Population: approximately 200,000 (in 1901)
Poonch was a Princely State in the Kashmir Residency. Presently it is divided between the Azad Kashmir territory of Pakistan and the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir. The first stamp was issued around 1876 during the reign of Raja Moti Singh who ruled the state from 1859 to1892.
The stamp was 6p and was issued on yellowish white wove paper. It is imperforate, without gum and hand-stamped in watercolor.
The long and storied history of Poonch dates back to the time of Alexander the Great. The name is found in records from the 600s CE. Its location, near Kashmir, has assured it a lively place in the empire trading of many eras. Poonch is known as the City of Sufi Saints, and has a Muslim majority, though it has, historically, been ruled by Hindus.
Poonch is first recorded as a sovereign state in about 850 under Raja Nar, a horse trader. It fended off various invasions but came under Mughal influence from 1596 to 1792. In 1819 much of this area was captured by the Sikh empire, ruled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. His brother, Dhyan Singh, was appointed “Raja of Chibbal and Poonch.” Ranjit Singh died in 1839, and several of other family members were murdered. Ranjit’s son confiscated Pooch, seizing it from his uncle, for himself.
The British entered the scene in 1846, after the First Anglo-Sikh war, and gave Jawahir Singh, the eldest remaining son of Dyhan, control over Poonch. But two other members of the Singh family contested. In 1852, the British Resident in Lahore reconfirmed that Dyhan had some claim, but gave the territory to brothers Jawahir Singh and Moti Singh. The new ruling brothers were to give Jawahir a horse outfitted in gold and consulted him on important matters. This matter continued to be contested through 1940.
Predictably, Jawahir and Moti quarreled. In a division of property, Moti Singh got the Poonch district. Jawahir Singh was forced into exile, and the various feudal payments continued to be fought over.
In 1925, Britain imposed a council of Administration on Jammu and Kashmir, and attempts were made to appeal to Britain over the status of Poonch. However, the British decided that it was a vassal of Jammu and Kashmir, and not subject to British interference. Arguments continued to go back and forth about whether Poonch was state, a jagir, or merely a tract of land. In 1928, the British ruled that Poonch was part of the state of Jammu-Kashmir, “a subordinate Jagirdar of Kashmir,” and relations between Poonch and Jammu-Kashmir were simply domestic, and not subject to British interference. Concerns about excessive taxation and local impoverishment brought about some more oversight by the British government, but also resulted in more taxes. The death of the Raja of Poonch in 1940 resulted in heavy-handed administration in the form of a regency from the Maharaja of Jammu-Kashmir.
In 1947, there was an uprising, which included Poonch, against the Maharaja of Jammu-Kashmir. Factors included corruption; dissatisfaction of Muslims; and disarming of Muslim soldiers, with weapons given to Hindus. Lord Mountbatten and the Maharaja of Jammu/Kashmir summarily handed Kashmir, including Poonch, over to India. There was a massive uprising in Poonch, known as the Azad revolt, which was dealt with harshly. Finally, the territory of Poonch was divided. One part went to India as part of Kashmir. The other is now part of Pakistan.