Kashmir: Sopore — A neglected historic town

Views from Srinagar

Fida Iqbal

Sopore has a history of its own. Founded by engineer Suyya during the reign of king Avantivarman Sopore has always been the hotbed of political activities. No politician or leader would find his Kashmir visit complete unless he visited Sopore and interacted with its politically sentient people. For decades now Sopore has an identity of its own as Kashmir’s horticulture hub for its quality apples and its people are known for their distinct political attitude.
Even once towering Kashmiri leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah while distinguishing unique politics of Sopore used to call its people—Zinda-dilani Sopore (the dynamic people of Sopore). But his love for the people started fading once people of Sopore opposed his hunt for power in 1974. Later his political successors too did not show much interest in Sopore beyond political rhetoric. Since long most of Kashmir political leadership in power would typecast Sopore, its people and their politics as adverse and detrimental to development and political coexistence. And after Sheikh Sahib’s mutation from a leader of masses to a typical power hungry politician the Sopore was always put on the back burner. Sopore beyond its huge horticulture activities contributes a lot to state’s fiscal well-being. People from other parts of the valley most often describe Sopore and its wealth with three ‘R’s Radee, Raab, Rupyee (carts, muck and money).
Anyways, whatever the politics and wealth of Sopore it is evident that Sopore has not received due attention on the developmental front in comparison to other areas in the northern part of the valley and stood always deprived to the extent of neglect. And now for the last several years, people of Sopore have started agitating openly in favour of their demands other than political.
They ask for their share in developmental activities, healthcare, education and overall infrastructure development. Only last year civil society and other right-thinking people of Sopore forcefully asked for the establishment of proposed Horticulture university at an earliest. Unfortunately, some vested interests are trying to create hurdles and mislead authorities about the proposed university with ambiguous reasons.
People of Sopore have suffered a lot for the last more than two decades on every front but even then, managed to sustain. The most vital aspect of this region’s economic activity is horticulture (apple production to be precise) but this sector has not grown beyond apple production.
By now Sopore and its catchment areas with huge quality apple production should have been a leader in processed horticulture produce. But unfortunately, even the earlier established processing facilities like ‘Sama Products’ the multi-facility canning factory in the heart of Sopore, Cadbury apple concentrate plant at Doabgah and Tree-top juice factory on the outskirts of the town and other state-run storage and processing units are virtually defunct. This dismal reversal speaks volumes about the neglect of most vital horticulture sector that not only contributes a lot to state’s economy but provides employment and hope to millions under all situations.
Healthcare, education and all other important sectors have not shown significant growth as compared to other areas of the valley. The existing agriculture research institution never grew beyond Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s earlier concept of establishing an agriculture college in the area during his popular regime in fifties. Amazingly, it took many decades to complete the only modern healthcare facility in the town.
A road and its connecting bridge over river Jhelum to bypass Sopore while travelling to Kupwara district got partly commissioned only after more than two decades. There are many such examples that genuinely describe the anger of people against the political leadership in power from time to time. It is constitutional binding for every political dispensation to ensure equitable development of all areas within the state but Sopore for its political incongruity with conventional political environment has always invited discrimination and got ostracized from the mainstream.
The recent resentment of people clearly reveals that people of Sopore have crossed their endurance levels, stand united to oppose any move to undermine them and deny their due share out of state’s financial pool to which they contribute reasonably. Time has come that both political leadership and government managers should listen to the woes of people of Sopore and address their genuine demand of getting Sopore and its people at par with other areas of the state in all aspects of development and reconstruction.

— Courtesy: Greater Kashmir

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