Disabled Kashmir brothers weave magic on fiber

The Mir brothers have been suffering from muscular dystrophy (MD) since their childhood.

Gulzar Bhat
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 22 2018 10:28PM | Updated Date: Nov 5 2018 2:19PM
Disabled Kashmir brothers weave magic on fiberGK Photo

"We never ever give in to our disability. We rather continue to work hard to earn livelihood in a dignified manner,” say Mir brothers who live at the quaint village of Gotapora in central Kashmir's Budgam district.

The three specially-abled Mir brothers — Tariq Ahmad Mir (29), Farooq Ahmad Mir (32), Nazir Ahmad Mir (35) — stitch magnificent designs on Kashmiri shawls. 

When the Mir brothers were quite young, a strange disease called Muscular Dystrophy (MD) struck them one by one and left them disabled.

Muscular Dystrophy, according to experts is a peculiar medical condition which causes the degeneration of muscles. Dr Fayaz Ahmad, a valley based orthopaedic surgeon says that the condition could not be cured completely.

"The disease continues to cripple a patient with the passage of time," he says.

As the time passed by, the disease progressed and affected the mobility of all three brothers, restricting them to the four walls of their house.

“It was way difficult for us to do any other physical work, so we chose embroidery,” says Tariq Ahmad Mir, who also claims to have a natural inclination towards the art since his childhood. While Tariq has majored in Urdu, his two brothers could not complete their schooling as disease showed a rapid progression in their case.

"Nazir Ahmad Mir had to leave his studies in 7th class while Farooq Ahmad Mir could not study beyond 9th standard,” says Tariq.

Mir brothers learned the craft from their father, Mohammad Sultan Mir.

For many years all the three brothers worked for other people, who in local lingo are called "Wastas" or middle men, on very low remunerations before they finally started their own small venture.“

“We were paid a very low amount as middle men would eat up a lion’s share, so we thought of minting our own small group.” 

In 2009, they created their own initiative, ‘Special Hands of Kashmir’.  Today, nearly 40 craftspersons are associated with the initiative and are earning their livelihood through it.

“We brothers are comfortably earning now Rs 30-35 thousand per month," says Tariq.

However, many difficulties are confronting the group headed by the specially-abled brothers. The group feels that it is always being discriminated. "We were never ever invited by the State-run handicrafts department to any of its “buyer-seller meets’’ held many a times in past,” rues Tariq.

The group also complained that it was never allowed to set up a stall at the India International Trade Fair (IITF) held every year in November in New Delhi.

Farooq Ahmad Mir blamed the State handicrafts department for never being sympathetic or encouraging towards the physically-challenged artisans.

"We have hardly been given a chance to showcase our skills,” Farooq added with a tinge of regret in his voice.

Although a State handicrafts department official said that the artisans sent to participate in the exhibitions held outside the State were chosen from a random draw of entries, Tariq says the department, over the years, has failed to make any special arrangements for artisans with disabilities.

While other States encourage such ventures, Jammu & Kashmir does not.

The brothers say that products made by the physically challenged generally do not have significant market reach.

Mir brothers in 2008 saw a rope of hope in the form of the Association for Rehabilitation under National Trust Initiative of Marketing (ARUNIM), an initiative of National Trust under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Under this initiative, various marketing opportunities were provided to the people with disability by organising exhibitions across various states. However, in 2015, the ministry suddenly stopped funding ARUNIM.

“We were shocked to learn that funding has been stopped to ARUNIM. It had given our products a reach to markets,” says Tariq.

The group had a stroke of luck in 2017 when the Commitment to Kashmir (C2K), a Delhi-based charitable trust that works for the development of craftspeople and connect them with market chose Special Hands of Kashmir for their 2017-18 projects.

“They have the experts who provide us with attractive designs which do have a good market demand. They also help us in many other ways like connecting us with the artisans of other states, so on and so forth,” says Tariq.

Greater Kashmir reached Devika Krishnan, a designer at C2K, by phone and asked about the work of Mir brothers.

“I am highly satisfied with their work. They are doing a wonderful job," she said, adding that she hopes to get a very good market response for the products worked on by them.

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