Kani Shawl- Facing Extinction

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The market share percentage of indigenous, hand woven Kashmiri shawls is narrowing. Duplicate shawls made mainly in many parts of Punjab especially Amritsar are openly being tagged and sold as original Kashmiri shawls in big showrooms across the valley and outside.

The special Kani shawl weavers, who have been associated with the Kani shawl weaving industry for many centuries, say that under the presence of such unjust market competition it is really getting too difficult for them to sustain and survive on this handicraft. All of them are blaming the government for sanctioning such kind of small factories where such kind of duplicate shawls and scarves are manufactured on machines brought from Amritsar, and then sold in the market at original costs of a hand woven one.

The Kashmiri shawl had long been present in various forms from the very early times. It used to serve as a protective garment not only for the luxury loving rich people but also for the normal common people.

“Many historians have thoroughly and extensively worked on Kashmiri Shawl, but the exact start of one may say the real beginning of Kani Shawl industry is still doubtful,” say research scholars from Center for Studies in Science Policy, JNU New Delhi.

If one debates over the making of Kani Shawls, it turns out to be that it is made by a unique style of weaving. Actually the local artisans of Kashmir who over a long period of time developed this great technique of weaving using bobbins. Now the local artisans also developed a unique style of protecting this intellect and this they call as Taleem – The teachings.

On the outskirts of Srinagar, in Kanihama, Batpora, and many other villages, majority of people are connected with Kani Shawl. Usually weavers work on many or multiple looms placed inside of their houses. And the verdict of lot of these Kani shawl weavers is that the duplicate shawls are first manufactured in Amritsar, and are then sold off in Kashmir showrooms and tagged as original Kani shawls. The shawl weavers admit that there are around 10 showrooms around and in the outskirts of Srinagar alone that openly sell all kinds duplicate Kashmiri shawls, including the Pashminas.

Weaves do blame the government of the J&K state for the downfall of Kashmiri shawl industry. As the government have set up many schemes, which however have borne no results. As per the views of the weavers they feel that this industry should be democratized, and the monopoly of all the exports should be removed and the ownership issues in this industry needs to be resolved with immediate effect. There’s a need to demystify this kind of whole technique and have a solid protection for the intellectual property rights. Weavers feel that they need to be empowered. There is still scope for saving the weavers and the original kashmiri Pashmina industry provided J&K Government takes some real steps and implement stringent laws for the same.
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