When Kashmir mechanic got stuck with UN observers during 1965 Indo-Pak war

Najar’s 45-Year Stint At UNMOGIP Office In Srinagar Earned Him Gold Medal, Peace Prize


Srinagar, Jan 31: He was just 15 when he landed at the office of the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) at Sonwar here. A mechanic by profession, little did he know that the wheel of his fate would catapult in a direction where the UN would become a source of survival for him and his family.
For Abdul Gani Najar, 68, it was an unusual turn of events. “It was 1955 when I entered the UN office in Srinagar, not as a civilian but as an employee,” says Najar, a resident of Dalgate area of Srinagar.
As a young man, Najar used to play around the shrine of revered saint Syed Yaqoob Sahib (RA)—barely few meters away from the UN office here. “One day I found many youth assembling at the main entrance of the UN office. I also joined them. I came to know that there was a notice pasted on the wall offering jobs in many categories,” he recalls, as he walks down the memory lane. “I applied for a post. After being interviewed, I was selected as a mechanic for the UN office.”
Najar, who looks quite feeble, now, lives in a modest house at Dalgate. “The job was temporary. My monthly salary was fixed at Rs 25 a month. I worked for five years as a temporary employee. I was later regularized in 1960,” he says.
In late ‘60s, Najar was among a group of selected Kashmiris who worked with the UN observers. “I was trained by the UN officials on how to repair vehicles with UN signs. The training made me a professional mechanic,” he says.
The UN office became a source of living for Najar’s family comprising his wife, three daughters and a son. “Within a few years, I received a hike in my salary and I started getting Rs 45 a month. Then there was no end to my success. I was the happiest man on earth,” Najar, who has now married all daughters, says.
He says the UN officials are the ‘most professional’ people he has ever come across. “There is even a rule for puffing a cigarette there,” Najar says. During his 45 years service at the UN office, Najar says he had an opportunity to travel with the UN observers across J&K. “The officers (UN observers) were always on the move. We used to have additional vehicles as a support. Otherwise, the officers would travel in the vehicles with big UN signs only,” he says.
In the summer of 1965, when India and Pakistan were engaged in a war, Najar was asked to travel along with the UN observers to the border area of Akhnoor in Jammu region to repair two generators at the UN branch office. “When I reached there, the war between the two countries was in full-swing. I could see from a distance mortar shells falling on ground and light emanating from them,” he says. “My officers were safe and so was I. I got stuck there for over three days. And within a week’s time, I reached back home safely.”
Najar says UN officers were always active. “They always preferred to travel. I had an opportunity to travel along with them to the border areas of Poonch, Rajouri and even Uri. In Baramulla area, there was a sort of branch office of UN. I have been to the area many times,” he says. The 68-year-old feels that winding up of the UN office in Srinagar seems to be difficult. “I have heard that it was the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawharlal Nehru who has submitted an application before the UN headquarters regarding Kashmir issue. It was after that the UN set its office in Srinagar,” Najar says.
During his term at the UN office, Najar has earned honour for his work in many ways. “In 1984, I was given a citation by the UN. The certificate is duly signed by Javier Prez-de- Cuellar. I have also been rewarded with a gold medal for my meritorious service as a mechanic in the UN office,” he says, as he shows the documents and the medal.
Najar has also been rewarded with Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1988.  The certificate of award is signed by the then Chief Military Observer (UNMOGIP), Brigadier General Jeremish Enright.
Najar’s stint with UN ended in 2000. “I had to retire as I had grown older. But I am happy that UN has not forgotten me. They do call me and invite me to the Srinagar office with full respect and honour,” he says. “I was surprised to get a call from a top UN official a couple of years ago. While going through the files at Srinagar office he had come to know about me. I went to meet him. He told me that he wanted to meet a person who has served UN for 45 long years.”

Lastupdate on : Thu, 31 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 31 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 1 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST

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