A Tale of two ignored (Neglected) Cities

Not of those mentioned in the great novel by Charles Dickens, rather I m sure he would not have even heard the name of these two cities in his life time.
The two cities I m going to talk about are the two most neglected twin cities cum districts of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Rajouri and Poonch, at times they sound as synonyms for each other. In fact people outside state took it as one city.
From the time these cities came into existence they have suffered in the hands of its rulers be it Muslims, Dogras or now the democratic elected government. Apathy by its rulers has been one constant factor. But inspite of that, these districts have withstand the tests of time and have flourished.
Rajouri was a joint district, along with Reasi, at the time of princely state’s accession to India in 1947. The two tehsils were separated and Rajouri was merged with the Poonch district. Rajouri again became a separate district in 1968.
The famous river Tawi originates from the mountains of Pir Panjal. Though Urdu and English are the main mediums of instruction, the other dialects such as Gujri, Pahari and Dogri are much spoken at the informal level.
The population is officially divided along the religious lines – though religiously diverse masses normally live in peace and harmony.
According to the 2011 census Rajouri district has a population of 642,415.This gives it a ranking of 518th in India (out of a total of 640).The district has a population density of 235 inhabitants per square kilometre (610/sq mi).Its population growth rate over the decade 2001–2011 was 28.14%.Rajouri has a sex ratio of 863 females for every 1000 males.
The religious proportions, according to the 2011 census were, 62.71% Muslim, 34.54% Hindu; 2.41% Sikhs and others.
Rajouri has an average literacy rate of 77%, higher than the national average of 75.5%: male literacy was 83% and female literacy was 68%.

Ancient History of Rajouri.
Rajouri district was a region of immense significance in ancient times. The Mahabharata has references to a kingdom known as Panchalya Desha, whose king was Panchal Naresh, and whose daughter Draupadi was married to the Pandavas. Historians identify Panchalya Desha as the area in the Panchal range of mountains. Rajouri was also a part of this kingdom of Panchal Naresh. The region was then known as Rajapuri – ‘the land of Kings’. It finds its mention in the travel account of Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang who visited the town in 632 B.C.E. and described it as a part of Kashmiri territory. Still earlier in the Buddhist period, Rajouri formed a part of Gandhara territory (Afghanistan, Gandhar and Tashkent) and later was incorporated in the province called Darabhisanga which comprised the hilly stretch from Poonch to Kashmir. In those days Laharkote in Poonch district and Rajouri had emerged as two influential states of the area.
According to some historians, a second branch of Aryan emigrants crossed the Himalayas in the north and west and settled in Rajouri and Poonch area. Rajouri, BhimberGali and Naushera were integrated within the territory of Abhisar, which was one of the hill states of the Punjab Kingdom. Early records of incomplete nature show that in the 4th century B.C.E., there existed in the north west of India a federal type of political set up in which Abhisar with its capital Rajouri was also incorporated. At the time of Alexander’s invasion, Rajouri was at the summit of its splendour. In the Mauryan period, the town of Rajouri was a great trade centre.

Medieval History.

During the Mughal rule, the rulers of Rajouri converted to Islam though they retained the title of Raja. Albaruni visited Rajouri with Sultan Masud (Son of Sultan Mahmud) in 1036 C.E. In his book “India” he wrote name of Rajouri as Raja Vari. Srivar, the writer of ‘Raj Tirangini’ written during the administration of Sultan Zain-Ul-Abdin, also named this area as Raja Vari. It is believed that Raja Vari is a variant of Rajapuri. Mirza Zafarulla Khan, the writer of ‘Tarikh Rajgan-E-Rajour’ illustrated in his book that this place was in the beginning known as Raj-Avar and then altered from Rajour to Rajouri. But the old people in the villages still label the place as Rajour. With the course of time the name changed from Raja’s Raj Avar to Raja Puri, Rajpuri to Raj Vari, Raj Vari to Raj Vara, Raj Vara to Raj Avar, Raj Avar to Rajour and then Rajour to Rajouri. As per Rajtirangini of Kalhan, Rajouri emerged as principality in about 1003 C.E. The first ruler of this kingdom was Raja Prithvi Paul. From 1033 to 1194 C.E. Raja Prithvi Paul defended Pir Panchal Pass at the time of incursion of Sultan Mehmud in 1021 C.E. Raja Sangram Paul safeguarded his Principality Rajouri when Raja Harash of Kashmir attacked his country in 1089 A.D. Sangram Paul fought so courageously that Raja Harash was obliged to return from Prithvi Paul fort without capturing Rajouri. Jaral Muslim Rajas rebuilt Rajouri city at the time of their rule. A number of forts, sarais, mosques and baradaris were constructed.

