Laws permit controlled cultivation of poppy in monitored belts but in last six years it has gradually emerged as a favourite crop in certain belts.
Police and the narcotics bureau have been continuously launching operations to destroy the crop. It has even sought help from Imams of the local mosques in its battle against the dangerous crop. The drive has borne some results but it needs more efforts. In down-south, last year, a camera crew was chased away when it tried filming crops. More than fifty people from the area are imprisoned across various Indian jails for carrying the contraband to the mainland.
There is a feeling in certain sections of the society that police in certain belts are part of the business. Once, they say, when senior officials visited a police station they saw heaps of the powder. On enquiring, the cops told their officers that they had recovered it. However, locals swear that it was being used as a godown. Forced to act, the same cops recovered a couple of machines, not far away from the station, that were used in the trade.
This season, there was a tragedy in Sempora village. A family had dug a huge den to store poppy straw very close to a graveyard and sealed it. Police intercepted a truck carrying some powder and detained the driver. Fearing the detained to spill the beans, the family, in hurry, opened the ‘grave’, which proved to be a grave mistake. The gases that had emanated from the straw during the winter were inhaled by the opener and he died instantly. Another young man who went down to rescue him, died too. As the news spread, a local Imam went to help the youth, he also died and another person somehow escaped with burns to his face. It shocked everybody and police took many days to understand the crisis.
The larger issue is, can and will the government use all its resources to stem the menace. Parts in Punjab have started growing poppy on its own as Kashmir produce is getting expensive for them!

Roads to Opposition
You don’t need to have an understanding of the politics of the region once you take the road to Kashmir’s apple mountain. The pathetic roads itself explain that the belt has not voted for the ruling coalition. Frightening ditches and overflowing open drains on the roads to Shopian negate the larger reality that this small town is a huge revenue earner.
But the resilience of its people is exemplary. The belt has not linked its growth with block-topped roads or good governance. They do what they are supposed to. With the proliferation of Tata Sumo vehicles, the vibrant transport sector has revolutionized public transport. Surprisingly even on a petty block road running between Shopian-Kadder-Islamabad and Shopian-Kulgam-Islamabad having bare earthwork, 42 sumo services run everyday. There is so much of passenger rush that many would be seen travelling on the roof of the vehicle. Many associated things might not conform to the law but these small time transporters have changed the way we travel. They are even crossing a rivulet in Pulwama belt through a zigzag of dirt tracks to Kulgam reducing the distance by half and the service is a smash hit.
Officials supposed to plan for the society should avoid troubling their grey matter. They better chase these young men to understand what growth means and what the society requires.

Whose temple?
For the last few weeks, Kashmiri Pandits were in news. So were their places of worship, thanks to the assembly where at least some bits of information reached the public domain.
Revenue Minister informed the assembly that when the militancy broke out there were 430 temples across Kashmir. Over the 20 years, he said, as many as 170 were damaged. The government spent Rs 33 lakh for renovating 90 of them. As many as 17 temples located in sensitive areas are secured. The minister did not say that many of the temples in Kashmir are housing security forces!!!
But various Pandit bodies living in Jammu and elsewhere doubted the state statistics. They doubted the government earlier as well when it said only 219 Pandits were killed during militancy in Kashmir. They said there were over 550 temples when the militancy broke out. Who is right and who is wrong is a matter of debate and research.
But in Shopian belt there is one temple that is talk of the town. It is located in Nagrisharan, where an army camp operated for major part of the last 20 years. After the security forces left the premises, locals started utilizing the land for whatever they required. They have left a small beautiful temple that is located in the centre of the erstwhile garrison untouched.

A Rabid Feast
Cops are investigating the reports that a villager butchered his calf to prepare the feast at his daughters engagement that had been bitten by a rabid dog. More than 250 people in Shopian, Pulwama, Srinagar and Kulgam are having sleepless nights. Though guests who had the cooked meal will have no problem, some of them especially the cooks could contract the infection. A general consensus is that all those fearing a problem should get vaccination. Hopefully all will survive but the thought that a “rabies feast” was served at their marriage will haunt the newly weds throughout their lives!!!

The town fought for a district and failed even after sacrificing a lot. Then they slept. When Ghulam Nabi Azad was the chief minister he made this single tehsil town with two police stations, a district. It was akin to various central Asian republics who got independence while they were sleeping. It was during those days that a senior officer in a meeting told SSP Shopian – “You are a lucky man. You must be meeting all your subjects during the morning walk.” Shopian is India’s second smallest district.


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