On way to pristine Bangus Valley, a picturesque village dotted with rows of Kail, Deodar and Fir trees is Sochalyari – a Gujjar village with 150 households. This is also known as silent hamlet where villagers still live in the medieval times as benefits of technology are yet to reach there.
In the lap of nature’s beauty this hamlet lacks every basic facility like potable water, good roads, electricity and even the basic healthcare.
Despite this neglect from the government the inhabitants of the village seem to have compromised with their fate and are apparently living a composed and happy life enjoying nature’s beauty away from the hustle and bustle of cities and towns.
Here every house is made up of wood; even some old houses have been constructed with planks and logs of wood that has added the beauty of this place. This place is also the last stopover before the Bangus meadows begins from Vilgam area. Though other routes also lead towards the landscape and lush green Valley.
“From our village it takes three hours uphill trek through dense forests and streams to reach the beautiful meadows. We go there in summers along with our sheep and cattle,’’ says Mohammad Ashraf a local villager. ‘’Trekkers go through our village towards Bungus.’’
Here villagers are still waiting for a day when this place will get electricity, though electricity has reached almost in every part of the J&K. Recently there were efforts to electrify the village but the people from neighboring village, Harduna didn’t allow government to lay poles and HT line through the village. And dream of villagers to get their place electrified remained an unfulfilled promise.
‘We are still waiting for the day, when we will get electricity,’’ says Shamasudin. “We use medieval things to light our homes and our houses are without any modern gadget. Only Radio gives us solace and updates our information about day to day happenings taking place in Kashmir and rest of the country,’’ he says that they, however, use mobiles of airtel as it catches signal from some nearby tower.
“We charge our phones on solar lights and that is the only modern gadget which we use here.’’
As the village is situated in the midst of forest and located at an elevation, so that is reason only maize is cultivated at this place. This could be one of the reasons why inhabitants here lack basic resources compared to other rural villages in the countryside where apple orchards or wall nut trees play an important role in the economy.
Though village has a primary school, however, the nearest middle school is located at five kilometers and those who want to attain higher education have to travel either to Kupwara or Handawara.
Alimudin Chechi, a teacher by profession is the highest qualified person of the village is posted at Vilgam and is the only villager having three storey woodhouse constructed.
“This house was constructed 30 years ago with zeal and dedication,’’ says his cousin while pointing towards the house. He says apart from Chechi there are four other educated youth who have adopted teaching as profession.
‘’We live a very simple life. We don’t have many demands like people have in other rural areas or in cities,’’ said Abdul Kareem, 55, who is basking sun along with his wife and four young children outside his home.
“In winters we receive heavy snowfall and that is the reason why everyone here has constructed houses of wood,’’ he says and adds that wooden houses help them in winters. ‘Inside we use mud which keeps the homes warm.
And maize is only crop which we cultivate and depend on government everything,’’ he says and adds that the villagers also sell maize to earn some money. ‘’Majority of people earn their livelihood by working as labourers in the nearest villages, some have even migrated to Srinagar and Jammu in search of work.”
The only silver lining is the road which is being constructed by Prime Ministers Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) and it seems in coming years for the first time village will have a good road. ‘We never had thought about road, now we will get one. The connectivity will change everything,’’ said Mohammad Yonis another villager. Even the villagers have now been given solar lights by the government. The solar lights have eased the life of people, however, still much is needed to upgrade this village.
Most of the time the villagers stay in their areas and adjacent neighbourhood, some people have never traveled to Handwara or Kupwara that is 25 kilometers from the village.
62 year old Shabir says that he has only been Srinagar twice in his life due to health complications or accompanying some patients. And his neighbor 72 year old Abdul Karim has visited Kupwara only once in his life time.
‘’Most of villagers have no idea how world has changed outside. Our place and people here are simple and faced every hardship bravely,’’ says Shabir.
The village has no health centre and the nearest centre is 10 kilometer away, however, they always use primitive methods to treat ailments and during child birth out of 100 cases only two were referred to Srinagar rest had normal deliveries. “Almighty is aware about our problems so he always helps us.’’
Being a Gujjar village most of the villagers also tend cattle. ‘’For us our cattle’s are dearest thing.’’ Our simplicity can be gauged from every house as the houses are equipped with just basic needs which villagers require to keep themselves alive. This village falls in Langate constituency and legislator Langate, Shiekh engineer Rashid had visited this place twice since he got elected last time.
‘’He came when three houses were gutted in ablaze and gave some money to villagers who lost their houses to fire,’’ said villagers, otherwise politicians seldom visit here and come only when there is election.
The only celebration here is marriage ceremonies. Though marriages here are simple and people prepare two or three dishes, but they dance at the beats of drums which gives them happiness.
“We have simple marriage system and a goat is prepared to serve two or three dishes maximum after inviting neighbors and close relatives,’’ he says and adds that no exteravenga Wazwan is served here. ‘’We have to keep marriages affordable for all. No dowry system as people are poor and can’t afford lavish marriages. Neither have we have roads nor cars. We use horse to travel to nearby villages’’
And when any car or truck passes through the dirt and mud track of this village youths get glued to it for a while as for them it is a strange thing. In emergencies, however, villagers get vehicle from the nearest place Trathpora.
‘’Whenever there is any emergency we have to get vehicle from Trathpora which is eight kilometer away. Here nobody owns any sort of vehicle,’’ says Salamudin Khan.
Numberdar of the village, Molvi Yasin says that there village is a testimony of the official neglect. ‘We have many issues. No one from the government pays any attention to our woes,’’ he says and adds that they are trying to encourage the young generation to seek education. ‘We live in one of the most backward areas. Here people are poor. Only education can lift our village. Though most of the villagers are illiterate, but we are making efforts that our future generation will be educated.
’’ Yasin said that despite being backward there village is an organic village and people live a happy life. ‘’We grow things without pesticides and use old methods which were used in earlier times in Kashmir, so that could be the reason why people are fit and fine and most of the people don’t get diseases.’’
As per the villagers only two ladies died here in the recent past due to child birth complications. ‘’Most of the people here live for more than 70 to 75 years , even old men and women could be seen working in the fields,’’ says Abdul Jabbar and adds that only old age is the major reason for the cause of death here.