Veteran journalist and a prominent human rights activist, Padma Bhushan Balraj Puri, died at Government Medical College hospital after a prolonged illness ere on Saturday morning.
He was 86. He is survived his wife, daughter Ellora Puri and son Luv Puri. His cremation will take place at Jogi Gate in Jammu on Sunday.
Born on August 5, 1928, he began his career in journalism as an editor of an Urdu weekly in 1942 and since then, he had been regularly contributing to various local and leading national dailies. He was a multifaceted personality—a political activist, social worker, Human Rights advocate, and a political analyst, writer, author, multi-disciplinary scholar, and a literary critic.
Puri,who was conferred Padma Bhushan for his contribution in the fields of Literature and Education in 2005 and also the Indira Gandhi award for national integration on October 31, 2009, had participated in Quit India Movement against British Raj in 1942 and also supported the Quit Kashmir Movement launched by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah against the Dogra dynasty rule of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1946.
During 1947 partition when communal violence broke out in the Indian sub-continent, he formed Students Peace Volunteer Corps to check communal riots in Jammu. As a member of the Goodwill Mission appointed by Sheikh Abdullah, he toured the riot-affected areas of Jammu and worked for restoration communal harmony. He was also appointed a member of a relief committee to provide relief to refugees coming to the state from Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
He regularly interacted with India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru from 1948 till 1964, mostly on Kashmir affairs. He pleaded for measures to promote inter-regional harmony in Jammu and Kashmir. His formula for Regional Autonomy was accepted by Pandit Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah who jointly announced it at a press conference in July 1952. He enjoyed the confidence and goodwill of both of them even after the dismissal and detention of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 and tried to reduce their differences inch by inch. He arranged their first meeting in May 1964. However, the final agreement between them was aborted due to sudden death of Pandit Nehru, according to his daughter Ellora Puri.
Puri was also associated with the committee for recovery of Holy Relic which was mysteriously removed from the sacred Shrine of Hazaratbal, Srinagar, in 1963-64. It was on his suggestion, Pandit Nehru had sent Lal Bahadur Shastri to Srinagar to handle the sensitive situation, she pointed out.
Puri attended J&K State Peoples’ Conference in Srinagar in 1968 as the sole representative from Jammu on its steering committee. It unanimously adopted a five-tier internal constitution for continued…