Srinagar: Aamir Sayeed was born into a middle-class family that had been weaving and selling Kani shawls for generations. From childhood he dreamt of bringing glory to the family craft and profession. He left studies midway to start his ambitious “business career” of exporting shawls without going through middlemen who took away the major chunk of profit.
The plan was going well, until 2013, when he was arrested from a neighbourhood park and booked under serious charges.
Sayeed narrated the incident to Kashmir Reader. “After a tiring day of shawl weaving, I along with two other friends went to the nearby Safa Kadal park for refreshment. Even though Kashmir had witnessed a few tense days that year, the situation at the time was normal and we all felt safe going to the park. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case,” he said.
At the park, Sayeed was arrested by policemen from the Safa Kadal Station on charges of possessing and distributing flags of Pakistan and militant organisations. He was kept in police lock-up for several days, before he was presented before the session court in Srinagar.
Since then, Sayeed has spent his life and resources on frequent visits, 3 to 4 times in a month, to the court. “When the court began hearing my case, I was full of hope. But then I encountered the reality: the court had a dearth of judges. On many occasions, we had to hear that the judge had not arrived and we would have to come on the next date of hearing. My miserable life kept stretching endlessly,” said Sayeed, now 25 years old, still on trial.
Weaving a Kani shawl, Sayeed said, demands at least nine hours of strict work in a day. Friday is the only holiday the artisans take in the week. “Due to the frequent court hearings, I had to leave the work of shawl weaving. I couldn’t find any source of earning for several months,” he said.
Sayeed now sells fruits and vegetables on Ali Jan Road.
“As a street vendor, I earn the bread for my family. But it is not easy. Apart from the legal battle I am fighting in court, I also have to constantly fight the law outside. Municipality officials keep threatening my daily survival. Two years ago, they smashed my roadside near Narwara. I was warned to never set up the stall again,” Sayeed said.
A shattered man, Sayeed says he fears that he may take an extreme step if the government officials keep harassing him. “I am tired of all this. I don’t find a reason to continue with a life full of miseries and with no hope of a better future. I believe that my miseries, like of many others accused of similar charges, will end only with our deaths,” he said.