He told me to be in touch with him and gave me his mobile number.
I was in touch with him for some time. He even introduced me to some people. Out of those people, I am still in touch with few , even today. I somehow lost the number of Sharmaji some years back. But, whenever, I recall that incident, I end up with a Grin. And I am reminded that indeed, “Tragedy is the biggest comedy.”