The partition of the Asian subcontinent in 1947 has left indelible marks on the social and political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir’s Karnah tehsil.
By Peerzada Sayeed
During the reign of Maharaja Hari Singh, Karnah tehsil had a status of being the principal tehsil of district Muzzafarabad. Comprising of three valleys, its area was quite widespread with a substantial population. The valley Neelam, the valley Lipa and the valley Karnah were agriculturally self sufficient. The people were unacquainted with the hurtful words of ‘this side’ and ‘that side’. The borders of the Neelam Valley were spread from the present Muzaffarabad’s Nousada Naousiri up to Drass in which hundreds of villages were inhabited on the banks of river Kishanganga and in the lap of its standing huge mountains. The valley Neelam is named after the river Neelam which is also known as Kishanganga River. Its other name is ‘Dar-Aawaa’ valley.
Historically, during the attacks of Alexander the Great, some of his warrior groups had lost the way and accidentally reached the valley of Dar-Aawaa via Gilgit, and stayed there. On both sides of the villages on river Kishanganga, people were tied in close relationships. In the same way, the valley Lepa starts from the present border village of Karnah tehsil called Afrohi and meets Uri. Lepa consists of hundreds of densely populated villages. It is famous for rice cultivation. Before the partition of 1947, the bonds between the inhabitants of the two valleys were very deep.
The country lands were mutually cultivated. During the hot summer days, the inhabitants of Karnah valley took their livestock to ‘Rishiyan Gali’ of the Lepa valley and temporarily settled there. Neither they would have imagined nor was it in their conscience that in the coming times, it would create chasm to the extent that the members of the same family will become estranged for ever.
Before 1947, the present Karnah’s border village of Teetwal had been the trading hub of the area where hundreds of shops lined up decorated in full swing. The trade of ghee, honey and walnut kernels reached its peak between the valleys of Karnah, Lepa and Neelam, which was later marketed to Teetwal. At that time, there was a barter system in place, instead of cash. The wheat and rice was bought and sometimes collected from people and later sold to village inhabitants during deficient times. But in no time the circumstances changed. On the instance of the then Muslim League, Indian National Congress and Lord Mountbatten, the country was partitioned and a new country Pakistan came into being.
The partition of 1947 painted the entire area red, creating gulfs and turning relationships hostile. It sowed the seeds of restlessness that led to the shrieks and yelps of innocents between the heaps of dead and rivers of blood. Not even a single city, area or a district was spared from its wrath. The fighting in the name of religion created an atmosphere of hatred and animosity which led to the forced migration of thousands of people from their homes to places unknown. The members of families not in thousands but in lakhs got displaced and then cut off from their loved ones in the partition. The reign of fear of the partition was so vicious that people didn’t try to move to the side they were not facing; instead they kept moving ahead.
The bonds became mean. The father-mother, brother-sister and other relationships became trivial. Kinships were scattered like straw. Houses were devastated, properties snatched and habitations, deserted. Nobody knew what happened to their close kin. The situation remained same for many months.
To get control of the situation, the then politicians had sweated through the teeth. When the situation was controlled, it was evident that everything was lost. Nobody knew what happened to their close kin, whether they are living or dead? Mother was alienated from son, sister from brother, husband from wife!
After 1947, people who relate to each other continue living on the hope that they would meet someday, even if by chance. The people of our side and their side took the wish with them and went on in their lives. The line of separation neither wiped away itself nor was erased by anyone. But many at the helm of affairs, who had a human heart and understood the pain of human separation and misery, took strong initiatives so that those who had been separated, owing to the partition, will be given a chance to meet each other at specific locations along the border.
In April 2005, the cross border trade was started which is carrying on till now. In the border areas of Poonch, Uri and Karnah, a rising point was established. The cross border trade between Uri and Poonch was invigorated. Hostility became thing of the past. In 2007, the Teetwal crossing post was opened for trade and travel but people are complaining that the post remains closed for six months, starting winter, and about the custom officials who don’t bother to do their duties, which is not a convincing excuse. But an agony still remains there – the travel papers, which are taking, not months, but years to get done.