The Kashmir Carpet Industry is yet another jewel among Kashmir’s iconic handicrafts that are treasured all over the world.
Kashmir has seen turbulent times forever since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, more so for the last three decades after the eruption of insurgency in the early 1990s. That wasn’t all, though. Ever since August 5, 2019, when the government of India stripped the region of its semi-autonomy by scrapping Article 370, the Himalayan region has been on the boil.
To add misery to the injury no sooner did the life come to normalcy; lockdown was imposed on account of COVID-19 across the valley which put the last nail in the coffin of region’s businesses. Most affected, to name a few, were tourism, education and handicraft industries.
Kashmir is known for its iconic handicrafts which are being sold and exported outside the region. The industry which was already in limbo has witnessed a sharp decline in sales starting August 5 last year when the region was put under siege for several months.
However, this has not deterred some of the artisans who are working hard in Kunzar area of northern Kashmir to make Asia’s largest carpet sizing 72×40.
Fayaz Ahmad Shah who is spearheading its making, says that initially he was reluctant to accept the order but now he is optimistic about completing the project next year. “Kashmiri carpet industry was famous across the world but it has lost its fame to some extent,” Fayaz Ahmad Shah said.
Fayaz believes that there should be buyer-seller meet in Kashmir like it used to be there a few years back. “Government has to take initiative to reach out to different countries to usher buyers to Kashmir’s handicraft industry,” advised Shah.
There are around 60 artisans working on this carpet for past four years and they believe that it will bring them to more orders in future. One of the artisans said, “This carpet has given livelihood to 60 families amid this pandemic and ongoing situation in Kashmir”.
The carpet had to be completed in three years but the artisans say that it got delayed due to the lockdown of coronavirus in March this year. The professionals working to give this carpet the final shape have experience of around 40 years and are experts in carpet weaving.
Habibullah Sheikh, one of the artisans in the Kashmir Carpet Industry, said “I have been working in this industry when I was just 16 years old. The wages were meagre at the time, 1.5 rupees per day to be specific, and then it increased to five rupees in the next year.”
“I am working on this carpet and everyone among the artisans is doing hard work to make this project a success.”
The artisans of the Kashmir Carpet Industry are worried about machine production, which seems to be a rage among inferior-quality sellers. Moreover, the government hasn’t been of any support either.
They say the government should give attention to the handicrafts industry especially the Kashmir Carpet Industry so that our future generation could take up this art that is turning away their face from the industry.
One of them says that the European buyers should be directly brought to Kashmir instead of Delhi, Mumbai, etc because the finest Carpet weaving art is here. If they can buy from other countries like Afghanistan or Iran, then why not India. Despite looking at the bleak future these artisans say, “We can make much bigger carpets than this if given an opportunity.”
Well, we hope that the finest craft and the most authentic Carpet weaving industry, the Kashmir Carpet Industry survives itself and the hundreds of families dependent on it.
Dil-Paziir (Urdu; meaning ‘heart-pleasing’) is a special edition positive news series brought to you by Digpu, sourced from conflict areas starting from Kashmir. Our local journalists have successfully shared many inspirational stories from the valley – from the invention of E-Charkha, automatic ventilator in Kashmir, stories of brotherhood through to the first-ever cricket tourney for Blind sportsmen, all the stories make us awe-struck. These are NOT FOR REPRODUCTION.