Specially-abled artisan keeps Sozni craft alive

Tariq Ahmad Mir set up ‘Special Hands of Kashmir’ to enable fellow craftsmen earn a livelihood and preserve the needle embroidery technique, writes Fayaz Wani

Published: 26th March 2023 07:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th March 2023 08:02 AM   |  A+A-

Special Hands of Kashmir
Express News Service

J&K : In a  noteworthy feat, Tariq Ahmad Mir a specially-abled person suffering from muscular dystrophy, a rare neurological disorder, is helping preserve the traditional art of Sozni (needle) embroidery work in Kashmir. Mir has brought together a group of 60 specially-abled artisans and formed a Self Help Group called ‘Special Hands of Kashmir’ to save the craft and earn a decent livelihood.

Hailing from Gotapora village of Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district, Tariq and two of his brothers were born with muscular dystrophy, which leads to degeneration of muscles. He lost one of his brothers to the disease in 2019.

While his brothers could not move at all due to locomotive disabilities, Tariq says that despite being 90 per cent disabled, he could move around with the help of support. Defying all odds, he went on to complete his Post Graduation in Urdu.

“In 2010, I applied for a teacher’s post advertised by J&K Services Selection Board. I was shortlisted for the interview but was taken aback when the interviewers told me there was no post for handicapped people. I told them I was qualified for the post under the general quota but they said as per the government guidelines, people having locomotive problems in both legs cannot apply for the position,” Tariq said.

He was deeply disappointed, but did not give up on his aspirations for a productive life. Along with his brothers, he set up ‘Special Hands of Kashmir’ to earn a livelihood through Sozni embroidery art work. 
“Our father was a master craftsman. He has been working on this Kashmiri craft for many decades, and we learnt it from him. With this Sozni work, I wanted to do something for the society, help my family and earn a decent livelihood”.

Starting with investment of just Rs 5000, the group has now grown to about 500 artisans, with 60 of them being special-abled belonging to economically-weaker sections of society. 

“Of the 60 specially-abled artisans, most of them have locomotive disabilities in one or both legs while some have low vision,” Tariq said.

Tariq has been using the social media, especially Facebook, to promote the embroidery products. “Our work was well received by the people not only in Valley but outside also. Some organisations and NGOs contacted me after seeing our work. I received the first order for an embroidery shawl from a Delhi organization in 2013. It was worth over Rs 34,000,” Tariq said.

“I then got an order from a US college for 40 mufflers for the students reflecting the college logo,” he recollects. 

“Since then, we have not looked back. We continue to impress people through our needle work. We 
receive many orders and thankfully, we have been able to complete the orders well on time and provide genuine quality items to the customers,” said Tariq. 

According to Tariq, the younger generation of Kashmiris is not much interested in arts and crafts as it needs a lot of time and concentration. “But our self help group, which mostly comprises youngsters, is not only saving our craft but also earning a decent livelihood for the members and making them independent,” he said, adding, “They are earning livelihood in a dignified manner. They don’t need to wander here or there for livelihood. Their financial condition improved significantly after they joined us”.

India Matters


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