Within the vibrant tapestry of Kashmir's literary landscape, a cadre of poets and writers from the Sikh community has evolved with their voices resonating with themes of socio-political progress and contributions to peace and prosperity.
These literary luminaries not only safeguard the rich cultural heritage of the region through their written words but also serve as bridges between different communities.
Ajeet Singh Mastana, the President of J&K Punjabi Sahit Sabha and the patron of its bi-annual Punjabi magazine 'Himal,' discovered his passion for poetry and literature during his childhood.
Hailing from the Chanapora area of Srinagar, Ajeet Singh has spent the past decade honing his literary craft, authoring books that have garnered acclaim from readers in Kashmir, Punjab, and across the country.
Ajeet Singh, a retired engineer who spent his formative years in Bawa Kunzer village in Baramulla, achieved recognition when his first book, 'Kaiser Chatta,' published in 1994, received the prestigious Best Book Award from the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture, and Languages. Subsequent works like 'Jhelum Kanday,' 'Awala Zukham,' and other books on Punjabi language, culture, and Kashmiri poetry followed the suit.
Retiring as an Assistant Executive Engineer in 2005, Ajeet Mastana dedicated the majority of his time to the world of poetry and literature. The core focus of his literary endeavors revolves around themes of peace, Kashmiriyat, and fostering brotherhood between communities.
Ajeet emphasizes the pivotal role played by Punjabi writers in shaping Kashmir's cultural fabric, shedding light on political developments through their books and poetry.
He also notes the emergence of a younger generation of writers dedicated to preserving and promoting their cultural heritage.
"Literature serves as the most potent medium for promoting peace and brotherhood, a pressing need of our times. Our organization actively engages with over 50 poets, novelists, and writers from regions including Baramulla, Srinagar, Kupwara, Pulwama, and more," Ajeet Singh Mastana said.
Highlighting the rich legacy of Sikh literature in Kashmir, which spans four centuries, Mastana underscores the profound differences between Punjabi and Kashmiri culture, encompassing aspects such as food, dance, clothing, and more.
He also paid rich tribute to pioneers like Fazil Kashmiri, who translated Shri Sukhmani Sahib Ji into the Kashmiri language, and Assadullah Asad, who translated the Holy Scripture Japji Sahib, both of which received widespread acclaim from the Sikh community.
Ajeet's current project involves translating 'Heemal' and 'Nagrai' – the crown jewels of Kashmiri folk tales – into Punjabi poetry, preserving and retelling these cherished narratives for a wider audience.
He affirms his commitment to continue working for the people, allowing them to express their ideas and experiences through the written word.
Ratan Singh Kawal Pahalgami, presently the editor of the Punjabi magazine 'Heemal,' the oldest publication of the Sikh community in the region, harbored a passion for poetry, literature, and writing since his youth.
Born and raised in Check Sungsoo village in south Kashmir's Pahalgam area, Pahalgami completed his post-graduation at Patiala University and embarked on a career as a teacher in the School Education Department.
Transitioning from poetry to prose, Pahalgami later focused on short stories and has since authored 5-6 books. His notable works include 'Kanwari Darti Ki Mehk,' 'Kandi Ute Rukhra,' 'Pate Patthar Ke,' 'Wehde Di Mitti,' 'Lidder Kandeh Hoyan Beetiyan,' 'Samkaleen Punjabi Sahitikha (Jammu Kashmir Kheter),' and 'Dard Chinaroon Ka (Hindi Short Stories).'
Additionally, he is in the process of completing two novels, 'Pagal' and 'Chinar Ki Betee,' along with a third in Urdu, 'Ujde Lamhoo Hi Khetiyan.'
Pahalgami's writings delve into various aspects, ranging from the socio-economic conditions of Sikhs in Kashmir to political issues and unemployment. He looks forward to the publication of his Urdu novel later this year.
R.S. Rajan, a short story writer and poet, retired in 2021 as a Punjabi lecturer from the School Education Department. Currently serving as the General Secretary of J&K Punjabi Sahit Sabha, Rajan hails from Dharamgund village in Tral, Pulwama.
He has authored five short stories, including 'Taja Bhawri,' which received a prestigious award from the J&K government in 2016.
Rajan's journey into literature began during his school days when he started writing articles and short stories for annual magazines. His Punjabi teacher's appreciation marked a turning point in his life.
The central themes of his stories revolve around the life of Sikhs in Kashmir, their challenges, and the importance of communal harmony. His books include 'Hasde Nainan De Sunehe (short stories),' 'Chhat Vehune (Novel),' 'Kee Darti Sukad Ghee Ha,' 'Taja Bawri and Parchanai Nee Marday.'
These books garnered enthusiastic responses and immense praise from various literary circles in Kashmir, including critical acclaim from Kashmiri poetry enthusiasts.
Beyond his role as an author, Rajan actively supports aspiring poets and literary figures while organizing cultural events in various parts of the valley.
He is deeply committed to promoting the use and preservation of the mother tongue, conducting seminars, and workshops to instill a love for Kashmiri culture and language among the younger generation.
In his message to budding poets, Rajan underscores the importance of delving into literature to understand its depth and encourages prioritizing the mother tongue as a means to make a significant contribution to society. He emphasizes that success has no shortcuts and calls for diligent effort and dedication.
Jagat Singh, affectionately known as Jaggat Maharaj, resides in Nanar Tral area of Pulwama. This elderly Sikh poet gained popularity when his poetry clips went viral on social media platforms, earning praise for his work.
Jagat Singh's love for poetry dates back to his childhood, and upon retiring from his job, he dedicated a significant portion of his time to composing poems, often touching upon current issues.
He passionately advocates for the promotion of the Kashmiri language, which he describes as sweet and unifying for the people of Kashmir.
In the past year, Jagat Singh's poetry videos addressing the COVID-19 pandemic gained widespread attention on social media.
He expresses his commitment to continue using poetry as a means to address issues facing his village and community, acting as a bridge between his people and the government.
Singh highlights the role of social media in promoting the Kashmiri language, especially in remote areas.
Jaggat Singh urges individuals not to forget their cultural roots, emphasizing the importance of reading and writing about Kashmiri culture and literature. He believes that poets are the true assets of any society, as they reflect and represent the essence of that society.
In conclusion, these Sikh literary figures in Kashmir are not only preserving their rich cultural heritage but also playing a crucial role in fostering understanding, peace, and unity among diverse communities through their writings.