KASHMIR’S UNSUNG HEROES: Ghulam Rasool Wani

In the mid-70s, noted journalist Shameem Ahmad Shameem called on a young boy in Abi Guzar, Srinagar, and told him about someone who had returned from Pakistan and had been persecuted for his political stand.

He took the boy to a tailoring shop at Nawakadal in the old city, and introduced him to Ghulam Rasool Wani.

“What is your name, my dear?” the stranger asked.

“I am Firdous Ahmad Shah,” the boy replied.

Wani went on to ask the boy about his father, mother and other relatives. And finally, he told him that he was not Shah, but Wani.

“I am your father,” he said. “Your maternal uncles forced me to divorce your mother because I was arrested time and again for my political activities.”

“I do not blame your maternal uncles. And, I do not want you to come back to me.”

“You stay where you are but please come to me occasionally.”

Tears were rolling down Wani’s cheeks as he said this.

The boy promised to visit him regularly.

Born in 1911, Ghulam Rasool Wani was the son of Abdul Ghani of Nawa Kadal, who would lead prayers in a mosque in the area.

With a keen interest in poetry and politics, he joined the Muslim Conference after his matriculation, and was made the party’s halqa president for Nawa Kadal.

He was an expert in erecting stages for political functions.

As time passed, Wani matured, and so did the poet in him. For his verse, he came to be known as Gulzar. He wrote against RC Kak, and had to go underground to evade arrest.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah put him behind bars for six months for damaging a drum in the Nawa Kadal school band which had to perform to welcome Jawaharlal Nehru on his arrival in Srinagar.

Once, when on his way to attend an urs at Qamar Sahib, he was spotted by National Conference rowdies at Gandarbal and severely beaten up. They tried to throw him into the river, but his friends who were travelling with him came to his rescue.

Bold and outspoken, Wani wrote the Gug Nama, a satire on Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad’s followers.

But Bakhshi did not order his arrest.  Instead, he asked Wani to join him.

Expectedly, Wani refused.

One day, the head of the police station in his area had an argument with him, and he retaliated by urinating on the officer’s uniform.

Wani was very active in the Holy Relic movement, but more on the intellectual front. His poetry was widely read and sung during those times, and later also published.

Ghulam Rasool Wani passed away in 1991 at the age of eighty.

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