KASHMIR’S UNSUNG HEROES: Pandit Raghunath  Vaishnavi  – II

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Recalling Raghunath Vaishnavi’s commitment to an equitable and non-violent resolution for Kashmir, his granddaughter, Mona Bhan, further says:  “An astute political analyst and an intrepid statesman, he           proposed independence for Kashmir under the UN Neutralization Guarantee at the second plenary session of the All J&K State People’s Convention in June 1970.”

“Relentless in his pursuit to establish

peace in the subcontinent and ensure a just,  transparent,  and a realistic solution to the Kashmir dispute, Vaishnavijee founded and chaired the India-Pakistan Peace Forum of Kashmir from 1986 onwards.”

In his illustrious career as an advocate and a political advisor, Vaishnavi fought several high-profile political cases for the Plebiscite Front and advised its members on the political future of Kashmir without a trace of vested self-interest.

“He was a man of integrity. He never rejected a brief on political grounds, and commanded respect in the Bar,” says his colleague, Latif Qureshi.

With master’s degrees in political science and psychology from the Punjab University at Lahore, and an LLB from the Allahabad University, Vaishnavi began his political career in the 1930s, and became a member of the UP Civil Liberties Union in 1937.

He played a pivotal role as the founding general secretary of the Kashmir National Congress in 1938, and became a founding member of the National Conference (into which the KNC was subsumed) in 1939, serving on its Working Committee from 1941 to 1943 when he resigned from the party due to political differences with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.

From 1947 onwards, he advocated a peaceful, realistic, and a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute. From 1953 to 1964, he was the Vice President of the Kashmir Political Conference, of which he was also a founding member.

His political philosophy was driven by the urgent need to respect the aspirations of Kashmiris.

For his political stance on Kashmir, Vaishnavi suffered seven years of detention in several prisons in Jammu and Kashmir. But long periods of imprisonment did not break his determination, and he pursued the Kashmir cause with renewed enthusiasm when released.

He remained a prolific political writer right until his death on November 22, 1996. In addition to being the editor of an Urdu newspaper, the Jamhoor, in the 1950s and a columnist for several other newspapers, English as well as Urdu, he contributed frequently to various journals such as the Other Side and The Radical Humanist.

His rich collection of letters, telegrams, and essays to key political figures in India and Pakistan, urging them to resolve the Kashmir issue from a humanist perspective, stands testament to his belief in human  dignity  and freedom, and his insurmountable  love, passion, and commitment for Kashmir and Kashmiris irrespective of their religious, ethnic, or political affiliations.

Raghunath Vaishnavi did not accept the government’s allowance for freedom fighters.

To his daughter, Dr. Purnima Bhan Vaishnavi, at whose house in Udhampur he spent his last days, he had said: “I will not accept the allowance until the Kashmir dispute is resolved in accordance with the wishes of the people.”