Modern History

In 1813, Gulab Singh of Jammu captured Rajouri for the Sikh Empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, by defeating Raja Agar Ullah Khan.After this, Rajouri became part of the Sikh Empre. But parts of it were given as jagirs to Rahim Ullah Khan (a half-brother of Agar Ullah Khan) and other parts to Gulab Singh.
Following the First Anglo-Sikh War and the Treaty of Amritsar (1846), all the territories between the Ravi River and the Indus were transferred to Gulab Singh, and he was recognised as an independent Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Thus Rajouri became a part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Gulab Singh changed the name of Rajouri to Rampur. He appointed Mian Hathu as Governor of Rajouri, who remained in Rajouri up to 1856. Mian Hathu constructed a stunning temple in between Thanna Nallah in close proximity to Rajouri city. He also built Rajouri Fort at Dhannidhar village.

After Mian Hathu, Rajouri was transformed into a tehsil and affiliated with Bhimber district.
In 1904, this tehsil was separated from Bhimber and affiliated with the Reasi district.
After the Partition of India and the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India in October 1947, there followed the First Kashmir War between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani raiders, along with the rebels and deserters from the western districts of the state, captured Rajauri on 7 November 1947. The 30,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in Rajauri were reportedly killed, wounded or abducted.
Rajouri witnessed some of the toughest fighting during Pakistani intervention in Kashmir during Operation Gibraltar. The town was initially captured from the Indian Army by undercover Pakistani commandos with the aid of local Mujahideen but the wider operation failed and, with all-out war with India looming, Pakistan withdrew its troops. Major Malik Munawar Khan Awan, a Pakistani commando officer who led the attack on Rajouri on the night of 15 September 1965, was later entitled with the name “King of Rajouri” by the Government of Pakistan.
Rajauri was recaptured on 12 April 1948 by the 19 Infantry Brigade of the Indian Army under the command of Second Lieutenant Rama Raghoba Rane. Rane, despite being wounded, launched a bold tank assault by conveying the tanks over the Tawi river bed in order to avoid the road blocks along the main road.When the Indian Army entered the town, the captors had fled, having destroyed most of the town and killing all its inhabitants. After the arrival of the Army, some 1,500 refugees that had fled to the hills, including women and children, returned to the town.

The ceasefire line at the end of the War ran to the west of the Rajouri-Reasi district .after the war, the Rajouri and Reasi tehsils were separated. The Rajouri tehsil was merged with the Indian-administered Poonch district to form the Poonch-Rajouri district.
The Reasi tehsil was merged with the Udhampur district.

On 1 January 1968, the two districts were separated and the resulting district was named the Rajouri district.

The Reasi tehsil was also separated out in 2006 into a separate Reasi district.
The present Rajouri district comprises the 1947 Rajouri tehsil.

The district headquarter is located at Rajouri town, which is 154 Kms. away from Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu & Kashmir. It’s elevation from sea level is 915 m (3,002 ft).
The district is divided into thirteen Tehsils and Ninteen blocks. The administrative set up is as under:

TEHSILS :-
1)RAJOURI
2)NOWSHERA
3)KALAKOTE
4)SUNDERBANI
5)KOTERANKA
6)THANAMANDI
7)DARHAL
8)MANJAKOTE
9)KHAWAS
10)TARYATH 11)QILADARHAL
12)BERI PATTAN
13)SIOT

BLOCKS:-
1)RAJOURI
2)MANJAKOTE
3)DARHAL
4)BUDHAL
5)KALAKOTE
6)SUNDERBANI
7)NOWSHERA
8)THANNAMANDI
9)DOONGI
10)PLANGER
11)LAMBERI 12)QILA DARHAL
13)DHANGRI
14)SIOT
15)SERI
16)BUDHAL
17)KHAWAS
18)MOGHLA
19)PANJGRAIN

