Srinagar, India, Sep 5 (EFE).- A collection of iconic Kashmiri carpets will adorn the floors of India’s new parliament house in a symbolic fusion marred by tensions over New Delhi’s control of the disputed Himalayan region.
Dozens of artisans from the Khanpur village in central Kashmir have been working tirelessly for the last past year to weave the rugs for the new parliament building coming up in the heart of New Delhi.
The under-construction triangular parliament house is part of a controversial $2.8 billion Central Vista Redevelopment plan – the so-called “vanity project” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The project spread over an 86-acre (35-hectare) area to be completed for the winter session of parliament later this year includes a new residential complex to house the prime minister and the vice president.
“It is a privilege for me to be able to make these carpets for the new parliament house,” said Qammar Tahiri, the owner of a rug weaving firm that has secured the contract to carpet the new parliament house.
But many feel that furnishing the Indian parliament with Kashmiri rugs carries a message from Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party enjoys a brute majority in the legislature.
In a controversial decision, Modi ended the region’s autonomy and removied its statehood by splitting it into two federally-controlled territories in August 2019.
The government has for decades struggled to quell anti-India sentiments Kashmir blamed neighboring Pakistan for financing an armed rebellion in the Himalayan region. Islamabad denies the charges.
“To order Kashmiri carpets is surely an act at the state level to give message to Indian masses that Kashmir belongs to India,” a Kashmiri analyst told EFE on the condition of anonymity, fearing a possible reprisal.
Tahiri’s weavers began tying the delicate knots using silken yarn along weft lines between warp threads on upright looms in November 2021.
His firm, Tahiri Carpets, has more than 400 weavers and a decades-long tradition in the rug industry.
The contract is a relief for Tahiri, whose business, like other sectors of the regional economy, has been deeply impacted by the volatility of the region.
Trouble increased further after the Hindu nationalist government of Modi exerted more control over the region that has been without an elected government since June 2018.
Artisans known for tying as high as 3,600 knots per square inch have been bearing the brunt of the industrialization of the carpet industry.
Machine-woven low-priced rugs have given tough competition to the meticulously designed handwoven rugs that require months, sometimes even years, to complete.
The situation has forced most of the next generation of weavers to seek an alternative livelihood.
Artisan Bashir Ahmad Chopan, one of Tahiri’s workers, the parliament contract has helped to lift the otherwise fading weaver community in their village where the majority of households are involved with the carpet industry.
“We are now being paid a good amount per day,” Chopan told EFE.
Another weaver from the same village hoped that their works adorning the parliament house would attract more big orders to boost the craft. “If that happens, we can also have better lives.”
The carpet industry has played a key role in the economic activities of the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, contributing hugely to handicraft exports.