Controversy over watermelons in Kashmir - Health scare shakes up Kashmir's Ramzan tradition

Watermelon sales, which previously surged to Rs 5 crore daily during Ramzan, have plummeted by at least 50%

New Update
watermelons in Kashmir

Representative image

New Delhi: In the picturesque valleys of Kashmir, a region renowned for its vibrant cultural traditions, local fruits, food and festivities, the holy month of Ramzan, a holy month of fasting and prayer, brings about a unique culinary practice.


Among the array of delicacies and fruits that adorn the iftar (breaking fast) tables, watermelon being cheap, light and having hydrating qualities has historically occupied a place of pride, cherished for its refreshing sweetness that breaks the day-long fast.

However, this year, the presence of watermelons during Ramzan, that usually transported from other States of the country, has been marred by a cloud of health concerns and fear, casting a shadow over the fruit's seasonal consumption and rumours that it can be cancerous have dipped the sale of watermelon at least by half.

Media reported that the origin of the controversy is traced back to last week’s viral social media post by Dr Wajahat, a clinical oncologist of repute at a leading hospital in Kashmir. Dr Wajahat's cautionary message about the risks associated with consuming artificially ripened "off-season" watermelons sparked a widespread health scare.


Labelling such fruits as potentially carcinogenic due to their chemical treatment, he advised against their consumption during Ramzan, a period when watermelons are traditionally in high demand.

This stark warning, echoed by several others, has led to a palpable sense of apprehension among consumers, drastically affecting the fruit's market demand.

In response to the panic according to the local media, Shagufa Jalal, the Deputy Commissioner of Food Safety in Kashmir, labelled the controversy as unfounded and asked the masses not to believe in rumours.


To restore public confidence, her department has undertaken the inspection and testing of watermelon samples, promising swift disclosure of the results.

This initiative is part of a broader commitment to maintain rigorous food safety standards and prevent misinformation from unsettling the community.

Despite these efforts, the impact on the local economy continues, Watermelon sales, which previously surged to Rs 5 crore daily during Ramzan, have plummeted by at least 50%.


This downturn has not only affected large-scale traders but also small vendors and street hawkers who rely on the seasonal boom to augment their income.

The widespread anxiety has disrupted the traditional iftar setting, where watermelon's cool, hydrating slices once symbolized joy and spiritual renewal.

Further complicating the issue is the debate over the fruit's ripening process. Authorities and some food safety experts have pointed out that watermelons, being "non-climacteric" fruits, do not continue to ripen after harvest, casting doubt on the necessity or prevalence of artificial ripening techniques.


However, authorities and wholesale traders say that fruit is not only brought from neighbouring Punjab but as far as Bangalore and other South India cities where it is available in all seasons.

The watermelon controversy in Kashmir reflects more than just a temporary market fluctuation; it highlights the crucial role of clear, backed communication in public health matters and how social media can bring awareness or rumours to the forefront that needs to be dealt with precision by the authorities.

It also highlights the need for vigilant food safety measures, responsible public discourse, and the collective effort to safeguard the purity of the available risk-free commodities in the market, especially during the sacred month of Ramzan and other festive occasions.