Bandipore is one of the 10 districts of valley among 20 districts of Jammu & Kashmir. Bandipore town, the district headquarters, is about 55 kilometers away to the north of district Srinagar (summer capital). Before 1947 it was a big trade and literary centre of Kashmir. The road from Safapore to Bandipore largely runs in a zigzag style through the foot of hillocks, hills, mountains and forests. The district, as per census 2011, had a population of 3.92 lakh. However, as per uidai.gov.in Dec. 2020 data estimates the population in 2021 was 4,23,475. With less than one percent non-Muslim population the district is predominantly inhabited by Muslims comprising various communities. All the communities enjoy their customary diversification. Shias are in the villages of Dangerpora, Shahtulpora, Shadipora Payeen, and Shilvat along the district road and Inderkoot at Sumbal etc. all areas falling within Tehsil Sonawari. It has a gender ratio of 911 females to 1000 males. As per census 2011 the average literacy rate was 64.45 percent with males constituting 75.94 percent and females 52.96 percent. With the pin code of 193502 the most commonly spoken language is Kashmiri followed by Urdu, Gojri, Pahari, and Shina (Dardi) in Gurez. It is spread over an area of 345-398 sq. kilometers with three assembly constituencies of Bandipore, Gurez and Sonawari having middle, high and low altitudes respectively. It has seven tehsils of Ajas, Aloosa, Bandipore, Gurez, Hajin, Sonawari Sumbal and Tulail. Bandipore tehsil is the largest in population whereas Sonawari is in area.
As per folklores the name Bandipore originated either from bund of Wular lake as Bund-e-pore or from the enclosed geographical location as Bundh-e-pore or from Banday caste. Main town is excessively congested both in residential and the commercial structures due to scarcity of land as the east of the town is hillside and the west mostly marsh. Moreover no bypass was constructed so far. Gurez (Land of Dards) is the smallest tehsil both in population and area. The most distant tehsil is Tulail about 126 kilometers followed by Gurez at 86 kilometers from Bandipore. Both are pollution free. There are 12 community development blocks namely: Aloosa, Arin, Baktour, Bandipore, Bankoot, Ganustan, Gurez, Hajin, Naidkhai, Nowgam, Sumbal and Tulail which are constituents of 42 villages. There are three municipal committees of Bandipore, Hajin and Sumbal. The district is bounded by districts of Kupwara in the north, Baramulla in the west, Kargil district of Ladakh in the east and districts of Ganderbal and Srinagar in the south. The district was carved out from the erstwhile district of Baramulla in 2007. It is known for trekking, mountaineering and fishing pursuits. For mountaineers Mount Harmukh remains the main point of attraction located in the eastern sides of the town. It is the birth place of a great historian of his time Hassan Shah Khoehami of Gamroo. Sufi poet Wahab Parray, Prof. Mohiuddin Hajni (Scholar in Arabic & Persian), & Prof. Dr. Aziz Hajni of Hajin. Poet Prof. Abdul Rasheed Nazki & Psychiatrist Dr. Abdul Ahad Beigh of Bandipore and Sufi Poet Lala Argami of Argam are the prominent personalities of the district. Bandipore is also known for three As – Alim (Knowledge), Aab (Water) and Adab (Good manners).
The famous river Jhelum flowing from Verinag spring and embosoming en-route all its tributaries amalgams with the kidney-shaped Wular Lake of Bandipore to march onward via Sopore to Baramuula and beyond. The river runs across the district from village Panzinara bifurcating its population and area in about two halves to the east and the west. The river provides livelihood opportunities like extraction of sand by people from areas of Shadipore to Hajin, scanty fishing sports besides irrigation facilities to land holdings both sides. Two beautiful nallahs of Madhumati and Popchan, lapping the town, empty themselves into the Wular Lake which is said to be the richest wetland of South Asia and the largest fresh water lake in Asia. However as of now the lake has lost much of its sheen due to various types of unabated pollutions and encroachments. No matching steps have been taken to retrieve and retain its past pristine glory and stature as no boulevard has come up to stop or reduce its disfiguration. Lotus, groundnuts, chestnuts, willows and aquaculture which grow here provide means of livelihood to people who associate themselves with such activities. One of the hydro electric power projects namely Kishanganga (a river that originates from Drass in Kargil district) is there at Kralpora village. It is a run-of-the-river scheme with an installed capacity of 330 MWs. The topography is mostly skewed with hillocks, mountains and forests on the eastern and the northern side with quite contrasting open bogs, mires, marshy lands, swamps and wetlands on the opposite sides. The district has no sound industrial base with the result majority of educated youth look for government jobs. The arable and the residential lands suffer scarcity and fruit & food grains shortages thereby culminating in low standard of living generally. Agriculture is the main occupation. Paddy/rice is the staple food of the majority of population. Cash crops are insignificant. However, maize crop is cultivated mostly by Gojjars who have much of their land in karevas and sloppy areas. Horticulture is sparse. Wicker works is the pursuit of some people with Kangri (Fire-pot), winnows, and baskets the famed handicraft products.
Approximately 17 kilometers up from Bandipore quarry stones extracted and cut at village Sadderkot Bala in Hajin Block are famous for use in construction works like residential, commercial, recreational and office buildings, bathrooms, bathhouses, hot bath etc. However, this activity has remained suspended for some time past effecting the artisans/labourers concerned with increase in the cost of stones simultaneously. At Neberpore, at a stone’s throw from Gulshan Park at main chowk, is the famous Darul-Uloom Raheemiya, an Islamic seminary for boys, established in 1979 by Rehmatullah Mir Sahib Qasmi who is an alumnus of world renowned Darul-Uloom Deoband. Here along with formal education emphasis is laid on teaching of Tafseer, Assoli Tafseer, Hadith, Assoli Hadith, Fiqa, Assoli Fiqa, Saraf vu Nahav, Tajveed and Assoli Tajveed etc.
One more feather in the cap of Neberpore is a park constructed by another local namely Ghulam Mohammad Mir under the supervision of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad the then Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, in 1954. The terraced park is named Nishat Park as it has been built in accordance with the design of the much famous shoreline Nishat Garden built by Mughal Emperor Jahangir for his wife Noor Jehan in 1619 at Srinagar. Another park has come up recently at Garoora vintage on a promontory over viewing all the four directions. Politically the district has been a low profile one resultantly it remained unattended to on various fronts. The district lacks in having institutions like Fisheries College, ISM College/Hospital, Physical Education College, and Forestry College. People are mostly shy, peaceful and prosperous.
The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant of A.G’s Office Srinagar.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.