Poonch’s ‘silver’ lining

Adil Mehmood

A backward village boy from Pir Panjal recently brought home silver medal from world karate championship held in Abu Dhabi. His feat has spread smiles and raised hopes in his godforsaken hamlet.

By Mujahid Mughal

Poonch’s Mahra village is quite fabled. Wearing a usual pastoral look, the hamlet is packed with legends and anecdotes, unlike its neighbouring villages. But much of Mahra’s essence often gets lost in the roaring frontiers of Pir Panjal, where two hostile nuke-armoured neighbours often lock horns in the routine border belligerence.

But lately, the village witnessed an uplifting boom when its native returned home with silver medal from International Karate Championship in Abu Dhabi.

For many, the boy’s feat was a long overdue of the village, which ‘never got its due’ after 1947.

Much of that indifference is being attributed to the historical spark—the Poonch Rebellion—which set the countdown for the fall of Dogra regime in J&K. The rebellion had united the war veterans of Poonch — who had fought in World War-II as part of British Indian Army — against the monarchy, which couldn’t conceal its loyalties soon after the partition of Indian subcontinent.

Adil Mehmood is the fourth generation of that ‘warrior race’, fighting a different battle.

But before bringing laurel to his village, the boy had toured to various cities of India; played and won many Karate titles. A Black belt at National Level, Adil has more medals in his home than books.


These days, the simpletons of Mahra keep talking about the 15-year-old boy’s achievement during their pep talks, in village circles. His dream performance in the Winner Cup 2018, recognized by International Olympic Committee (IOC), remains the talking point.

In that international event held between November 23 and 26, Karate players of 20 countries had participated. Throughout the tournament, the Poonch boy lived up to the hype created around him.

As a rising Karate star, he had demonstrated his skills as sportsperson at both regional and all-India level before competing on the international level.

He defeated his rivals from America, China and Japan, before losing the gold to Iranian in the world championship.

But the defeat, he says, hasn’t made him a disgruntled sportsperson.

“I’m taking my defeat on my chin and will work hard to improve my game,” says Adil, inside his buzzing home, where villagers are turning up to congratulate him on his feat.

The Class-IX student was born and brought up in Mahra which still does not have any road connectivity. This is one of the most backward villages of Poonch. Life in this village is hard and full of toil. The village got RBA just a few years back after a long struggle. Now, the young sportsperson’s feat has raised hopes of a much-needed facelift to Mahra.

Adil belongs to a very humble family. His father Abir Din is a schoolteacher, while his mother Shamim Akhtar is a homemaker. Like others, even his family had to abandon their home during nineties, when militancy and military backlash found resonance in this part as well.

The villagers recount that around five boys joined militant ranks and around 10 people were eventually killed in clashes back then. On close heels of insurgency, the ruthless counterinsurgency had found roots in this part, too. Amid frequent skirmishes and confrontations, many natives migrated from this village. It disturbed Mahra’s whole socio-economic life.

The village nestled nearby Sailan village—where the brutal 1998 Massacre took place, regained its normalcy when, years later, the villagers returned to their roots. It was then the likes of Adil sweated hard to become its new-age ambassadors.

While his feat in the international event in Abu Dhabi has already made him Mahra’s little master, he has also become an inspiration for many village lads.

While following Adil’s footsteps, they now eye for the gold after getting their ‘silver’ lining moment.


This story first appeared in December Print Issue of The Indus Post.


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