URI The historical town

K D Mani
Uri, a beautiful town situated on the left bank of Jehlum river is about 23 miles from Baramulla. This township has a glorious past and was known as ‘window of Kashmir’ due to its location. Before partition , Jhelum valley road linking Srinagar with Koh-Mari – Rawalpindi via Muzaffarabad enters into Kashmir valley from this very town. Another important road from Uri leading towards Poonch principality via Haji Pir Pass (8600)’ also branched off from this township. This town 76 miles away from Srinagar, 42 miles from Muzaffarabad and 49 miles from Poonch town. Therefore, Uri was a halting station and transit camp for the passengers and tourists coming from outside to visit Kashmir. Uri was resort for traders who were exporting wild honey, wild mushroom, handmade blankets and walnut to Rawalpindi.
Raja Nazar Boniharvi writes in one of his articles that the original name of Uri was Ouri (Udder of Cow). This name was given by a hermit who had meditated at this very place. With the passage of time the name changed from Ouri to Uri. As per the first settlement report of Uri, before independence Uri was a tehsil of Muzaffarabad district .This Tehsil was separated from Karnah and Muzaffarabad by Daburdun (11553)’ and Qazi Nag (13437)’ hills while Neel Kanth (12330)’ and Haji Pir Pass (8600 feets above the sea level) were bifurcating Uri from Poonch principality.
Uri falls at the last edge of Pir Panchal region which ends at Muzaffarabad. The height of tehsil from sea level varies from 2800 feet to 18300 feet. The average rain fall is 50 inch per year. The climate is pleasant. The original tehsil Uri was spread over 213 Sq Km. Tehsil Uri is located on the right flank of river Jhelum and known as Dachhan Para (i.e. the old Kathai and Duppta Jagirs) while the area on the left flank of Jhelum was known as Khadra Para(i.e.Uri, Kachhali and Chakar). More than 50 percent population belonged to Pahari tribes who were the ruling class from ancient time. The remaining population comprised of Gujjar and Bakarwal tribes apart from some of Kashmiri speaking people.
Maqsood Ahmed, senior producer, Radio Kashmir Srinagar, says that presently Uri is a sub division of Baramulla district and comprises of two tehsils namely tehsil Uri and Bunihar, 21 Panchyats and about 1.50 lacs population while the population of Uri town is about 18000 souls. The area is further divided into four blocks namely block Uri,Chandanwari ,Buniar and Julla . Pahari speaking people are dominating the population of Uri followed by Gujar Bakarwal tribes and Kashmiri speaking people .However majority of Kashmiri speaking people have diluted their Kashmari identity and mixed with Pahari people. There are about three Hundred Brahman families residing in the villages like Lagama, Bandi and Rajarwani. About thirty Sikh families are residing in the village Slamabad near the LOC. In spite of militancy from 1989 to 2003 the Hindu and Sikh minority did not migrate from Uri because the majority Muslim community gave than full protection and there is complete communal harmony among majority and minority people .
There are a number of shrines in Uri .The main Shrine is of Hazarat Pir Gaffor Shah Sahib located in the village Perian .The important Shrines are the zariat of Pir Masoom Shah Gazi in Kamalkote and Zariat of Hazarat Baba Farid in Gharkote . There are some ancient monuments of Pandavas time in Uri like Datta Mandhir in Rajarwani and Pandav Temple in Boniar. There is also a Sikh Shrine known as Gurudwara Chati Padshai in the village Peran Pella across river Jhelum near Lagama.
Uri is known for the biggest walnut market of Kashmir valley .The walnut mandi is established at Lagama .The traders from all over the country assemble at this place for the purchase of walnuts. Two main hydle projects in Uri have shown good impact on the economic condition of the people of this area. Uri has once again assumed limelight in view of opening of Srinagar Muzaffarabad road. It is expected that with the opening of this window the old glory of Uri Township shall be restored.
