By Nazeer Masudi
This district, reduced in territory, came into existence after 1947. Those areas of Neelam Valley and Tehsil Karnah, whose streams and nullahs carry waters into Neelam (Kishan Ganga) river and prior to 1947, formed part of Muzaffarabad district, now make Kupwara district. It includes the area of Machhil. The Kishen Ganga valley was completely inhabited by the Pahari speaking people, therefore, its area now under the control of JK government and in this side of LoC, form 25-30 percent of Pahari population of the district. The inner valleys of district Kupwara comprise Lolab valley, Kalarus valley, Haihama valley, Katchama valley and Chowkibal. From times immemorial the regions of Drav (Keran) and Karnah were accessible through numerous passes (gali), therefore, many Pahari (Hindko) speaking people crossed the comparatively less high mountains separating Kashmir valley from Neelam valley and settled down on this side of Kupwara.
At the same time many people left Kashmir valley and settled in the Neelam valley. For example there are a couple of Kashmiri speaking large villages in Khwajisiri, Dudhanyal, Keran, Tangdhar and Karnah. A few families of Kashmiris will also be found in some other villages.
The mountain range from Machhil upto Shamsbari is comparatively of low heights. It is rocky only from the west of nullah Kachahama upto Shamsbari near Nastachan Pass, or as it is called Raja Ram Ki Lari (Raja Ram's range). The road passes through Nastachan pass to enter Karnah valley. This range has many passes including Machhil pass and Nunwani pass which joins Kalarus with Machhil. From Kalarus, there is a passage that connects the valley with Sharadaji. It is known as Sinjli Gali. It is believed that during Buddhist period, it was this Sinjli pass that connected Kashmir valley with Kishenganga valley. After descending from Sinjli Gali one enters the Kishen Ganga valley. After reaching the river bank, one finds Khwajisiri village located on the other side of the river. May be the Khojas settled there during Buddhist period.
Among other important places is Mazhama Gali which connects Dudhanyali Gali with Kupwara and Trehgam. Two important passes called Markian (9200 feet) and Nastachhin (10200 feet) join Keran and Karnah areas respectively with the Valley.
In the foothills of Chowkibal mountain, the habitats were once under the sway of the Rajas of Karnah. On both the sides of nullah Kehmil, there are the settlements of Pahari people as in Timnah, Marsari, Zooneh Reshi, Saffrooda. Chowkibal is the first stage on this side of Nastachhin pass. The distance from this place to Karnah is about 20 miles, but during snowfall the road remains closed. In olden days, this was a foot track. Around Nastachhin pass, we have many large pastures especially Buda Nambal and Bangas. Karnah herdsmen brought cattle to graze here. Bangas Bahak (pasture) is located to the east of Shamsbari. This has been the route of settlers in Uttarmachhi Pora.
Source: Kashmir Sentinel
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