Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Valley Carpet and Shawl Industry is in Deep Trouble

Carpet, Shawl Industry In Deep Slump

Srinagar: The carpet and shawl weaving industries, which have the status of being the backbone of Kashmir handicrafts, are on a sharp decline, throwing thousands of artisans and craftsmen and their families into acute financial and economic distress.

The gravity of the slump can be judged from the fact that carpets, which used to sell at around Rs 900 per square foot just a few years ago during the tenure of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, are today going a-begging at Rs 450, and that too despite credit. The shawl-making craft too is going through a similar crisis. The elaborate government department of handicrafts has failed to arrest the fall and has been able to do nothing except dash off documentary missiles.

A recent survey says that in the Budgan and Baramulla districts, where forty per cent of the population subsists on carpet and shawl weaving, the artisans have been totally idle for the past four months, and there are no buyers for the products they have in stock.

Many craftsmen said that if they manage to sell their products somehow, traders withhold payments for months together, forcing them to think about giving up this vocation. “We have been associated with this trade for decades, and considered it as a gift from Hazrat Shah Hamadan (RA) to Kashmiris,” they say.

A carpet weaver in Mattan, Ghulam Qadir, said that the trade was totally down for the past four months and craftsmen were absolutely idle. Holding the government responsible for the situation, Qadir said that after Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, neither Ghulam Nabi Azad nor the governor had shown any interest in promoting the carpet craft.

A shawl weaver from Budgam, Abdul Rasheed, expressed similar views, saying that around 90 per cent of the people in his area were dependent on shawls and carpets, but both trades were running on a loss for the past three months. “In 2005, an artisan used to earn Rs 100 to 150 per day, but today instead of increasing, this rate has drastically declined,” he said. “One barely manages Rs 60 to 70 a day today,” he said.

A trader, Nazeer Ahmad, said that huge losses in carpets and shawls had put him into dire straits financially and many people had given up their ancestral vocation, taking up alternative professions. A Tangmarg resident, Abdul Rahman said that he had been associated with the carpet trade for the past 35 years, but now there was no fun in the business. “This craft was a gift from Hazrat Ameer-e-Kabeer (RA), but the government’s indifference has sounded its death knell,” he said.

Salamuddin from Chadoora said that on the one hand the government talked of promoting self-employment schemes and urged youth to stand on their own feet, but on the other was destroying traditional and ancestral industries. “If the government continues with this approach, it will have horrific consequences,” he said.

(Kashmir Observer)

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