Half a decade of relative peace

Half a decade of relative peace

Gyms, parlours and eateries coming up in Sopore, north Kashmir towns turning into business centers

Sopore: For the past five years, strategically located Sopore town of north Kashmir has traveled a long journey from a militancy hotbed to a thriving business center. The story is true about several other towns in the northern region of Kashmir known as Kamraz.
The region compromising the towns of Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Sopore and Handwara were known as militancy-hit areas but they are emerging as new business hubs.
In the last few years, since the militancy epicenter shifted to southern districts of the valley, the north Kashmir has seen a revival of certain businesses and recreational activities.
Major townships like Sopore and Baramulla have witnessed a spurt in cafes, gym centres, high-end bakeries, ice-cream parlours and saloons in the last few years. “Earlier we would go to Srinagar to get a hair-cut from a modern saloon but now Sopore has more than half a dozen high-end hairdressers. It is not only convenient but much appreciable also, in view of the changing times,” Basit Nabi, a college student told Kashmir Reader.
It is more or less the same on the eating joints. A lot of young people prefer to visit a host of cafes and new-age eateries that have come up in the apple-rich town. “I have good quality restaurants like Kathi Junction Sopore, New Light, Icy spicy and River Edge right here in Sopore where I can go and have a meal with my friends. A few years back we could not even imagine such a thing. Personally, I think we need these places to unwind and have a good time with our loved ones,” Tayiba Ali, a young teacher noted.
Several political and cultural observers that Kashmir Reader spoke to confirmed that reduction in militant activities in north Kashmir has resulted into boosting some businesses and the much-needed breathing space for young people.
Haji Mohammad Ashraf Wani, Sopore traders’ federation president confirmed to Kashmir Reader that the stability in situation and reduction in militancy related incidents have definitely gone in the interest of business sector.
However columnist Hassan Zainagiri said the complexion of militancy may differ from north to south but it doesn’t mean the north is calmer.
“It can be a calculated strategy of militant commanders to keep the infiltration route clear so that the movement of militants can be free from north to south. It can be said that they are keeping north peaceful so that they can avoid the infestation of the army to their routes,” he said.
But Zainagiri’s analysis apart, the number of gym centres in Sopore and Baramulla has grown from two to eight in two years. These days most youth prefer to spend their additional time in productive activities like working out, instead of other things.
“I remember a few years back, I would not even think of staying out late but now the situation on the ground has improved in last few years. I go to the gym for a workout in late hours of the day. Sometimes I reach late but my parents are not worried that much,” Sajad Nisar, a workout freak from Sopore said.
The change in the wind had been embraced by women too with many female entrepreneurs active in business and start-ups in both Sopore and Baramulla. Previously it was not uncommon for establishments like ladies parlours to get ‘threat letters’ from shadowy outfits but all that is a thing of the past now.
Sadia, a lady running Sadia cute parlour in Sopore town for a decade now, confirmed to Kashmir Reader said that such outlets used to get threatening letters in the past but there is no such threat from any quarter.
Many college pass-outs, finding government jobs too scarce to come by, have started their own business ventures ranging from selling horticultural equipments to setting up restaurants.
Shahid Malik, 30, an MBA pass out from Chandigarh college is running Kathi Junction restaurant in Sopore. The food joint is getting a good response from people.
“Kashmir is unstable and this is our reality. We have leart to live with this reality. Investing in a place like Sopore was difficult to even think but now that the situation has improved, we decided to set up Kathi Junction and the response is encouraging”, Malik said.

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