|Peace brigades marching towards |
Srinagar on the eve of taking over the emergency administration
of the State by Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah in 1947
Photographer: [K.N. (?)] Bamzai. [Photodivision India]
Few remember those dead people now. Few know their stories. He died so young. My brother...Bira...Somnath Koul Bira. He was with Shiekh. He was part of Militia. The 'National Militia'. They defended Kashmir. When Kabailis attacked. They fought back. He died. There was communal unrest in Doda [then still part of Udhampur District]. Tribals were raiding. Hindus and Sikhs were killing Muslims. Muslims were killing Hindus. 700 people from Srinagar volunteered to go there as 'Peace Bridage'. My brother was one of the leaders. Peace was established. But he never returned. There were stories. Stories of foul play. I was told he died even before reaching Doda. On the way they had to cross a bridge over Chenab. While crossing the bridge, they came under fire. I was told he fell in Chenab. He was gone.
Somnath Koul Bira was among the bright crop of young student leaders that came out of Lahore. Among his friends were Professor Apurab Somnath [Bakhiri] and Professor Durrani.
In 1947, a close to 600 Kashmiri Pandits were part of the Kashmir Militia. A lot of them communists.
In 1947 (48) valley was invaded by the tribals led on by Pir Sahab of Manki Sharief (Syed Mohammad Aminul Hassnat, of NWFP) and supported by regulars of the Pakistan Army. In response, a group of young men in Srinagar called Progressive Group started a Peace Brigade as first line of defense. Around this time a group led by Puskkar Nath Zadoo went to Handwara to stall the march of invaders. The men had almost nothing in name of weapons. Pushkar Nath Zadoo lost his life in the attempt. Another group led by Professor Apoorab Somnath planned to head for Jammu. This group included Somnath Bira of Rainawari, Professor Hriday Nath Durani, Professor Mahmood Hashmi (Urdu lecturer from Amar Singh College) and artist P. N. Kachroo. Professor Durani had to return back from Qazigund on account of ill health. P. N. Kachroo couldn't go because he was tired up heading the cultural wing of the group. On reaching Jammu, Professor Hashmi, a close friend Apoorab Somnath, sneaked away from the group ideologically and left for Poonch from where he crossed over to Pakistan and crossed sides. * Somnath Bira died at the hands of hostile forces near a place called Regi Nallah between Bhadarwah and Doda. His body was never found.
Mehmood Hashmi went on to write a reportage in 1950 based on his experiences. 'Kashmir Udaas Hai' published in Pakistan is considered first of its kind book in Urdu. He worked in the parallel government for some years and then moved to England in 1970s where he continued to work for promotion of Urdu language.