Srinagar: The Kashmir Pashmina Karigar Union, a fraternity of pashmina weavers Friday staged a peaceful protest here to remember 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.
To commemorate their death anniversary, hundreds of pashmina shawl weavers assembled in Press Enclave on Friday. Instead of May 1, we observe April 29 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, the protesting weavers said. The world observed the day for laborers 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 day for laborers, Tariq Ahmed told CNS.
Throwing light on the events that unfolded on 29 April 1865, the protesters said that It was the day when shawl weavers marched through the streets of Srinagars 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 citys 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.
The Pashmina weavers told reporters that nothing has changed as they are still being exploited by the government. 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. This trend has rendered thousands of weavers jobless, the protesters said and appealed government to take effective measures to revive this industry. (CNS)
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