Sona Ashwaar: Unsung Eco-Warrior of Tral

Sona Ashwaar: Unsung Eco-Warrior of Tral

In our world we often look for heroics and celebrate bravery/ achievement in any sphere of life. From getting medals to top ranks in highly competitive exams, from writers to content creators, every such accomplishment becomes the talk of the town and the personality becomes an overnight sensation. On the contrary, some silent heroes whose contribution may not be evident or may not hit the news, but their sincere efforts leave a lasting impact, are hardly known to us. A similar personality, whose tireless efforts are for everyone to appreciate and to get inspired by, needs a bit of recognition and deserves accolades. This person is the ‘eco-warrior of Tral’.
Sona Ashwaar, son of Ambir Ashwaar, resident of Hariparigam in Tral hamlet of District Pulwama, is an inspiration for the whole community. His sacrifices and dedication towards ecosystem conservation in his native village are in the very land and air of Tral. In the nineties, he was deployed as a forest guard in the department of social forestry. During this time, 9 places were selected in the whole Tral sub-district for plantation drive to preserve the environment and the vegetation cover. However, the plantation proved in the mountainous ridge of Hariparigam in Tral became controversial.
Sona Ashwaar brought different kinds of trees, of Keekar, Bohad, Apricot, etc, from Pulwama to plant them here. He hired labour, out of his own expenses, from his locality and got the trees planted. The irony of fate is that instead of praise and acknowledgement he deserved, people began to oppose him. Some ignorant locals opposed the plantation drive thinking that the land originally meant for grazing animals had been grabbed by the social forestry department. Out of anger and frustration, a huge crowd of people uprooted the trees and burnt them. This proved a pivotal point in Ashwaar’s life.
The man with an iron will and a broad chest decided to take up the fight against the locals and informed his officers, who then approached the police and security forces. It is said that a crackdown was launched to nab the guilty people. Over 300 persons were arrested, some of them released shortly afterwards, but 12 persons had to face the law for a long period.
Sona Ashwaar’s act of bravery was appreciated by the then DFO Kirmani Sahab and the director of social forestry. He was promoted as a daily wager and, after 7 years, his services were made permanent. During his tenure, he fought with shepherds, timber smugglers, etc, to conserve the forest. No one would dare to cut a twig from a tree due to the fear of Ashwaar. As per his recommendations, the entire forest land was demarcated. He suggested people to help him in this noble cause and let the trees grow to their full, to convert this barren mountain into a green forest.
Unfortunately, many times he was threatened by some selfish people to withdraw himself from this mission but he stood like a mountain, unmoved and unbroken, with grit and determination.
He was threatened to the extent that the then DFO promised him to build a bungalow if any miscreant damages his property. Though he is not alive now, he is considered a forest hero in the region. The saplings he planted have turned into massive trees and now form a full-fledged forest preserving the ecosystem of the village and providing shelter to many flora and fauna. Honouring the unsung hero, local people have named it after him as “Sonen Rakh” (area belonging to Sona Sahab).
In this selfish world, the valour of such men should be an eye-opener and an example of how to grow trees and ensure their conservation. This should be treated as a moral obligation primarily because the importance of green gold is second to none and vital to our living environment. Any natural resource freely available to us should be conserved and valued; only then can we expect a happy and prosperous future and life.

—The writer is a resident of Hariparigam, Tral. lateefganai9919@gmail.com

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