Handicraft in Kashmir owes its origin in 15th century when Zain Ul Aabidin, the Budshah brought “Kal Baffi” craft from Persia to Kashmir with a sole aim to train local residents. Kashmir is worldwide famous for its handicrafts like Kahmiri Shawl, Chain Stitich, Papier Machie, Namda, Phool Kari etc. Handicrafts of Kashmir are famous for their superior craftsmanship, eye catching designs, utility and quality. Virtues like above only have made their popularity possible at national and international markets. The handicraft has its important role in J&k’s economical and employment department. “This sector have been feeding 250 thousand artisans through out the valley and earns about Rs 17000 crores as foreign exchange annually” notes Directorate of handicrafts, Government of J&K, 2020. The handicraft industry of Kashmir Valley, which has its existence all over the world, is now engaged in fighting for its survival. For hundreds of years, the valley’s handicraft industry has been kept alive by men, women, children and the elderly with magical skills at their fingertips.
People involved in Kashmir’s handicrafts are now afraid that in near future the industry may vanish and Kashmir may lose its glorious identity. They said that the unrest in valley & COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of damage to the industry & has hampered its development journey. Abdul Rashid Bhat of Wanpora Kulgam has been involved in carpet weaving for the last 40 years. “Maximum number of people in my neighbourhood used to make carpets but now we are a handful people only” He said as he expressed his worries. “The biggest reason for this is that the government has never paid any attention to the people involved in this industry” He added. Nazir Ahmad, 40, who is also an artist says that “the craftsman’s earnings are not enough to get bread and butter, that is why everyone has left this work.” Nazir also blames the last two years of COVID-19 pandemic for the industry’s decline. “While the whole world was suffering from this epidemic, all business activities remained closed, which had a huge impact on our industry” He sobbed. According to a report, against Rs 369.8 crore exports in 2016-2017, the exports have fallen to 299 crore in 2019-2020. Government needs to pay attention to explore this industry, to generate employment before it is too late & to meet the demands of those who have been involved in this very sector since decades, so that this tradition can be prevented & abundant jobs could be created through this sector.
(The author is a Student of Multimedia and Mass Communication at GDC Boys Anantnag. Views are exclusively his own)