I was not amused when a friend from an old Kashmiri Hindu family made an interesting revelation recently. He was told by an old woman of a distinguished clan of Kashmiri Hindus that there was grave of a Kashmiri Hindu in Delhi. Age had not taken toll of her memory. She was not wrong. She had grown up hearing this story and belonged to a family that was once very powerful in corridors of power.
Who was this Kashmiri Pandit?
It could have made a juicy gossip in Whatsapp forwards but luckily Prof. Hari Ram Gupta, a distinguished historian had done his homework well. He left no room for speculation.
The grave at Lal Bagh near Azadpur on Delhi-Panipat road is that of Mohan Lal Zutshi Kashmiri alias Agha Hasan Jan Kashmiri.
Mohan Lal Zutshi was scion of a distinguished clan of Kashmiri Hindus that had settled in Bazar Sita Ram in Delhi during Mughal period.
Mohan Lal lived for 65 years from 1812 to 1877 but his role in first half of 19th century in shaping historical events makes him a fascinating personage.
He was a diplomat, a super spy and a great historian.
He was extremely handsome and married 17 times. Many of his marriages were outcome of sheer compulsions of reaching inner circles of Britishers’ adversaries. He also married in royal families of Afghanistan and Iran.
Mohan Lal mastered Urdu and Persian and enrolled himself in Delhi College in 1829 for learning English. Possibly, he was the first Kashmiri to learn English.
Mohan Lal was employed as the Persian Secretary by Britishers but through sheer talent he played a role that far outstripped his qualifications.
He converted to Islam in Iran and took on the new name of Agha Hassan Jan.
Kashmiri Hindu community in Delhi resented it and excommunicated him from community. They never talked about it.
Mohan Lal married Hyderi Begum, daughter of a Nawab, in 1857 during turmoil.This was his last marriage. He helped many Muslim families in getting immunity from reprisals by the British.
He and his wife Hyderi Begum lie buried in Lal Bagh near Azadpur.
Unfortunately, diaries maintained by Mohan Lal and Hyderi Begum were lost.
Mohan Lal was survived by 5 widows and many descendants.His descendants are spread across the subcontinent.
Mohan Lal’s brother Kedar Nath served as a Collector.
The author, Ramesh Tamiri, is a scholar and author, who writes extensively on Kashmir History and Culture.