Shawl Weavers
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SRINAGAR — Due to lockdown in wake of Coronavirus, no organization or entity including Pashmina Karigar Union this time remembered the 28 innocent shawl weavers who were put to death by tyrant soldiers of Maharaja Ranbir Singh on 29 April 1865 at Zaldagar area of old Srinagar city. The unarmed shawl weavers were protesting against the cruel taxation of the then autocratic government.

Every year, people especially those related to Pashmina business used to commemorate the death anniversary of these innocent weavers. These people used to observe April 29 instead of May 01 as Labour Day.

“April 29, 1865 is marked as the bloodiest day in Kashmir history and it is our responsibility and duty to revive our past and impress upon all the trade unions here in Kashmir to observe Labour Day on this day. Unfortunately, this year we couldn’t observe this day in wake of lockdown due to lethal Coronavirus,” said a weaver, Tariq Ahmed over phone.

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He said world observed the day for labourers from 1888 but the reality is that Kashmir raised its voice much earlier in 1865. “It is high time we make our people aware about our history and start observing 29 April as the day for labourers,” he said.

Throwing light on the events that unfolded on 29 April 1865, he said that it was the day when shawl weavers marched through the streets of Srinagar’s old city against the cruel tax policies imposed on them by the Dogra regime. The shawl weavers of Srinagar were compelled by the circumstances of turbulent working conditions, meager wages, excessive taxation and a ban on weavers who wanted to leave Kashmir valley.

“The protests by the weavers were held outside the house of Pandit Raj Kak Dhar, the Kashmiri Pandit official who headed the Dagh Shawl Department, in the city’s Zaldgar locality. Dhar had given misinformation to the Dogra army that he was being attacked. As the protesters reached Zaldgar, the Dogra troops led by Colonel Bijoy Singh rounded off the demonstrators and asked them to disperse. When the unarmed protesters refused to accept the orders, the troops fired at them and later charged them with spears. Scores of protesters jumped off the Haji Rather Sum Bridge at Zaldgar, in the hope they would hide in the marsh underneath, but at least 28 bodies were recovered from the river, and over 100 sustained wounds,” he said.

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He added that nothing has changed as they are still being exploited. “No tangible steps are being taken to revive this age old industry. “Exporters, traders and vendors in Delhi prefer sale of machine made Pashmina articles to make quick bucks as against hand spun, hand woven genuine pashmina.

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