On November 25, 2017, the warhorse of journalism in Jammu and Kashmir, and widely respected for honesty and integrity, Om Prakash Saraf passed away. He was 95.
Believed to be a hardcore Gandhian, Saraf remained a firm believer in democracy and secularism.
With his death, Om Prakash Saraf became the first person in Jammu and Kashmir whose body was not cremated, but according to his wish, was donated to Jammu Medical College for their use in studies.
“He had wished so in his life time and all efforts persuading him to change his decision had failed,” his son Pushap Saraf told the The Indian Express.
Survived by two sons and two daughters, Saraf had been the last surviving journalist of his time in Jammu and Kashmir.
He was also the last surviving founder of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference in Jammu and was a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council in late 1970s after Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. He was also a key founder of Janata Party in Jammu and Kashmir.
Saraf had a legion of admirers in all sections of the society and in all age groups on both sides of Pir Panjal. Saraf had a sharp mind and memory till the end and was known as a noble soul.
Om Saraf, who was a man of great conviction, honesty and integrity, was founder of the first nationalist party-Praja Socialist Party in Jammu and Kashmir. He contested first election from Amirakadal constituency and last from Udhampur. He was a key founder of Janata Party in Jammu and Kashmir along with Maulana Masoodi and was a nominated member of the Legislative Council.
Saraf contested elections on both sides of the Pir Panjal range. His 1962 election as a candidate of the Praja Socialist Party – he was the founder-chairman of the party which was the first all-India party to have a Jammu and Kashmir unit in 1954 – from Srinagar’s Amirakadal constituency is still talked about in serious and knowledgeable political circles as one man’s attempt to fight “corrupt, brutal and unscrupulous political power”.
His few political contemporaries or near-contemporaries are around and those who have come all the way to his home in the labyrinth old Jammu city to visit him in recent years have been former Chief Minister GM Shah (just before his death) and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The late People’s Conference leader Abdul Ghani Lone once recalled in an interview that he was in the same bus in which Saraf travelled from Jammu to Srinagar to file his nomination. “At once I grew in admiration of the man who was going all the way to fight our battle.” Devi Dass Thakur, former Governor asked Saraf what would he have done had the police not heeded his warning to withdraw itself from sabotaging his public meeting at the historic Lal Chowk during that election. Pat came the reply: “They would have known.” That Jawaharlal Nehru himself became nervous is a well-known fact and by the time he came to know of the damage done to the Indian cause by his puppet regime it was too late; his belated corrective measures made the confusion worse confounded.
Om Saraf, who was a man of great conviction, honesty and integrity, was founder of the first nationalist party-Praja Socialist Party in Jammu and Kashmir
His death was widely mourned across Jammu and Kashmir. Government spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said Om Saraf lived an exemplary life of rare honesty, integrity and austerity on the strength of his character and conscience. “The state acknowledges with grateful appreciation the undaunted spirit and invaluable contribution of this selfless man to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Dr Farooq Abdullah, NC president and former Chief Minister, who was among the first visitors to the Saraf residence immediately after learning about his death, said that to the best of his knowledge, it was the second time a public figure has donated his body for the noble cause. He recalled that Communist stalwart Jyoti Basu, former Chief Minister of West Bengal, was the first public figure to do so.