SUB-DIVISIONS:-
1)NOWSHERA
2)SUNDERBANI
3)THANAMANDI
4)KOTRANKA
5)KALAKOTE

 

ASSEMBLY CONSTITUENCIES:-
81-NOWSHERA
82-DARHAL
83-RAJOURI
84-KALAKOTE

 

PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCY:-
PART OF 6 JAMMU-POONCH PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCY

MILITANCY, INSURGENCY & RESPONSE: Having failed in its two earlier attempts in 1947 and 1965, and drawing lessons from its experience, Pakistan renewed its attempts with changed strategies in the mid-Eighties. Instead of using armed men from outside the State to infiltrate and create disturbances, this time efforts were concentrated on misleading the Muslim youth of the state to spawn internal disturbances and militancy. According to Pakistan’s plans, this was to be followed by active involvement of its Army under a well-conceived plan, Operation Topac12. Although the groundwork of misleading the youth and appealing to the Islamic sentiments of the local population, and the creation of cells of activists and sympathisers started well in advance, the visible manifestations of this sinister design surfaced pointedly and unmistakably in 1989.

During that year a number of targeted killings of National Conference activists and important members of the minority Kashmiri Pandit community were carried out in the Valley. The latter included Tika Lal Taploo, State Vice-President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), N K Ganjoo, Retired Sessions Judge who had presided over the trial of Mohammad Maqbool Butt, and Prem Nath Bhat, a leading advocate of Anantnag. During the first seven months of 1990, 89 members of the minority (Hindu) community were killed. This resulted in a large scale migration of Kashmiri Pandits out of the Valley. Simultaneously, ISI operators and sympathisers whipped up pro-independence sentiments to frenzied heights. Hundred of Muslim youth were motivated, cajoled, bribed and threatened to cross over to PoK and Pakistan, to receive arms training and to return as militants.
As part of the over-all plan, similar efforts, though on a lesser scale, were made in Rajouri-Poonch districts with a view to enlarge the arc of operations, as also to strike deep in the south of the Pir Panjal in order to open up an enveloping second front.

In the initial phase, the people who masterminded and controlled terrorist activities in the state primarily concentrated on the Valley, with the developments in Rajouri-Poonch relegated to a supporting role. All activities which were carried out in and for the Valley were also repeated, at a reduced scale, in this area. Motivators were identified and activated, cells of volunteers and sympathisers were created and persons taken to PoK for armed training. During the winter of 1989-90, over 100 youth from villages of the Mendhar-Surankote-Poonch belt crossed over into PoK for training. The process of their return from training camps, along with arms, ammunition and explosives, started in January, 1990. On January 26, 1990, a blast took place in Surankote and, for the first time, some black flags found place on poles and tree tops. The beginnings of militant activities in Rajouri-Poonch coincided with the escalation of terrorist activities in the Valley. But the limited number of trained militants, a better vigil on the border by security forces and efficacy of the police and civil administration forced the extremists, who by now had a separate Area Commander for this region, to lie low and concentrate more on organisational work rather than overt activities. However, the local population could not remain indifferent to the presence of these elements. Minorities and persons of known secular views had started feeling apprehensive.

These, then, were the ground conditions when a post of Special Commissioner and Special Deputy Inspector General of Police, with Headquarters at Rajouri, was created by the State Government for these two districts. Their task was to ensure effective coordination with the security forces with a view to ensure optimum utilisation of the resources available for anti-militancy operations and to maintain peace and public order. The Special Commissioner was also required to give an impetus to the developmental efforts in the region, and to make local administration effective and responsive to the needs of the people so as to wean them away from the influence of the anti-national elements. The two officers assumed duties in the month of April 1990.

