GRADUAL TRANSFORMATION OF HANDWARA TO MODERNITY

Handwara is a place of historical importance in the Northern part of the Kashmir Valley under district Kupwara. Situated in the lap of mesmerising Rajwar forest ranges, the township has been a beautiful amalgamation of the Kashmiri culture in North Kashmir. The township for generations, has served as a highway between two major districts of Kupwara and Baramulla both economically and culturally. The close vicinity of the township to the bedrock of politics in Kashmir i.e., Sopore had fuelled political affiliations in the past and same has been percolated into the newer generation.

However, Handwara as a town has mostly remained people centric and peaceful but strategically indispensable. The era of terrorism and political unrest within the valley had greatly affected the aspect of development within Handwara and its neighbouring areas. However off late, development activities have started to emerge on account of the unison mindset for a systematic economic developmental approach. Abrogation of Article 370 and the establishment of a working Municipal body has paved way for multifaceted development in this small town. Handwara is so much more than what appears and that is undoubtedly true with regards to the cuisine it offers! Nearly every street in this town has a restaurant or hawker selling mouth-watering snacks, which is why the foodies adore it so much. Parsas’, a multi-state restaurant has opened its outlet in the heart of the town Food outlets like Chunk city, Bonfire, The Haveli, Ten 11 are on way behind in attracting the youth from the neighbouring areas.

The township is located at the converging point of the roads emerging out from the ‘Beautiful Meadows of Bangus Valley’. Seeing the vast tourism opportunities, locals have come up with the ideas of offering home-stays to the tourists. Tourism department has also taken the same in consideration and are in the process of restructuring rest houses in the area. Historically, Handwara had been on abode of the Kashmiri Pandits. The form alto tat shrine of Mata Bhadrakali near Bhadrakal and an ancient Shiv Mandir. However, they migrated out during the onset of terrorism in the area and remained hesitant in visiting the holy shrines. Of late, improvement in situation and the welcoming gesture of the people of Handwara have helped Kashmiri Pandits to be able to fall back to their roots and ancestral legacy which is arista apparent with the multifold increase during the Biannual Navratri Festival to the sacred Bhadra Kali Mata Mandir. The residents of the township never had easy access to quality medical facilities, for which they had to frequent towards Baramulla or Srinagar. To solve this, a new state of the art District Hospital building is almost nearing completion with an added capacity of 200 beds at a cost of 84 Crore Rupees. In addition, a Government Medical College has been approved with an investment of approx 165 Crore Rupees at Chogul, Handwara.

This would in turn improve the quality of health care services and become a node for excellence in coming years. MBBS courses would now be easier to pursue and quality research for all students and medical practitioners would be well within reach. The conducive environment which the city has enjoyed since last decade has led the startups to quickly rise amongst the populace. To assist in the same, a first of its kind’ Industrial Biotechnology Park’ is being constructed at full pace by the National Project Construction Corporation at a cost of 33.1 Crore Rupees. The building will have multiple amenities to include 28 labs, conference rooms, media rooms which would further give boost to the startup environment. Further, local media outlets have always strived to project the positivity of the workspace environment in the hamlet. To facilitate the sports infrastructure and assist local sporting talents, a multi-utility State of the Art Indoor Sports Stadium is being constructed which will have a Gymnasium, Badminton and Volleyball court.

Politics has become an evident form of change in the environment of the town. Youth from in and around the area have formed up Independent Youth parties like Youth Civil Society with fond association with one or the other political groups of the region, making these as stepping stones in the future of regional politics. These locals youth parties or the so called Youth Clubs are involving themselves in becoming an ardent aspect of societal change taking their fight against common social evils of drug abuse, cross border terrorism etc. The town has been a buzzing place of local talents who have risen to outperform despite all the hardships faced during the previous decades of unrest in the valley.

Mahia Bashir, a happy going girl has brought international limelight to the township by becoming the first ever girl from Kashmir to be selected to the Chambers of the prestigious Harvard University. Humaira Mohammed from ITI colony became the sole champion from Handwara to clinch two golds in both J&K State Powerlifting and Deadlift championship events. Mehreen Banday, the local karate girl brought laurels to the town by bagging gold at the 5th International U-19 Karate Championship held at Vizag in January this year. Khurshid Ahmed, a local boy from Kulangam is training to participate in State Wushu Championship. Another brilliant individual named Kaiser is a popular artist and posts his art and tutorials on his Instagram and YouTube channel ‘k.kaiser’s art’.

These all are small excerpts from a larger chapter in the change that is coming to this beautiful settlement. Although the evils of cross border terrorism and drug menace have been persistent in the society, the people of Handwara have always favoured peace and development in the area and are on the pathway to a brighter future for themselves and generations to come.

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