Srinagar: Not many people know that the historic Goni Khan market in the heart of Srinagar city was once a desolate place housing a few shops. The only establishments that stood in the market in early 1950 were those of a butcher, a milkman and a cap-seller. Besides, Maharaja Hari Singhs royal horses were reportedly kept at Bandook Chavani located behind the market. Over the years, the market has undergone a complete metamorphosis. Haneefa Begum, a septuagenarian woman resident of Goni Khan says she used to dry rice stacks on the road until early 80s. Only few people would walk inside Goni Khan. There was no question of vehicles plying inside the street, she says.
Today, the market is bustling with hundreds of shops selling virtually everything for ladies. As one enters the market from Amira Kadal end, a rich aroma of pickles and Wazwan pervades the air. During festive season, the market witnesses an unprecedented rush of people. Hundreds of vehicles, mostly two-wheelers, zoom past the shops everyday which irks the shopkeepers. The bikers deliberately choose this market since a lot of women come to shop here, says Bashir Ahmad, owner of Rivaaj, a garments shop. A sudden spurt in the number of cart owners has added to the congestion inside the market. The market is barely 12 feet wide. Since there is a heavy rush of people, these cart-owners cause hindrance to the movement of people.
The Srinagar Municipal Corporation should ensure that the law is upheld by disallowing the cart owners to sell their stuff here, says Bashir. But how did this place transform into a business hub? Farooq Ahmad, the president of Goni Khan Traders Association, attributes the change to the relentless efforts of S. Kumar, a resident of Jammu. S Kumar had opened a readymade garment shop for kids in Goni Khan in mid 8os. He would travel to almost all the districts of Kashmir in an auto-rickshaw to publicise his shop by yelling Goni Khan Main S Kumar Ki Sale. Farooq says Kumars campaign earned a lot of recognition for the market which attracted the people and there was no looking back. On a daily basis, business worth crores is done during the festive season by the traders. Ladies swarm this market because they are aware of the quality of goods sold here, he says.
Due to an increase in shoppers footfall, a large number of shopping complexes have sprouted up inside the market Mehraj Sofi, a resident of Batamaloo, is busy buying cosmetic items for his sisters wedding. He has been visiting Goni Khan market for many years now. You get all the ladies essentials at one place, and that too of high quality at a fair price. What else can you ask for? he says. However, the shopkeepers regret the lack of a urinal and proper roads in the market. They say the customers have to face inconvenience due to the absence of a public toilet. The market also faces the paucity of a parking space and potholed roads. We approached the local MLA, Nasir Aslam Wani, to look into the matter but nothing has been done so far, Farooq Ahmad says. Pix: Syed Shahriyar