This was the time when militant activity was almost at its peak in the Valley, and its spill-over was expected to manifest itself in this areas as well.
Public support is of great significance in insurgent movements. Mass support among the local population is essential to offset the advantage of the authorities by virtue of their control of the military and administrative.
The counter-militancy strategy adopted in Rajouri-Poonch districts by the combined efforts of the state administration and security forces aimed, on the one hand, at eliminating armed militancy and, on the other, at winning local populations through development activities. The latter, implemented at a considerably accelerated phase, worked as a force-multiplier to the anti-militancy measures.

Coordination between various agencies engaged in executing this two pronged strategy was institutionalised instead of leaving it solely to the inter-personal relationship between individual senior officers. Coordination Committees were set up in the month of May 1990 at the regional and district levels by the office of the Special Commissioner. The apex body consisted of the General Officer Commanding, Special Commissioner, Special DIG Police and DIG, Border Security Force (BSF), Rajouri Sector. At the district level district Coordination Committees were set up with the Deputy Commissioner (DC) as the Chairman and the district Superintendent of Police (SP) as well as Army and BSF representatives as members. These Committees met on an ‘as required’ basis, but at least once a month. The experiment proved of immense value, as all outstanding issues were sorted out in such meetings.

the law and order machinery, the tehsils (Administrative sub-divisions) and the agencies provided critical two-way contact points between the common man and security agencies, and were used extensively by both. For example, even though the army and BSF had been delegated with powers of search and seizure in the border belt, all searches by these forces were made with the help of the police. This measure reassured the local population. Also, as a gesture of goodwill, members of the families of confirmed or suspected militants were left free to lead a normal life.

Despite Pakistani efforts to fan militancy, the local population, by and large, was not hostile. The armed forces had, over decades of their presence, created a fund of goodwill among the locals.
However, by the beginning of 1990, the mood of the public was apprehensive and sullen as exaggerated reports and rumours about the happening in the Valley started circulating. The process of winning their confidence had to be taken in hand almost all over again.

One of the basic reasons for disaffection and worry amongst the local population is normally the lack of information about the whereabouts of person(s) picked up in connection with a case or for questioning. In the absence of such information, the worst is suspected by relatives and neighbours. A certain amount of openness was introduced in such cases. Whenever a person was apprehended, for whatever reasons, his whereabouts were made known to the relations and, as soon as possible, an opportunity given to meet him. This one measure alone went a long way in securing the confidence of the locals.

All efforts were made to ensure that no excesses were committed on any member of the public. Whenever a complaint of harassment was made by the locals, it was investigated by the civil administration and the officers of the concerned organisation. If found that a particular person had exceeded his authority, effective action was taken against him in each and every case and it was ensured that such action was also seen to have been taken. Thus the promise that no harassment would be caused to the local population was translated into the common practice and earned renewed respect for the security forces.

The redressal of grievances was another area where conscious and concerted efforts were made by the senior officers of the government. In addition to the usual methods of monitoring of applications, extensive touring by the officers sought to improve the efficacy of this process.

The experience in Rajouri-Poonch had been that the local police station [thana] was one of the most important elements in anti-terrorist operations. Normally, in such a scenario, the predominance of security forces – both the army and para-military forces – is such that the local police is invariably relegated to the role of a poor and distant cousin.
In Rajouri-Poonch, however, it was a firmly held belief that a properly trained, equipped and motivated local police combines the role of intelligence and security forces very effectively. A great deal of effort, consequently, went into the task of making the thana more effective. Training of personnel, and upgradation of equipment, transport and weaponry, as well as the maintenance of morale and motivation at the thana level received due attention. A system of rewards and punishments was instituted. The advantage of these measures was eventually and amply demonstrated.

Important developmental projects were regularly monitored at the level of the Special Commissioner and DCs. The pace of development was accelerated and more funds released from the state Government, while measures were simultaneously taken to ensure that the money was utilised in a productive manner. Special emphasis was laid on completion and execution of short-term schemes so that their impact was perceptibly felt by the local population within a short span of time. Significant impetus was given to sericulture and horticulture based activities for which the agro-climatic conditions of the area are ideally suited.

Educated unemployed youth were normally the most susceptible to the influence of the militants. To keep this segment of the population out of the militant’s reach was a major thrust area for the administration. The recruitment process was, consequently, expedited and efforts made to ensure that the selection of candidates for government jobs was fair and based on merit, subject, of course, to the usual reservations. A determined effort was also made to give a fillip to various self-employment schemes of the Government.

