Krishen Dev Sethi: A Legendary Humanist

During 1959-61, while I was working as a Professor of Mathematics in MAM College, Jammu, I stood first in the Competitive Examination of KCS held by the State PSC in 1960-61. The Government in their wisdom did not appoint me, and instead appointed two candidates, one from Jammu, and another from Kashmir as Deputy Superintendent of Police. [Surprisingly one officer served as an IG and another as DIG during my tenure as Chief Secretary (1992-94)]. Bakhshi Sahib, who was the then Prime Minister J&K, called me and assured that I will be inducted in IAS instead of appointing me in Police Department. This was on the analogy of two Professors who were appointed to IAS under special provisions of All India Service Rules. The news of my merit and success caught headlines so much so that K.D. Sethi along with his comrades addressed a Press Conference, and Shri Ram Pyare Lal Saraf another comrade, possibly at that time MLA, raised the matter in State Legislative Assembly. He waved the notification of PSC highlighting the injustice to a Kashmiri with meritorious background. Bakhshi Sahib in his majestic style, and a smile, informed the agitating members that he knew me from Ganderbal with all the meritorious background from Kashmir University and AMU Aligarh, and re-affirmed assurance he had given me. The matter died down with Bakhshi Sahib demitting office in 1963. It was left to Late Sadiq Sahib to induct me in Kashmir Administrative Service in 1965. Rest is history.

While I didn’t know Sethi Sahib before, but met him after some time and found a simple and sincere human being. It was during my service career while residing in the vicinity of Dal Pathian, I would meet Sethi Sahib mostly during our morning walk on Nai Sadak, Jammu. His woollen dress with woollen headgear and a stick in hand was symbolic of his simple life with very high thinking. His conversation and illustrated write ups were reflective of his deep understanding of Kashmir politics, human values of life and sympathy for downtrodden. As Allama Iqbal has termed Marx a prophet without a Book, to me Sethi Sahib was like a “Darveesh” with his heart and head full of humanism, undeterred by worldly fanfare. Throughout his life, he was a champion of Secularism, Composite Culture and a staunch supporter of poor and needy which has been the hall mark of India’s Constitution and its civilization. In his death, I am reminded of another Jammuite, an eminent person – Late Ved Bhasin, who was also imbibed with high moral principles of life. I am reminded of various instances in Jammu having some bearing to Kashmir which had explosive character but the duo with many like-minded exponents of brotherhood stood fast in defending the general people of Kashmir.

I wish we have more eminent persons in our society who could guide people in best traditions of the State based humanism, tolerance and love for the downtrodden. May God bless all the departed souls who have served the state in all their sincerity and love of people and its land.

Sheikh Ghulam Rasool is Ex-Chief  Secretary, J&K.