The Raj Bhawan Man

Wali Mohammad who has served five governors in J&K is a living history of one of the most powerful institution of administration. SHAMS IRFAN delves into his long tenure at Raj Bhawan and how Jagmohan’s bitterness with Wali was put to rest by a generous Karan Singh.

Wali Muhammad at his residence in Pampore

Wali Mohammad Rather, 82, who served five governors in Jammu and Kashmir during his three-decade-long service as a table boy gets nostalgic as he talks about his days at Raj Bhawan. “I have lived a very good life,” said Wali with a smile on his face. “Serving grand parties where visiting dignitaries and high officials rubbed shoulders was how I spent my days at Raj Bhawan,” he remembers with a tinge of longing in his voice.

Before his appointment as a table boy at Raj Bawan by Maharaja Karan Singh, Wali used to work as a gardener at one of the Maharaja’s gardens. “It was Sadr-e-Riyasat (Karan Singh) himself who appointed me as a table boy at Raj Bawan,” recalls Wali. He misses the good old days when Maharaja’s ruled Kashmir. “There was discipline among people. Everybody would follow rules. But it is complete chaos now,” he says, sadly.

Wali who now lives with his family at Pampore traces his roots to Zyeth Hyer Mohallah in Srinagar. “We are originally from Srinagar. It was only after we were forced out by Maharaja’s men that we came to Pampore,” said Wali. He remembers the day when Maharaja Hari Singh ordered his men to demolish both Zyeth Hyer and Theed Mohallah as some houses obstructed Maharaja’s view of Kral Sangar Mountain. “Our mohallah was between Kral Sangar Mountain and Maharaja’s residence. So he ordered us to be shifted,” Wali recalls.

“I don’t remember the exact date when we shifted to Pampore. All I remember is that I was a student of 9th standard when we were forced out,” he says. While Wali stayed back in Dalgate (Srinagar) with his uncle to finish his studies, his family were forced to move to Pampore. “We boarded whatever belongings we had on a boat and sailed to Pampore,” he remembers.

“There was no freedom to protest in Maharaja’s times either,” said Wali. “One had to follow official decree blindly. There was no question of saying no,” he remembers.

Wali remembers Maharaja Hari Singh compensating each and every household amply for demolishing their properties. “I was too young to remember about the exact compensation amount. My father received that. The entire Zyeth Hyer Mohallah was related to each other in one way or another. Only a few relatives accompanied my father to Pampore. Others either moved to Nishat or Harwan, where Maharaja had offered them free land,” said Wali.

Till the time Wali was working at Raj Bawan, Srinagar, he used to regularly visit Maltaing graveyard at Zyeth Hyer Mohallah located on the foothills of Zabarwan. “Almost all my relatives are buried there,” he said. Wali remembers his first meeting with Jagmohan vividly, “I was warned by his predecessor (B K Nehru) to be extra careful with Jagmohan as he is very particular about things.”

Unlike other governors whom Wali had served, Jagmohan never actually liked him. “It was maybe because of this,” said Wali, pointing towards his beard. “Having served gentlemen like L K Jha and B K Nehru, it was a bitter experience to serve Jagmohan. He always had problems with my presence in the Raj Bhawan.” After taking a short pause, Wali leans back and says, “I remember the winter of 1987 like it was yesterday. One morning when we were at Jammu Raj Bhawan, we received our daily schedule which mentioned that Karan Singh will be joining Jagmohan for evening tea. I got excited as I have served Karan Singh as well and he was always nice to me.” Wali remembers Karan Singh arriving at the Raj Bhawan, Jammu that evening with his entourage. “He always travelled in style, like a true royal.”

“Jagmohan and former Maharaja were discussing something important in the garden, but when Karan Singh saw me, he waived his hand and said warmly, ‘Wali (Mohammad Wali) kaise ho.’ Then he turned towards Jagmohan, ‘Take good care of him. He is the best man around.’ “Jagmohan could not say a thing. His expression changed and he forced a smile on his otherwise stoic face,” remembers Wali with a smile. “Then Karan Singh asked me about my family. He remembered most of them by their names. From that day onwards, Jagmohan’s attitude towards me changed a bit.” Ask Wali about the best Governor he has served and he would not hesitate to name Bhagwan Sahay. “I spent my best days of service under Governor Sahay Sahib. He was a gentleman.”

After serving five governors and completing 33 years of service at Raj Bhawan Wali retired in 1988. Wali now lives with his family in Pampore and spends his days in prayers at a local mosque. “I wish to see my native Mohallah once again with all the houses standing.”

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