K D Maini
Poonch withstood a siege by the Pakistanis from November 1947 till relieved by the Indian Army. Poonch Linkup Day marks the historic link up carried by Brigadier Pritam Singh’s forces in association with Brigadier Yadunath’s forces from Rajouri at Danna Ka Pir on 21 November 1948. Now, it has become an annual feature, where in tributes are paid to soldiers and people who laid their lives while defending Poonch from Pakistani soldiers.
However, the Battle of Poonch did not end in 1948, but continues even today. After ceasefire of 1st January 1949 and conversion of ceasefire line into Line of Control in 1972, Pakistan again and again sets her eyes on capturing Poonch town and continuously targets Poonch town and its surrounding villages by shelling and firing across the LoC.
During 1965 Indo-Pak war Pakistan inducted infiltrators via Sona Gali Mendhar and Copra Gali Sawjjian to cut off Poonch Town from rest of the country by road. However the Indian forced not only compelled infiltrators to retreat but Poonch and Uri Brigade launched a fateful operation from both sides, captured Uri Poonch bulge comprising of 538 Sq km areas,seven villages like Chanjal, Kahuta, Rankri, Aliabadh, Neza Pir, Bibdori and Hajipir(86000 ft) and opened 49kms Uri Poonch Road. During this battle the students of Poonch College lifted ammunition from base to last posts to help and encourage the Army. Unfortunately after Tashkant Pact of 10th January 1965, these areas were returned to Pakistan.
During 1971 war, Pakistan again tried to capture Poonch town.On very first day that is on 3rd December 1971, Pakistan launched an attack of one division force under the command of Major General Akbar Khan and stormed all Indian posts surrounding Poonch Town but Brigadier Nato had made impregnable defense of Poonch and defended every posts and every inch of mother land around Poonch town. Therefore after fierce and fateful battle of three days, the attack was repulsed and enemy retreated from all the posts like Chirikote Nallah, the Gate of Poonch, Langur, Bagyal Dara, Dalhan, Kirni, Kasba, Shahpur and Bandichachian around Poonch Town.
In 1989 Pakistan started low intensity conflict under code name of operation TO PAC and foreign militants started militancy related activities inside Poonch while Pakistan shelled from across the LOC. However Indian Army broke the backbone of militants by capturing Hill Kaka the headquarter of Pir Panchal regiment of Pakistan. Then Pakistan was compelled to offer unilateral ceasefire on LOC on 26 November 2003 which remained effective for about 10 years. After 2013 Pakistan again started shelling and firing on the LOC.
The LOC around Poonch town remained very hot during last 10 years due to shelling and firing from Pakistan. No doubt Indian army gives befitting and appropriate reply to enemy on every post but the enemy is not only targeting army area but also the civilian habitations and villages around Poonch town. A number of times shells dropped in the periphery of Poonch Town. The natives always remain under the threat of enemy shelling and firing. This scenario results in loss of lives, damages of houses, perishing of cattle, destruction of standing crops and disruption of normal life which creates miseries, pain, harassment and uncertainty among natives living near the LOC.
No doubt the civil administration provides relief to effected families, but natives of vulnerable habitations need day to day help and cooperation to heal their wounds of shelling and firing. In this hour of crisis 93 Infantry Brigade under the command of people friendly Brigadier Puneet Doval is making all efforts to help needy peoples. On the other hand the natives of border areas always cooperate with defense forces as and when their services are needed.From Army side the need base schemes and programmes under Sadbhawana have been implemented to provide assistance to needy people.
Gagrian Sawjjian is a remote place located exactly near the LOC in Mandi Tehsil where 45 percent tribal and Kashmiri speaking people live below the poverty line. For quality education to their children, 93 infantry Brigade have established Army Goodwill School with all modern facilities. Mohd. Bashir Sarpanch Gagrian told that 223 students are undergoing education in this school. Free books and stationary is provided to them. Apart from regular education, computer, library, laboratory and sport facilities are available in this school which have changed the life of students of poor families.
Prominent people of Sawjjian Ghulam Mohd Malik while appreciating the role of Army for helpful attitude towards public said that majority of unemployed and under educated youths are engaged by defense forces for labour oriented jobs due to which the economic conditions of the poor families have improved. Similarly Jaan Begum Sarpanch Chool told that 28 youth(both male and female) are undergoing computer training in their area which shall be helpful for them to get employment.
The army is also arranging pre recruitment training courses for unemployed youths. This year 50candidates of village Degwar, Dalhan, Bagyaldara and Seklu have been provided 28 days training and made them fit for army service. So for five candidates have been selected in regular Army. Sh. Mohd. Safia of Dalhan was very happy by informing that his son Mohd. Mushtaq has recently been selected in army and their life has changed for better.
Medical and veterinary camps are regularly organized in border villages. This year such camps are organized in the village Sokar, Bagyaldara, Kouslian, Poonch, Kasba and Degwar. S. Parvinder Singh Serpnach of Degwar told that one Medical cum veterinary camp was organized in his panchayat near D -Pad in which about 130 patients were treated and 70 animals were also checkedup by veterinary Doctors. These camps are very beneficial for tribal and economically backward families.
Inspite of the fact that Pakistan is keeping the pot boiling on the LOC, particularly in Poonch sector where almost daily incidents of shelling and cross firing in civilian areas happen. But our forces under the command of Brigadier Puneet Doval and Deputy Commander Col. Vikram Singh Birdi are not only giving befitting reply to enemy’s shelling and firing but also work for the overall development of the people residing near the Line of Control. The officers in the field are regularly mixing and meeting with pubic to know their problems and take all measures to help them. There is no alienation between army and Awam as desired by the enemy. The nationalist and patriotic people of this area always remain helpful and cooperate with Army upto last post and last bunker. This cooperation between army and Awam have created very congenial and cordial atmosphere near the Line of Control which is a healthy sign for the Nation.
K D Maini