The exertions of the local police and security forces in continuously maintaining pressure and raiding the suspected hide-outs of the militants paid off when three Pak-trained militants were apprehended in the Surankote areas during the first week of May 1990. Another lucky break followed within ten days. Based on information that a group of militants had gone to Bombay to evade arrest and lie low for the time being, a police party was dispatched to Bombay. With the help of local police, this party was able to arrest five trained militants. The police personnel involved in these two operations were quickly rewarded.

But even as things appeared to be going well for the administration, the militants struck. In a well timed and calculated act, they looted and killed a Hindu trader in a village in the Mendhar valley. The intention behind this crime appeared to be to terrorise the local minority population and provoke their migration from the area, with the expectation that once such a trickle began in one area, it could easily develop into a regular stream as people from other areas panicked and followed suit. In addition, if security forces reacted excessively, some of the local Muslims could be motivated to cross the border to the training camps in Pakistan. It was a sinister move. But quick and concerted action by security forces and the administration in providing and assuring adequate protection to the minorities as well as the absence of harassment of the local population defeated these designs. With the arrest of the main accused from Rajouri within a fortnight, apprehensions of a fallout of this unfortunate incident came to an end.
As a result of a constant vigil and coordinated action by all agencies, the use of this border by Kashmiri militants received a severe set- back when, in mid-July 1990, 33 militants were killed and 10 captured in an encounter with security forces.
As early as mid-May 1990, when the process of arrests of militants had started, the civil administration and security forces started getting feelers that some misguided youth would be willing to surrender before the authorities and lay down their arms if assured of decent treatment. on August 2, a group of 5 Pakistan-trained militants, along with arms and ammunition, surrendered at Surankote police station. These were the first ever surrenders in the ongoing militancy, and they set a trend which later picked up in the Kashmir Valley as well.

In addition to purposeful surveillance on the borders by conventional methods, such as establishing Border Posts, coupled with laying of ambushes and effective patrolling, a multi-tiered, in-depth grid system of deployment was put into operation. The positive as well as preventive results of this co-ordinated deployment and monitoring were very encouraging.
The cumulative effect of all these measures in the Rajouri-Poonch districts during 1990 and 1991 produced positive results. The effective deployment of the army on the border coupled with the security grid established in the rear areas, close coordination effected between various government agencies, a fillip to developmental activities and the redressal of public grievances proved very effective responses to the efforts of the ISI-backed elements. This was achieved at a time when militancy and disturbed conditions were peaking in the adjoining Kashmir Valley. With the Valley in persistent turmoil, and sporadic but constant efforts by the ISI and its agents to disturb conditions in other parts of Jammu Division, it was imperative that there was no let up in Rajouri-Poonch and there was calm.
The twin districts have a history of rivalry and confrontation between two major castes I.e. Muslims and Hindus and hence there is always a communal charged atmosphere looming over these two districts but The sustained exertions of the security forces, state Police and the administration had a salutary impact in the Rajouri-Poonch districts, and kept emerging trouble-makers effectively in check. Consequently, apart from minor and unrelated incidents, no major militancy-related problems were created in this area till the Parliamentary and State Assembly elections had been conducted in May and September 1996, respectively.

Before and during the Parliamentary and Assembly elections, Pakistan, since it had failed on the ground, stepped up its media efforts to the maximum in order to run down, denigrate and, if possible, subvert the electoral process in the State. The peaceful conduct of elections, coupled with the very enthusiastic response of the entire population of the state, thwarted all such efforts and gave an unambiguous message to Pakistan that the people of the state were fed up with the militancy and yearned for the return of normalcy.

Having thus failed to disrupt or at least put a mark of doubt on the electoral process or the legitimacy of the democratically elected government, the next logical course for the ISI was to increase militant activity to the greatest extent possible in order to discredit the popular government. This they attempted in all militancy effected areas, but especially in the Rajouri-Poonch sector where such efforts met with greater success than ever before.

