Kashmir watermelon controversy sparks concerns and financial strain for vendors


Final results of the samples will be made public on Saturday : J&K Food and Drugs Department.

Suhail Khan

Srinagar, Mar 14: A social media storm ignited by a tweet from Dr Wajahat (MD), warning against the consumption of artificially ripened watermelons during Ramadan, has led to widespread confusion and financial strain for watermelon vendors in Kashmir.

The controversy began when another Kashmir-based doctor, Dr. Hilal, appealed to people through a video posted on social media platforms. In no time, the video gained traction, urging consumers to boycott watermelons allegedly ripened artificially with chemicals. This video and tweet resonated with many netizens, sparking fear and skepticism among residents ahead of Ramadan.

Amidst the uncertainty, vendors expressed frustration over the financial impact of the controversy. 

Talking to Kashmir Despatch, a group of vendors while raising serious concerns about the sudden drop in sales after some doctors warned against the consumption of artificially ripened watermelons, said they have made us suffer as people unnecessarily started boycotting watermelons.

They said, “Our sales have plummeted since these allegations surfaced. We urge the public to rely on real-life facts rather than succumbing to the influence of social media warriors,” they pleaded. 

Shabir, a seller, told Kashmir Despatch that I bet with doctors across the globe who can show me these watermelons are injected. Shabir said that those who grow them know if they are injected or not, and they are grown in soil that is taken care of in a natural way.

When asked about the non-season, Shabir replied that, no doubt it’s not in season, but those who grow it know, and it’s been growing in soil that is completely taken care of in a natural way.

While lashing out at the doctor, he said he played with our livelihood by spreading false information.

He said we are suffering a lot as not a single person is buying it.

Shabir said a completely wrong notion has been spread in the market, and people are really not coming forward to purchase watermelons.

Abdul Majeed, a fruit seller at Srinagar’s Parimpora fruit mandi, told Kashmir Despatch that this notion has only been spread in Kashmir. He said let any doctor show us these watermelons are injected, and we will stop and put a blanket ban on watermelons in the mandi.

He said there is not an issue, only two doctors who took to Facebook and spread fake information. However, we will accept it if those doctors come to the Mandi and show us these watermelons are injected.

Many social media users also reacted to this controversy. Some said it’s baseless, while some stand with the doctors’ side.

A famous social activist of Kashmir, Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, said that one thing is clear that watermelons are grown throughout the year in different states of India. It is no more a seasonal fruit. I had watermelon in January in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The injected ones are not with a yellow base. One has to look into those things. But yes, in cold weather, watermelon isn’t preferred by people. Karan Garam Tamam Lukh Nen Watermelon Paanai.

Another user said, “The said doctor has created undue panic. Watermelons are coming from southern states where they are available in plenty this season. The food testing lab should check samples if they have any doubts. Feeling bad for these vendors.”

Another user took to a social media platform and said, “Hata, this variety is available in all seasons, there is no harm. But yes, considering the weather in Kashmir, a few years back it wasn’t imported. Now, as the food habits have evolved or changed and people’s affordability (affordability was always there, however people were reserved) increased, that is the story.”

In response to mounting concerns, the J&K Food and Drugs Department stepped in, collecting samples of watermelons for testing to ascertain the veracity of the claims. However, the results of these tests are awaited and are anticipated to shed light on the ongoing controversy on Saturday.

An official at J&K Food and Drugs Department told Kashmir Despatch that samples have already been collected from different markets in the city, and the results of the samples will be made public on Saturday.

He said, at this first stage, it was not seen anything related to injection, however, the department took serious cognizance and involved high-end equipment to thoroughly check the use of chemical analysis, and all the results will come out on Saturday around 4 PM, he added.

Pertinently, Kashmir broke all records in watermelon sales during the previous Ramadan.

As per data breaking all records in fruit sales, Jammu and Kashmir sold watermelons worth Rs 50 million (US $6,56,000 approx.) every day in the Kashmir valley during the month of Ramadan in 2023.

According to officials, Kashmir is also known as one of the biggest consumers of watermelon in the country.

The polarizing nature of the issue has left consumers torn between caution and skepticism, highlighting the power and pitfalls of social media discourse in shaping public opinion.

As the investigation unfolds, residents of Kashmir remain vigilant, awaiting conclusive evidence to put to rest the swirling rumors surrounding the safety of watermelon consumption during Ramadan.

Suhail Khan
Suhail Khanhttps://www.kashmirdespatch.com

Suhail Khan is a filmmaker, content writer, and freelance journalist.


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