Memorial For Immortal Comrade Dhanwantri

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By B.P. Sharma

A befitting memorial should be raised for late Comrade Dhanwantri who was the only freedom fighter from Jammu and Kashmir state to have spent years of agony in ‘Kalapani’.

Professor A.C. Bose deserves our thanks for revealing that of the great sons of India who spent years of agony in the cellular jail at Andaman, there is only one from Jammu and Kashmir, and that is the immortal Dhanwantri (Kashmir Times, March 22, 1995). Professor Bose adds that the name of comrade Dhanwantri is enshrined on the plaques commemorating those who once spent years of agony so that we might today breathe the air of freedom. Professor Bose suggests raising of a bronze statue to the memory of Dhanwantri – “the brave and selfless son of the soil. It is a homage that we owe to him.”

Frankly speaking, I had known about Comrade Dhanwantri, a freedom fighter, whose entry into the state was banned by the state government at the instance of the British masters, but the fact of his having been a prisoner in the jail at Andamans was not known to me.

Further information now collected reveals that it was in the year 1933 that Comrade Dhanwantri was awarded 10 years rigorous imprisonment in a case of sedition and was sent to Kalapani. Dhanwantri suffered the rigours and spent four years of agony in the cellular jail in Andamans, where he and other political detainees started hunger strike as they asserted that Andamans was meant only for criminals, not for political detenues. In 1937, on the recommendations of the Congress governments in the provinces, the Government of India decided to shift all the political detenues from Andamans to their respective provincial jails.

No photo description available.

The house Dhanwantri lived in near Parade Ground, Jammu

The Late Mr. Ved Pal Deep, one of the great admirers of Dhanwantri once asked me to dig out information from the state archives repository and contribute an article. My article was published in the Kashmir Times. My information was based on the C.I.D. Diaries about the movements of Dhanwantri. These included instructions received by the state government from the political department, the government order banning his entry and an undertaking given by his brother Pandit Bhim Sen Makey, then president of the Srinagar Municipality requesting withdrawal of the ban in view of the failing health of comrade Dhanwantri.

Professor Bose has now provided historic evidence which only strengthens the claim that Dhanwantri’s memory should be enshrined in the shape of a bronze statue instead of the naming of small strip of a road as proposed by a committee of the citizens of Jammu. The people of Jammu are also grateful to another Bengali gentleman – the youthful and energetic P.G. Dhar Chakraborty – who did a great service by convening a meeting of respectable citizens of Jammu to suggest names of those luminaries, freedom fighters, social and political workers whose names could be associated with the roads, chowks, parks etc. in Jammu.
Though the Jammu municipality had been in existence for the last more than 100 years and in accordance with Section 216 of the Municipal Act has been vested with powers to notify the names of roads, chowks etc. after the names of those who deserve such honour, this power had, according to the records of the municipality, been exercised only once. How some statues came to be installed and roads named after some persons could not be ascertained but it appears that there had been much political bungling.

The dynamic Chakraborty, however, gave a serious thought to the problem and wanted to utilise the powers vested in the Municipal Committee in the best interests of the people of Jammu. In consultation with citizens of all shades and opinions, a subcommittee with Mr. Balraj Puri as convener, was appointed at the general meeting. Among other suggestions, the subcommittee has recommended to rename the road from Ranbireshwar temple to Old Mahajan Sabha as Comrade Dhanwantri marg.

Obviously, if the subcommittee had known the fact revealed by Professor Bose, it would have possibly suggested a statue to be raised in his honour. This can even be done now. I am not aware if the proposals made by the committee have been notified in the Gazette for eliciting public opinion as was proposed.

This reminds me of the utter lack of appreciation of the role of our freedom fighters. In a series of articles tracing the genesis of political and freedom movement published in the Kashmir Times (dated November 22, November 29, December 13, 1992 and January 17, 1993, I had mentioned the names of these young men who as early as 1907 were externed from the state for their pro-National Congress activities, beginning with raising the slogan of ‘Vande Mataram’.

This was followed by an event of great historical importance which led to the closure of the premier educational institution of the state – the Prince of Wales College, Jammu – in 1921. Though the state government had raised a virtual iron curtain between the state and the then British India so as not to allow the infiltration of the freedom struggle against the British, the impact of the Jallianwala Bagh episode, in which General Dyer killed thousands of men, women and children, was so great that a number of students of the Prince of Wales College came out openly to support the Congress movement. As many as 170 students decided to leave for Gujranwala to attend a meeting which was proposed to be addressed by the Sher-e-Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai and Shri. Saif-ud-Din Kichlew, the president of the Congress. The principal, Mr. S Robinson, a Britisher, refused permission, but defying his orders 170 students left for Gujranwala by train. The list of these students giving full particulars of their parentage etc is available in the concerned file in the state archives at Jammu. There is also a list of 16 student leaders, signed by the Principal S. Robinson (Fascimilie produced).

The students returned to Jammu the next day shouting slogans ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai’. This further infuriated the principal who recommended closure of the college if the students fail to tender unqualified apology. The students, including even those who had not gone to Gujranwala, held a joint meeting and refused to apologize. This led to the closure of the college.

The Prince of Wales college has been renamed Gandhi Memorial Science College after independence. All the more reason that the names of the students who participated in the freedom struggle should be enshrined on blocks and displayed at a suitable place in the college premises.

From Kashmir Times Archives: Sunday, April 9, 1995