Sunday, September 15, 2013

Short story of Bira, 1947

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]
Collected this story in Jammu while walking my father's Badi Maami to the main road as there was no light in the lanes. She had heard Kashmir interests me. In darkness, in between pauses of heavy breath, while slow walking, she told me about death of her brother in 1947.

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.


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Somnath Bira
Photograph of Somnath Bira,
 young man at the back in dark coat, pomaded hair parted neatly and a fountain pen in breast pocket.
From personal collection of Somnath Bira's  brother Jawahar Kaul Bira based now based in Gurgaon.
Shared by Anil Taku, nephew of Somnath Bira.
Based on an online conversation here's what I could gather:

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.

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*
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.

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5 comments:

  1. I wonder whether Ram Piara Saraf was part of this Kashmir Militia. I know he was a Kashmiri Pandit and a member of the Communist Party of India.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know...but my guess is the would be Naxal leader of the state (who later returned to mainstream politics), Ram Piara Saraf was probably in Jammu given that his home town and birth place was Samba. May be he did visit those area. Or maybe he was outside state...given that he was only 24 at the time probably finishing MA.


      April 1961, R.P. Saraf was the first Kashmiri elected to the Indian Communist Party's national council. I wonder if he was related to D.N. Saraf writer of 'Art and Crafts Jammu and Kashmir Land People Culture' (1987), also a native of samba.

      Delete
    2. Hi Vinayak
      Who was the source of Som nath Bira story who actually happens to be real uncle. Your brief gives some perspective of what happened. I have heard some rumblings or fantasies if you may but never close to the context you captured..

      Thank You much ...

      My brother in law today ( in fact 2 hrs back) mentioned about your website and am happy about your evocative writing as I browse thru the content..

      Would like to catch up with you and would appreciate if you contact me @
      gupt1ganga@gmail.com

      Very Best
      sumaid kaul

      Delete
    3. Hello Sumaid,
      some details of the story and the photograph were sent Anil Taku (), who happens to be my father's mamutur'boi. Regards,
      Vinayak

      Delete
  2. Hi Vinayak
    Thanks for this article. Som Nath Bira happened to be uncle( chacha) and a perspective what actually unfolded during that time..
    Would like to stay in touch and please feel to communicate with me @ gupt1ganga@gmail.com..
    Best
    Sumaid Kaul

    ReplyDelete

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