BUDGAM: Most of the people in Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin’s native village, Soibug, attribute the lack of basic amenities in the village to the “biased attitude” of the government, despite the fact that people voted in large numbers in the previous assembly elections.
Syed Salahuddin, also known as Moulvi Yusuf Shah, who is the chief of Kashmir’s largest militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and also the head of the United Jihad Council (UJC) still has a single storied house, abandoned as of now, in this village.
Soibug is the largest village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, with a population of over 20,000, but has been neglected by successive governments. The villagers blame the apathetic attitude of the government on the fact that this is ‘Salahuddin’s village’.
“The villagers are denied basic facilities because Soibug is Salahuddin’s native village,” said Mohammad Ashraf Dar, a shopkeeper in the village. He said that police verifications of Soibug residents take months to get confirmed, hindering their applications for official documents.
Village head Mohammad Yaqoob Khan also said the inhabitants of the village are facing hardships and the ‘Salahuddin factor’ could be one of the reasons: “Soibug has more than 2,000 households, there should better transport facilities, but vehicle owners are reluctant to come here due to dilapidated roads. We have a Jamia Auqaf Committee operating in the village instead of the government authorities to solve our problems.”
He said that even while the village was just 5 km away from Budgam, 15 km from Lal Chowk and 16 km from Magam, none of the roads have been macadamised; however, the Soibug-Budgam road was macadamised a few years ago, but it too has degraded now. “Of the streets in the village, just a few were fixed. It’s impossible to walk outside in the night,” he added.
There has been no water supply scheme for the village for the past 55 years; however, such a scheme is under process now but has been suspended due to paucity of funds, the villagers said. Faced with a water shortage, the villagers have no choice but to drink the polluted water of small streams besides the water drawn from tube wells, which has high iron content due to which hundreds of locals fell ill and had to be hospitalised for long periods.
They villagers said a Primary Health Center (PHC) was sanctioned a long time ago but it has been sans facilities for years. The PHC has only three doctors with more than 30 villages depending on it. “This PHC has an electric generator which has broken down. Patients have to wait for electricity and get their tests, like X-ray, ultra sound etc done. When there is no power supply, there is no choice,” said Abdul Majeed Mochi, a local.
Head of the Jamia Auqaf Committee, Abdul Raheem Malik said the village should have been developed a long time ago but has been facing ‘political stigma’ in terms of scant representation of village members in political parties, besides the ‘Salahuddin factor’.
“The village should be connected by four-lane road with Srinagar and other major towns as it has lost its connectivity to the rest of the areas,” he said.
Villagers also said they have been denied jobs because of the ‘Salahuddin factor’. “I have a double masters degree, I am working in a private school; there was no government job offered to me even though I tried many times,” said Farooq Ahmad, another local. Villagers also pointed out that the Boys Higher Secondary School, which is in Haran (another village), is very far away for local students. “Students have to go long way to attend classes in all kinds of bad weather,” said Ishtiyaq Ahmad Malik, another local.
Aga Syeed Ruhullah Mehdi, who is the sitting MLA from Budgam, told Kashmir Reader that Salahuddin has nothing to do with Soibug in terms of development. “It comes in my constituency, I will work for the people. If there is a transport problem, I will help people from Soibug to get loans to purchase mini buses and solve their problem. Also, this village was upgraded to a Tehsil level and was announced as a Block prior to that,” he said.