In Pictures: Kashmir's spinning trouble - Al Jazeera English

In Pictures: Kashmir's spinning trouble

Traditional art suffers as widows in Kashmir conflict are paid by the government at less than the cost of wool.

Aarabu Ahmad Sultan | | Arts & Culture, Asia, Kashmir, India

Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir - Decades of conflict in Indian-administered Kashmir have produced thousands of widows and "half-widows" - whose husbands have disappeared but not pronounced dead officially.

Most of these destitute families have been making their living by spinning normal sheep wool or Pashmina. But the number of women spinners is dwindling as the government prices for their goods does not match the rising cost of the trade.

The art of spinning has its roots in the Saxon age. But Kashmiri women-spinners' reference to its history is 14th-century mystic poetess Lal Ded and 16th century priestess and poetess Haba Khatoon. They both were spinners in their in-law's homes, and their poetry reflects and talks a lot about the spinning wheel. 

Habla Khatoon, 75, has been spinning yarn for 50 years. She, like many other Kashmiri women, has been spinning for most of her life to fulfill her family's basic needs.

"It is because of this tool that I've borne all the expenses of my children and even my first daughter's marriage," she told Al Jazeera.

The traditional art is seeing a decline as there has been no increase in the government payment for years.

"Cost of one kilo of wool has soared from Rs 6,000 ($99) to Rs 13,000 ($214) in a decade, but for these women it is same one rupee per knot what they earn from it. They don't get paid what they deserve for their hard work," Fayaz Ahmad, a wool dealer, said.

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