The Bold Voice of J&K

GI tags revitalize Kashmiri handicrafts and empower female artisans

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KASHISH SAXENA

The hum of charkhas (spinning wheels) is once again vibrating through Kashmir’s scenic valleys, as women artisans return to ancient crafts, thanks to Geographical Indication (GI) tags’ new recognition and protection. These tags, together with progressive legislation, have revitalised Kashmiri handicrafts, ensuring their legacy for future generations. The recognition and protection provided by GI tags have not only restored traditional crafts, but also empowered women artisans who are the foundation of Kashmir’s rich handmade culture. With growing interest and demand for authentic Kashmiri items, these artists are discovering new ways to demonstrate their skills and support their families. According to recent Ministry of Textiles data, the number of registered artisans working in Kashmiri handicrafts has increased by 25% in the last two years, with over 50,000 people now actively engaging in various facets of the business. This increase in artisan participation demonstrates the good influence of GI tags on the sector. Shazia Bano, an artist from a small town in Kashmir, has been spinning Pashmina yarn since she was a youngster. For years, she struggled to make ends meet as the demand for traditional crafts decreased. However, with the recent spike in demand for GI-tagged Kashmiri products, Shazia’s charkha has become a symbol of hope and success. “The GI tag has not only protected our heritage but has also provided us with a platform to showcase our craftsmanship to the world,” she says with a smile. The economic impact of this revival is likewise substantial. According to a survey performed by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the handicraft sector’s revenue has increased by 30% since the introduction of GI tags for Kashmiri products. This increase has resulted in higher salaries for craftspeople, with average monthly earnings increasing by 20% over pre-GI tag levels. Government initiatives and progressive policies have played an important role in fostering this rebirth. Subsidies, training programmes, and marketing support have allowed artists to increase output while maintaining the uniqueness and quality of their products. Furthermore, initiatives to streamline the GI registration process and combat counterfeit products have increased consumer confidence in authentic Kashmiri handicrafts. The significance of GI tags extends from individual craftspeople to entire communities. As more women like Shazia return to their traditional skills, towns are experiencing a cultural rebirth. Younger generations are once again learning centuries-old techniques, ensuring that Kashmir’s handcraft history thrives. The revival of Kashmiri handicrafts fueled by GI tags and progressive policies is a testament to the resilience of traditional craftsmanship in the face of modernization. As women artisans return to their charkhas and villages echo with the sounds of weaving and spinning, Kashmir’s cultural heritage is being preserved and celebrated anew. With continued support and recognition, these timeless crafts will continue to flourish, enriching lives and connecting generations through the thread of tradition.
(The author is student of PG Diploma in Digital Media at IIMC, Jammu).

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