Tarachand Bhat, famous all over Jammu and Kashmir as Pandit Kashyap Bandhu, was a renowned freedom fighter and social reformer. He was born on 24 March 1889 to Thakur Bhat in Geeru (Nurpura) village of Kashmir. At the time of his birth, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by Maharaja Pratap Singh. After passing his matriculation examination in 1919, he started writing poetry with the pen name ‘Bulbul’. Giving it a purposeful direction, Kashyap Bandhu made efficient use of his passion as a medium to express his opinion on the prevailing socio-economic and political conditions. Meanwhile, he got the job of Shajrakash in the revenue department but it was not to his liking. Thereafter, Kashyap Bandhu left Kashmir and went to Lahore where he got influenced by the ideology of the Arya Samaj and joined Virjanand ashram. Being impressed with his inordinate personality, keen interest in social service and strict adherence to veganism, Sri Vishwabandhu ji, Principal/Chief of the ashram named him Kashyap Bandhu. This incident became a turning point in his life. Since then, he did not look back and worked tirelessly to ameliorate of the weak and marginalized sections of society.
Kashyap Bandhu was intensely pained to see the deplorable condition of the Kashmiri laborers who used to migrate to Lahore in search of livelihood during winter season. He strived for the rights of these Kashmiri laborers and through his forceful writings in Akhbar-e- Aam, Bahar-e-Kashmir, Akhbar Kashmiri, and some other local dailies of Lahore, Kashyap Bandhu raised his voice against the atrocities meted out to the people of his community. He not only sensitized these ignorant and illiterate workers but also organized them and started the Kashmiri Mazdoor Board (Labour Board) and himself became its secretary. The Board played an instrumental role in making the workers aware of their rights which subsequently inspired them to live a dignified life. During his stay in Lahore, Kashyap Bandhu was deeply influenced by revolutionary ideas. He joined Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary organization and was also arrested and imprisoned in connection with Saunder’s murder case but was later released. It was his first arrest. Further, due to his active participation in different socio-political movements, he was lodged in various jails in Kathua, Bhaderwah, Reasi, and Udhampur. From 1931-1961, Kashyap Bandhu spent almost 8 years in jail for the cause of the nation and freedom struggle.
Kashyap Bandhu was a pioneer in the art of journalism. He fearlessly used the might of his pen to write forceful editorials against the feudal establishments and corrupt bureaucracy. Through the columns of The Martand, of which he was the founder editor, and various other local newspapers like The Kesari and The Desh, Kashyap Bandhu raised his voice against the social evils prevailing in society and expressed his strong yearning for social change. His social reformation included widow remarriage and education of the Kashmiri Pandit girls. The thought-provoking writings of Kashyap Bandhu produced an electrifying effect on the thinking and conduct of the Kashmiri Pandits who were living in an abject conservatism and a fetid social milieu.
At the request of the Kashmiri Pandit activists and society, Kashyap Bandhu came back to Kashmir and started working for the upliftment of his community. He fought against the discrimination being meted out to the community in Government jobs. It was on his arrival in Kashmir that a premier body for the upliftment of the Kashmiri Pandits called ‘Sanatan DharamYuvak Sabha’ was formed at Sharika Bhawan, Sheetal Nath, Srinagar. With Martand as its official organ, the Yuvak Sabha became a nerve center of Kashmiri Pandit agitations and social reform activities.
Kashyap Bandhu played a key role in the Roti Agitation of 1933-34 which aimed at the empowerment of Kashmiri Pandits. He was at the forefront in the fight against the imperialist forces during the freedom movement and also played a vital role during the Pakistani tribal raids of October 1947. The economic blockade caused by Pakistan in the after of the partition and the subsequent tribal raids disrupted the life of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The loot, plunder, and merciless killings of Hindus and Sikhs by Pakistani raiders led to the migration of thousands of refugees from the nearby border towns and villages to the capital city of Srinagar. Sensitizing the rising critical situation, an emergency administration was set up by Maharaja Hari Singh with Sheikh Abdullah as the head and Kashyap Bandhu was appointed as the Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation officer. Bandhu ji played a vital role to safeguard the interests of the Hindu and Sikh communities. His priority was to attend to the immediate needs of the refugees migrating from the areas devastated by the Pakistani tribal invasion. He efficiently and dedicatedly carried out his job to accommodate and feed them during those adverse times.
The liberal vision and progressive outlook of the poet-turned-social activist Kashyap Bandhu became a source of inspiration for the coming generation to work for the betterment of humankind. He merged with the super Divine on 18th December 1985. In the annals of Kashmir history, Bandhu ji will always be remembered as a firebrand political activist, a fearless journalist, and a great freedom fighter who immensely contributed to the freedom struggle of the nation. Like him may not be born for centuries to come.