K D Maini
Every year Poonch Brigade in collaboration with the Awam of Poonch celebrates Poonch Utsav (Linkup day) to remember the brave soldiers and local habitants who laid their lives to defend the besieged Poonch town during 1947-48 and fought with enemy under the leadership of an able, courageous and best commander Sardar Pritam Singh of Poonch garrison. This year also a number of functions will be organized in connection with Linkup Day which may include an ex-serviceman rally, fitment of artificial limb camp, and a colourful programme on 22nd November, 2019 like Wreath laying ceremony at Namansthal and army public get together at Natu Stadium Poonch.
After the turmoil of 1947-48 Poonch Brigade proved as the saviors of Poonch. This brigade also fought two wars with Pakistan in this area. In 1965 Poonch and Uri Brigade jointly captured Hajipir and 538 Sq Km area of Uri Poonch Bulge which was unfortunately returned to Pakistan in the light of Tashkant Pact. In 1971 war Pakistan launched a two brigade attack around Poonch town to capture Poonch city on 3rd December 1971. But after two days of fierce fighting, the Poonch brigade repulsed the two brigade attack and enemy was compelled to retreat with heavy causalities. In this war an important feature Nanga Takkeri was also snatched from the enemy. During militancy days before the induction of Romeo force, Poonch brigade not only defended the LoC but also fought militancy within the sector and contained them successfully .
Presently the commander Munish Gupta of Poonch brigade is a very professional and social officer. He and his officers are known for people friendly attitude. Poonch sector is most vulnerable from defense point of view and always remains in news due to repeated violation of LoC by Pakistani forces. During this year, almost every day some forward areas of this sector faced firing and shelling across the border. This firing and shelling also hit the forward Basties, habitations and localities near the LoC which results in loss of life and property of civil population. However the Indian jawans under the command of active commander is not only giving befitting reply to enemy who suffer heavy losses but is also helping the civil population of the border areas. Ex- Sarpanch Shamas Din of Bagyal Dara, Mohd. Ishtiaq of Dalhan and a social worker Ahmed Ali of Mantar Kirni told this author that the Brigade commander always visits their areas, encourages jawans on posts and Awam in the effected localities and Bastis. Due to sympathetic attitude of Army officers, they have full liaison with local people. They also provide medicines to patients, skilled training to their youth, educational facilities to their children, capacity building tours apart from helping in developmental activities. They participate in Eid, Urs and Mela festivals, share the sorrow and joys of the locals and honour their faith and beliefs. By this way a cordial and congenial atmosphere is prevailing in the Basties near the LoC
43 percent population of border villages is living below the poverty line. While 54 percent belongs to schedule caste Gujjar Bakarwal tribes. Their livelihood depends upon agriculture and allied activities. Due to economic backwardness they cannot afford to visit outside from their localities. Therefore Poonch brigade planned a number of capacity building tours for the habitants of the areas locating near the LoC. This year during February 2019 twenty Sapanchs and Ex-Sarpanchs were sent for capacity building tour of Ralegaon Siddi, Hiwara Bazar, Pune, Channi and Pondichery. Zulfkar Chowdary of Bandi Chechain told that for the first time they got a chance for All India tour and interactions with dignitaries like Lt. Governor of Pondichery and visit of agriculture centers and industrial hubs. This tour helped them to know the latest agriculture activity in the country and to see new India.
Almost whole area of the Poonch sector falls within 5km border belt where due to firing and shelling across the border, militancy within area and mine blasts, a number of civilians either get killed or seriously injured and become disabled. For the revival of their life Poonch brigade in collaboration with Pritam Spiritual Trust every year organize artificial fitment camp. Sardar Jagbir Singh, President of Pritam Spiritual Trust says that this year with the active support and help of army, a camp was organized from 14th to 17th November which was inaugurated by Brigade commander Munish Gupta. In this camp 120 disabled persons of 37 border villages were provided mobility items like wheel chairs, walking sticks, hearing aid apart from fitment of artificial limbs. Abdul Shakoor of Degwar village was very happy, after getting the fitment of artificial limb. He has started walking and said that he will be able to walk and keep himself busy in day to day life.
Gagrian-Sawjian, Brari, Arigham, Nehrian and Chaprian villages are located in remote border areas of Mandi Tehsil of Poonch where more than 39 percent population lives below the poverty line and not in a position to provide proper education to their children and they were compelled to send their children to Dokas for grazing cattle. Keeping in view their economic vulnerability Poonch Brigade established Army Goodwill School at Sawjian in 2010 for proper, regular and quality education of the children of families leaving below the poverty line. Mohd Bashir Sarpanch of Sawjian village told that this school has brought revolution among poor students of this remote area. 210 students are presently under going education and getting all modern facilities like sports, library, laboratory and computer with internet. They are also getting books, uniform, stationary free of cost.
Apart from above, pre recruitment training camp for youth skilled development facilities, vocational training centers, sports activities and beneficiaries oriented schemes are being implementing in the border villages by 93 Infantry brigade Poonch. Sarpanch Shamas Din and Mohd Razak resident of village Dalhan by appreciating the efforts of Army told that presently very congenial atmosphere between Army and Awam is prevailing. There is complete liaison between the people of border area and army officers. They are meeting regularly to discuss problem, identifying the need of people and helping them accordingly. They mix with the public as family members. This is the reason that inspite of regular firing and shelling from across the border and loss of life and property they are not vacating their native villages. Due to their goodwill gesture and human face we are feeling ourselves secured and honored.
K D Maini