History of the Region
The region consists of Poonch and Rajouri districts of J & K. These districts have been carved out of the portion of former Poonch State lying on the Indian side of the Line of Control (L of C).
Poonch town is tucked into the hills at the confluence of River Poonch and Betar Nallah. It has remained alienated from the rest of the world due to sparse network of communications and difficult terrain. The town gained strategic importance as a result of the tribal invasion launched by Pakistan during 1948. It is believed that Poonch was once known as â€˜Parnotsaâ€™ or â€˜Pruntsâ€™. This area was given away as a Jagir to Maharaja Gulab Singh to his nephew Raja Moti Singh. After him, his heirs ruled the area. All the rulers of Poonch owed allegiance to the Royal family of Jammu and Kashmir State. The last ruler, Rajkumar Shiv Ratan Dev Singh, was a minor, and hence the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir appointed Khan Sheikh Abdul Khayum as the administrator, and Colonel Baldev Singh Pathania as his guardian.
Originally Poonch Jagir had four Tehsils namely Haveli, Mendhar, Palandari and Bagh. The total area was about 1600 square miles. Palandari is inhabited by Soodhan Muslims, Bagh by Dhund Muslims and Sikhs, Mendhar by Rajput Muslims and Haveli by Rajput and Kashmiri Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Poonch bordering both Jammu as well as Kashmir represents a fusion of the culture of both. The people speak both Kashmiri and Dogri besides Punjabi and Gujjri. Their dress is also a mixture of the Kashmiri and Dogri apparal.
In 1947, as a result of raids from Pakistan all the four Tehsils except Poonch Town fell into the hands of Pakistan. The Raja and his administrator left the area. Poonch town remained under siege for about fourteen months under Brig. Pritam Singhâ€™s gallant leadership. The people of the town displayed exemplary courage and helped the Armed Forces in pushing the enemy back and regaining parts of the tehsils of Mendhar and Haveli before the ceasefire.
In 1948, the two tehsils of Haveli and Mendhar were merged into a new district, which was called the Rajouri-Poonch district, consisting of Haveli, Mendhar, Naushera and Rajouri Tehsils. In Dec. 1967, the district was divided into two separate districts of Poonch and Rajouri. Rajouri was earlier known as Rampur.
The ancient history of Rajouri is similar to that of the Kashmir Valley, glimpses of which are available in epics like Kalhanaâ€™s â€˜Rajtaranganiâ€™; Jonrajâ€™s Chronicle and Pragya Bhattâ€™s â€˜Rajavalipatakâ€™. Before the advent of Islam in 1343 AD, the areas were under powerful Hindu rulers like Karkotas, Loharas and the Buddhist rulers of the Maurya dynasty. It is believed that before this period the Gandharva Empire extended to this region also.
Between the two rods from Jammu and Muzaffarabad that led to Kashmir during pre-partition day lie the areas of Naushera, Janghar, Rajouri and Poonch. Being a backward and remote area it was not well known. As the routes from Punjab to the Kashmir valley passed through these areas, travelers like Hieun Tsang made notes of it in their travelogues. Mahmud Ghazni and Maharaja Ranjit Singh also followed this route. Among the Mughals, Mirza Haider, a companion of Humayun, was the first to visit this area. Jehangir patronized this area by visiting it regularly. The area was ruled by the Afghans and Sikhs after the Mughals. The Sikh rule ended in 1846.