Weaver recalls the design he made, shocked at the massacre

An uncanny Indian connection has emerged in Friday's Oslo shooting incident, which left 76 persons dead. A self-confessed Muslim-hating fundamentalist Christian, the 32-year-old Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, chose an Indian art firm to produce badges for his crusader organisation.

As details from his manifesto become known, it has come to light that the “badge of the Justiciar Knight” was sourced from far off Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The name of the firm is “Indian Art Company,” situated in one of the narrow lanes of Varanasi, home to the ancient city's traditional weavers who are struggling to eke out a living in a rapidly changing economic environment.

“Yes, I had made two samples for somebody from Norway but that was about a year ago,” Mohammad Aslam Ansari of the ‘Indian Art Company' confirmed when The Hindu spoke to him on the phone on Monday.

Slightly taken aback by a newspaper calling him from New Delhi, Mr. Ansari could not connect the badges he had made to what happened in Norway. When told about the violent massacre near Oslo, his shock and surprise was evident. “I do not even recall the name of person who had contacted me through e-mail and had asked me to send a sample of the badge,” he said in a mixture of Hindi and broken English while trying to give expression to his feelings in a jaw-dropping tone.

“The badge of the Justiciar Knight illustrates a white skull marked with the symbols of communism, Islam and Nazism on the forehead, impaled on the cross of the martyrs,” the Breivik manifesto says.

How and when did Breivik make contact? Mr. Ansari said he had advertised through a couple of websites hoping for some international business and got an e-mail from Norway. Mr. Ansari recalled the design of the badge — a skull with a dagger passing through it (“khopdi aur khanjar”). He made two samples based on a design settled by email and sent them to Norway by courier about a year ago.

“I had hoped to get some bulk order but after sending two samples, nothing was heard and no message came from Norway,” he told this correspondent. Some token amount was sent to him through Western Union as advance (Breivik's diary says he paid $150 for the two badges).

The Internet did not prove to be the bonanza Mr. Ansari had hoped for. In the past eight months, he said, his account had been hacked and his dreams of getting work through the e-world had come to naught. “I am back to square one, doing jobs on my family loom for others. Generally, we are paid Rs. 150 per metre, of which half goes to the weaver who is working on the loom. It is too meagre to meet even our daily needs,” Mr. Ansari said.

A matriculate, Mr. Ansari, hailing from a family of traditional weavers, passed out from school in 1984. Since then, he said, the business has only dwindled.