Schooled in Ganderbal periphery during the peak of strife, Jitender Kumar left his college midway as the family decided to migrate in 1998. He graduated, skipped law graduation and made abortive bid to get a job. Finally he ended up owning Muthi’s newest diagnostic centre, reports R S Gull
His career has twisted and turned in such a way that Jitin Bhat is unsure of his existence in Muthi, a Jammu periphery that is now home to hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit families. “It is a new environment with new responsibilities,” Bhat says. “It took some time to acclimatize and I think there is a stability factor now.”
Jatinder is a proud resident of Ganderbal’s Lar periphery. He is the elder of the three siblings of a retired PDD employee Omkar Nath Bhat who passed away a few years back after his retirement in 2004. “We were part of the Pandit population in the belt that did not migrate,” Bhat says. “At the peak of militancy, I studied in the state run schools in my belt and would even travel to Srinagar for higher classes.”
Militancy, Bhat says was a phenomenon that did not impact him in any other way than it hit others – cordon and search, closure of schools, strikes, lack of better tuition centres and other related things. “There was nothing very specific that I can mention which happened to me till we were in Kashmir,” Bhat asserts. But situation impacted him in the most crucial years of his career. He was in twelfth standard and was keen to compete for medical but there were no improved tuition centres. He sat in the examination but could not make it. He then continued his graduation in science subjects. He initially enrolled himself in Islamia College of Science and Commerce at Hawal and then he migrated to Gandhi College.
When Wandhama massacre took place, he was in the final year. On the night intervening January 25 and 26, 1998, 23 Kashmiri Pandits were massacred that triggered a crisis within the Pandits who had not migrated.
“I visited Wandhama and it was brutal,” Bhat remembers. “I still can not forget the scene of that heap of corpses including many children.” This massacre forced a rethink on the community and they decided they should leave. “The government offered us accommodation and all facilities to stay back,” Bhat says. “But there was nobody in the community who would listen to the assurances.”
On February 10, almost a fortnight after the massacre, around 20 families left the home after ages. There were families from Wusan, Baramulla and other places. Bhat’s was the only family that migrated from Ganderbal. They hired a truck from Jammu and left at around 4 am. They reached Jammu slightly past 5 pm and their first stop was Geeta Bhawan. For the next more than a fortnight, a room in the Bhawan was their home till they contacted their relatives for guidance and help. Finally the family shifted to Parkhu where the government allotted them a room.
As the family started struggling in a new situation, Jatin’s sister got a government school teacher’s job and his brother became a cop. “Mine was a different situation,” Bhat says. “I wanted some college to admit me but everybody refused saying they had completed their syllabus. Finally, I gave an undertaking that I will be personally responsible for my results and they permitted me to sit in the examination. I secured 59%.”
Bhat joined NIT Jammu for an 18 month diploma course. Tried to find job, he failed. Then he joined Jammu University’s Law Department. He could not complete bachelors in law but became an activist for some time.
Married and under pressure, he was hunting for avenues and then somebody informed him about the launch of SKEWPY. He visited J&KEDI, filled the forms and waited. After nearly three months, he got a call for training.
“It was completely a new environment and all of a sudden I became a student again,” Bhat says. “I was inquisitive and argumentative and finally the training was over.” The motivation, he says, re-energized him and he finally surrendered before the fate, gave a good bye to his efforts of getting a job and decided to become an entrepreneur.
“DPR of my project – Om Sai Health Care Centre, was Rs 10 lakh and it included my modest contribution of Rs 50, 000,” Bhat says. “I started in rented premises and most of the funds were spent for acquiring machines – X-ray machine and many clinical and pathological investigation tools, analyzer, and ovens.” It took some more time for him to get the drug license for starting a store in the premises.