There were a number of reasons for their renewed exertions in this area where their operatives had failed earlier. Just after the elections, the thinning of security forces deployment, especially from the interior areas where these were deployed only for election duties, had taken place, leaving large gaps in the security cover. The successful conduct of elections had also given rise to an all-round euphoria, and there was a general relaxation, indeed, an air of complacency, everywhere. This was compounded by the reduced level of coordination between the civil administration and the security forces. Moreover, due to certain political and administrative developments, the polarisation between gujjars and non-gujjar muslims, as well as between gujjars themselves, had become sharper.

By the beginning of March 1997, the escalation in militancy-related activities in Rajouri-Poonch was visible, as a local daily from Jammu observed, “there are disturbing reports of accelerated militant activity in the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch. The fast developing situation in these districts has security and politico-economic dimensions.

Two most disturbing developments took place in Rajouri during September 1997. In a significant departure from their usual hit-and-run tactics, in an emphatic display of defiance, the militants directly engaged with army positions around Thanamandi by occupying the heights of Rattan Pir hills. They used a wide range of arms, including mortars. It took the army seven days of sustained efforts to clear the area. In the resulting encounters over a score of militants were killed, while the army lost one Major, one JCO and a jawan.In another gruesome incident the militants struck in a big way in Swari village of Budhal tehsil of Rajouri, killing eight persons from the Hindu community, and wounding another four.

The activities of the militants showed a similar trend in Poonch as well. They were particularly active in the Surankote area, where foreign mercenaries specially targeted police stations, in addition to unarmed civilians, with increased intensity. By October-end, the General Officer-Commanding (GOC) of the Rajouri-Poonch sector told newspersons, “Pakistan has launched the third stage of Operation TOPAC – the militants have fanned into the twin border districts. This exercise was aimed at increasing the domain of their operation.

The IGP, Jammu, added further (in a press conference in January 1998), that the state police and security forces had killed 102 militants in the Rajouri-Poonch districts during 1997, out of 182 for the entire Jammu region, in 118 encounters. It was also highlighted that the encounters in Poonch increased to 65 as compared to 22 during 1996. A similar trend was noticeable in Rajouri. However, the IGP ascribed increased clashes with the militants to the initiative of the security forces and police.

Despite the increased activity by the security forces and the local police, the trends in militancy did not significantly decelerate. The militants remained particularly active in the Surankote area of Poonch district and Budhal tehsil of Rajouri.
But with time, strict vigilance, education, better job opportunities, better life style and thanks to media in general and social media in particular, the so called leaders of this freedom movement are being exposed on daily basis and as a result,
The mood of the people, as has repeatedly been demonstrated over the last few years, is decidedly in favour of peace and a complete return of normalcy. The drive against the militants and anti national elements must now enter a decisive phase with bold and imaginative initiatives and countermeasures. We must strive to roll back and systematically destroy the forces that have been threatening the stability of the state and integrity of the nation. It is imperative that success is achieved early so as to enable the nationalist forces to completely reassert their efficacy and herald the end of the turmoil and the misery that has been inflicted upon the people of the state by the militants and their mentors across the border.
With the opening of Mogul Road the connectivity of the twin districts with the people of Kashmir increased but it also brought with it the challenges of drug menace, increase in number of theft cases and above all The Kashmiri ideology of hatred against the minorities and the nation.
there has been silent migration of Hindu from all the villages as a result almost all villages bearing a few are now having hundred percent Muslim population.
Hindus are now left only to town of the Rajouri, Subderbani, Nowshera and Kalakote.
If the tentacles of the separatist ideology and bitch called “KASHMIRAYAT” are not checked in time in these twin districts, another migration of Hindu like the one we saw in kashmir of the Kashmiri Hindus is on card.

Notes & References

1.NIC Rajouri
2.Militancy in Rajouri and
Poonch
Sudhir S.Bloeria

2 Comments

  1. I have just finished reading the article you wrote . It was clearly written and thought-provoking article.

    While much has been written on this topic, your article expresses both the positive and negative aspects of the topic.

    I appreciate you for your thorough research and clear writing.

  2. Very well written. Good piece of work done from your end. So much of information in a single article. I Appreciate your hardwork. An article which must be read by all people of Rajouri. Keep up the good work

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