Uri-Kathai area was a part of Muzaffarabad principality which was established by Sultan Muzaffar Khan Bamba in 1644 AD. Later on, this track was governed by Khakhas, Hatmales and Bamba Pahari tribes who were the chiefs of small Jagirs like Uri, Kachalli, Chakar, Duppta and Ghori. These warrior tribes had played a great role during Afgan rule (1753-1819) on Kashmir, because the main route connecting Srinagar with Kabul was passing through this track. Khakas of Uri had became instrumental in defending Kashmir from the invaders a number of times Raja Bara Khan Khakha, Raja Sarblund Khan Khakha, Raja Bhadur Khan Khakha and Raja Sarfraz Khan Khakha were the important rulers of Uri during Afgan rule on Kashmir. At the time of conquest of Kashmir by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819 Raja Ghulam Ali Khakha was the chief of Uri principality. He was not satisfied by the Khalsa Sarkar and had revolted against Punjab Government. Therefore in 1820 Maharaja Ranjit Singh appointed Hari Singh Nalwah as Governor of Kashmir to subside the disturbance in Uri and Muzaffarabad areas. Hari Singh Nalwah with the help of Raja Muzaffar Khan (who was nephew of Raja Ghulam Ali Khan Khakah) crushed the revolt of Khakhas and Bambas of Uri and Muzaffarabad areas during 1820-1821 .Raja Ghulam Ali Khakha , the ruler of Uri was arrested and later on killed in Sher Ghari prison of Srinagar.
C E Bats writes in his book ‘The Gazetteer of Kashmir’ that Hari Singh Nalwah had appointed Raja Muzzaffar Khan as the Chief of Uri on behalf of Khalsa Government on consideration of annual payment of rupees four thousand . No doubt that Muzzaffar Khan was called Raja of Uri but the actual power was lying with the administrators of Khalsa Sarkar who were ruling the area. B C Hugal the writer of ‘Kashmir and Punjab’ who visited Uri during 1841 writes that after Sikh rule in Kashmir, the Uri track was partitioned into small Jagirs. After 1846 when Ghulab Singh became the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Uri emerged as a tehsil of Muzaffarabad Wazarat.
During the happenings of 1947, Uri witnessed a great setback due to attack of raiders, immediately after independence. Pakistan started operation Gulmerg to capture Kashmir valley by inducting tribesman of NWFB and Pakistani forces under the command of Khursheed Anwar (a retired soldier of Indian Army) and overall supervision of Major General Akber Khan of Pakistan Army. The first group of tribesman moved towards Uri on 23rd November 1947. On the other hand Brigadier Rajinder Singh officiating Chief of staff of J&K forces with 150 Jawans rushed towards Uri and reached the same day by midnight to defend Uri town from raiders. The raiders started wave after wave attack on Uri from all the sides. Therefore, after fighting of several hours, the defenders retreated from Uri to Muhra during the night of 23 and 24 October. The raiders chased the small contingent of Brigadier Rajinder Singh and fighting continued on 24th October. In this battle the gallant band fought bravely in which almost all the jawans along with Brigadier Rajinder Singh were killed but he and his men held up thousands of raiders for four most valueable days and thus undoubtedly saved Kashmir. On 26th October Kashmir acceded to India and from 27th October Indian forces started pouring at Budgam airport to defend Kashmir. After consolidating their positions at Srinagar, Indian forces launched operation against raiders and captured Baramulla on 8th November. While Uri town was liberated on 13th November, 1947 after hand to hand battle with raiders, the outer hills around Uri were also taken by Indian forces in further fighting with raiders.
During the happenings of 1947 more than 50 percent area of tehsil had gone under the occupation of Pakistan. The present Uri tehsil has been squeezed up to Nowshera in the east, Urasha in the North, Sailkote in the south and Buttgharian in the west .The portion of Uri on the other side of the line of control is known as tehsil Hattari Bala.
During 1965 Uri again became the focal point for Army operation when the Indian forces under the command of Brigadier Zorawar Chand Bakshi launched operation against infiltrators from Uri towards Haji Pir Pass on 24 August, the Indian jawans under the command of Major Ranjit Singh Dayal captured Haji Pir Pass on 28th of August and moved towards Poonch .Ultimately, Uri Poonch Bulge was taken over by the Indian forces and the road from Uri to Poonch was once again opened and Uri area got relief from day to day firing. However this prestigious pass and the life line of Kashmir was returned to Pakistan in the light of Tashkand Pact.