No end in sight to the town’s sufferings..!
Sopore, a historic town of north Kashmir, founded by the famous engineer and irrigation minister Suyya during the reign of King Avantivarman in 880 AD and was named Suyya-pur. History of Sopore reveals it had always stood against tyranny. After the crucial uprising of 1931 against the Dogra dictatorship, people of this historic town and its catchment areas became politically active and participated in freedom movement. Sopore gave blood and life for freedom of Kashmir under Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s leadership and followed him until November 13, 1974 when Kashmir accord was signed. Abdullah during his crucial independence movement would make it a point to visit Sopore before making any important political decision. He was so impressed with the politically conscious people of the town that he would call them ‘Zinda-dilaan Sopore’ (warm-spirited people of Sopore). Such was Sheikh’s clout in Sopore that people of this town opposed illegal and unjustified ouster of their beloved leader in 1953 by marching and agitating for weeks together.
After February 1975, a new chapter of politics in Sopore unfolded with the sacrifice of a young energetic student Ghulam Muhammad Bulla. Bulla was killed in the custody after he was arrested on February 14, 1975 for leading a procession against Indra–Abdullah accord. Post 1975 many forces, which were otherwise dormant since 1947, became active and thrived in an atmosphere of hostility towards the establishment. Sopore changed. It turned anti-establishment and continues to be one since then Sopore has produced many towering leaders and political stalwarts. Sofi Muhammad Akbar was one such personality, who withdrew from active politics and parted ways with his former colleagues in National Conference to pursue his doctrine of clean politics. Maqbool Bhat’s ideology found a fertile ground in Sopore. Similarly, Sopore has the privilege to have the illustrious organizer like Ghulam Rasool Kar; learned politician and a thorough gentleman like Hakeem Habibullah, articulate Syed Ali Shah Geelani and many other political bigwigs irrespective of their political ideology and lineage. Presently, Syed Ali Shah Geelani is one of the leading political voice of Kashmir. His humble rise from a school teacher to a towering political personality is remarkable in Kashmir politics.
During last two decades Sopore experienced a lot of political upheaval and suffered a lot on every front. With the onset of turmoil in late eighties of the last century people in Sopore contributed actively and were on the forefront to seek resolution of Kashmir. Sopore became a battle-field and for long many areas were totally out of the control of authorities. Every family and every person of Sopore suffered and suffered immensely. Blood of both the warring groups and the common man spilled on the streets and fields of Sopore. Such unfortunate acts from both sides made life of people of this town miserable. Every political organization had lost control and Sopore was no different; anarchism had become the order of the day. Many women were widowed; children orphaned; parents robbed of their loved ones and the society lost intellectuals and their saviors. People were roasted alive in the famous Sopore Chowk on January 6, 1993; many were killed mercilessly near historic old Eid Gah where once Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Jawahar Lal Nehru and other stalwarts preached complete independence from autocratic rule through peaceful means. People faced all this bravely and resiliently.
Bruised but resilient Sopore and its sufferings remind me of tragic death of Shaheen, photographer at one-time famous ‘Shaheen Studio’. He was literally thrown into blazing fire of his second storey shop; roasted alive. I remember his staggered speech, where he would shout –one, thoo and thee. Troubled Sopore reminds me of my neighbour, a young research scholar who was pulled out of his bed for no fault of his and shot dead in retaliation to a blast half a kilometer away from his home. Sopore, reminds me of many other gruesome incidents of killings, torture and destruction. The recent alleged custodial killing of 26 year old young man in Sopore is a repetition of this tragic history.. This act of depriving a young man of his right to live is shameful in our democracy. The assault on the cavalcade of a delegation of political party by the mourners at Sopore is a huge message to all politicians, leaders and their parties. Either they should deliver or close their political shops. People were so angry that even Hurriyat would have faced the same fate on that particular day. Sopore has remained a fountainhead of every political resurgence in past. This historic place and its people require a compassionate system to get it out of the clutches of death and destruction. Sopore cannot take it anymore; enough is enough.