“THERE WAS STONE-PELT­ING AND I KNEW IT WAS DAN­GER­OUS, BUT WORK HAD TO GO ON”

India Today - - GOOD NEWS - ARIFA JAN, Craft ex­pert work­ing to re­vive Namda weav­ing —As told to As­mita Bak­shi

The re­bel­lious Arifa Jan tire­lessly fights dis­dain from so­ci­ety and re­sis­tance from fam­ily to pur­sue her pas­sion in one of Sri­na­gar’s most vi­o­lent ar­eas, Nawa Kadal. Not only is she re­viv­ing a fail­ing craft, namda weav­ing, but also pro­vid­ing much-needed em­ploy­ment.

Ise­cretly got my­self a form for the craft man­age­ment and en­trepreneur­ship course at the Craft De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute. This is be­cause no one here al­lows you to get into the field of crafts. Yes, the crafts of Kash­mir are fa­mous, but if you are ed­u­cated in the field, you are looked upon as a thief. When I com­pleted my course, I was given the project to re­vive Namda. There is a hi­er­ar­chy as­so­ci­ated with crafts in Kash­mir. Namda falls in the low­est cat­e­gory. But I de­cided to do the project as a chal­lenge. It’s a dy­ing craft. Dur­ing my re­search, the Namda and Wa­goo ar­ti­sans would tell me, 31 ‘Ha­mari betiyon se koi shaadi nahin karta; ke­hte hain hum Wa­goo wale hain (No­body mar­ries our daugh­ters. They say we are Wa­goo ar­ti­sans).’ The wages have not changed in the past 50 years. I spent a year roam­ing the sec­re­tariat in Sri­na­gar to get space to set up my unit, with­out suc­cess. I lis­tened to ev­ery­one. I would cry. Stop. Then get back to work. In­shal­lah, I know the path I’ve cho­sen comes with a lot of ob­sta­cles. We started with five ar­ti­sans. To­day, we have 25.

The con­flict in Kash­mir has never been as bad as it was last year. Day and night, I would ac­com­pany my fa­ther. There was stone-pelt­ing and I knew it was dan­ger­ous, but work had to go on. I went into de­pres­sion last year, but sailed through even­tu­ally. My fam­ily thought no one would marry me be­cause of this. I would lis­ten to them. It would up­set me for an hour or two, and then I would get back to work. In Kash­mir, no one sup­ports ar­ti­sans. I will.”

“I am fight­ing for the dig­nity and hon­our of ar­ti­sans. Peo­ple keep try­ing to stop me.”

ARIFA JAN (R) WITH WORK­ERS AT HER UNIT IN NAWA KADAL, SRI­NA­GAR

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