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Kashmir weave

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Kashmir silk was renowned to be finer than the Chinese weave till the thread broke in the vicissitudes of time. But there is hope now. The Government Silk Factory spanning Rajbagh and Solina in Srinagar is reopening, with the Word Bank granting ₹23.54 crore to infuse new life into its filatures and looms.

From 200 looms in its heyday, only 26 remain. The floods in 2014 dealt the final blow. “The deluge damaged the looms and stocks,” Muhammad Afzal, factory manager, says. Encroachments have shrunk the site from 13.5 acres to 3 acres.

The British opened the factory in 1896, taking Kashmir into the industrial era. By 1939, the factory, working round the clock with 2,000 workers, used to churn out 20,000 metres of silk a month. But protests had broken out against the Dogra monarchy over the poor condition of the artisans and the tough laws on weavers. The factory suspended operations for some time in 1917. Muhammad Iqbal, poet, visited Kashmir in June 1921 and wrote the famous Persian poem Saqi Nama on the ordeal of the weavers. In 1924, the workers launched a full-fledged agitation against low wages, but the rulers crushed the protest.

“The revival of the project should be seen not only as an effort to step up silk production but also as a memory project,” says Tassaduq Mufti, Peoples Democratic Party leader and former State Tourism Minister. Mufti, a Bollywood cinematographer-turned-politician, backed the idea of reviving the silk factory as “a living memory”. The revival plan envisages generating 10 lakh metres of silk a year from the Rajbagh and Solina unit and those at Nowshera and Bari Brahmana in the State.

As silk production grew phenomenally elsewhere, Srinagar’s silk factory failed to compete in the international market and saw a declining number of customers, especially high-spending Europeans. Now is the time for another stab at glory.

Text by Peerzada Ashiq and images by Nissar Ahmad

(Peerzada is a Special Correspondent and

Nissar a Senior Special News Photographer

of The Hindu based in Srinagar)

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