SRINAGAR: Commemorating 150th anniversary of 1865 shawl weavers’ revolt, Kashmir Pashmina Karigar Union Wednesday held a protest here demanding that the mechanization of the Pashmina shawl industry in the state should stop.
Dozens of weavers gathered at Press enclave lamenting the ‘pathetic’ conditions they are forced to live in. They equated the government’s attitude towards ‘Shalbafs’ (Pashmina shawl weavers) with the Dogra rule and blamed the government of “snatching the bread” from the artisans.
The Karigar union said that by allowing the mechanization of the Pashmina shawls, the government was endangering the livelihood of the Pashmina weavers.
“The Handloom Indian Parliament act 1985 prohibits the mechanization of the Pashmina shawl but till date the J&K government has not implemented the act. This is too insensitive on the part of government” President of the union, Abdul Rouf Qureshi said.
The waivers blamed the government of “deliberately” mechanizing the shawl industry, and are forcing the shawl waivers to “deprivation”.
Fayaz Ahmed, a shawl weaver, said that there was no protection for the weavers. “The quality of the Pashmina shawl is bad as there are fake shawls in the market” he said.
The union demands that the government implement the 1985 act in the state and that the mechanization of the shawl industry should be stopped.
The union termed the shawl weavers who were killed by the Dogra forces as “pioneers who spoke against the injustice met with Kashmiris at the hands of occupying forces”.
“Our protest is to salute and remember those who sacrificed their lives in order to demand justice, not only for weavers but for all the people of Kashmir” said Rouf.
He said that the condition of the shawl weavers was still like that of Dogra period.
“The only thing that has changed is the faces of the rulers. Today it is ‘democracy’ and at the time of Dogras it was authoritarian monarchy. There is no difference between the Dogras and the present government” he said.
On 29 April 1865, hundreds of shawl waivers protested in Srinagar against the exploitative tax policy of the Dogra rule. The Dogra ruler used violence killing 28 Shalbafs.
According to the union, around 1 lakh people including the spinning laborers are associated with the Pashmina shawl industry.
“The mechanization of the industry will have adverse impact upon the livelihood of the poor people who depend on the Pashmina shawl weaving. The government, if it is people friendly, should restore the hand woven industry” Rouf added.