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.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kani Shawl Headed to Oblivion

The art of making Kani Shawl may die for want of artisans


Nazia Akhtar (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: A wonderful trade of Kashmir known world over for its beauty of art is currently facing difficult times with artisans leaving this trade citing low wages.

The Kani Shawl, according to the men in this trade, is fast losing its artisans for they find it difficult to sustain themselves with the meager wages they earn in this trade.

The artisans said the wages have dropped sharply during the last two years.

“Presently an artisan weaving a Kani Shawl is earning less than a hundred rupees a day. However before two years the same artisan was earning Rs 250 per day. So the wages instead of increasing have decreased in the last two years that has further added to the problems of the artisans,” said Ghulam Muhammad Mir, president, Kani Shawl Karigaran Union.

Mir said the trade was going well in the Valley a few years ago. “But last two years have proved very ominous due to many reasons including one that too many middlemen have come in this trade,” he said.

Mir said some “bad guys” had done a great damage to this great art. “A few unscrupulous agents who acted as middlemen procured the kani shawls from the manufacturers and sold them in the market at lower rates without giving the due to the manufacturers.”

He said although these agents have now been checked and the dealers were now directly procuring the shawls from the manufacturers, “but the damage was done and the rates came down.”

But many in the trade said the wages have waned because the demand for the shawls has come down due to global slowdown. According to the artisans their wages have been reduced by 50 per cent in the last two years. “We are poor artisans and are not able to buy the raw material to work independently. We work for the manufacturers who pay us wages according to the market trend. Presently as our manufacturers are not able to sell the shawls at a profitable rate so they are reducing our wages,” said Rouf Ahmad, an artisan who is involved with the weaving of Kani Shawl for the past eight years.

The weaving of a Kani shawl is a very painstaking job. Several kanis or small wooden sticks carrying threads of different colors are used for the weaving of these shawls.

These sticks are used as spool by the artisans to weave the shawl. “We have to work extremely hard to make a kani shawl. The process to prepare a Kani shawl is very complex and it needs lot of patience. The complexity involved is such that many of the artisans need the support of an artificial light in the broad day light. Also it is so complex and intricate that a person cannot pursue the art after the age of 60 or 70 years,” said Shabir Ahmad Kar.

The artisans said that there are around 50,000 families in the valley who are directly or indirectly involved with the craft. “However 35,000 families are entirely dependent on this craft for earning their livelihood,” they said.
“Kani shawl weaving is extremely time consuming and it takes one person a year to produce one shawl. It requires enormous amount of concentration as an artisan cannot weave beyond an inch a day while being at the loom. The shawl usually has a length of 81 inches,” they added.

“There is a great range of the designs available in the Pashmina Kani Shawl and the price is decided according to the quality of the design. The price usually runs between Rs 70,000 to one lakh,” said the artisans.

However the artisans maintained that since the past two years the quality is mattered. “I am doing this work for the last seven years. Initially I was earning Rs 300 per day but presently I am only given Rs 60 or 70 which I feel is the grave injustice to us. It is a very hard labour and despite of working so hard I am not able to support my parents as I am the sole earning member in my family,” said Khursheed Ahmad Pehalwan an artisan.

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