UK project to rehabilitate Shahtoosh traders in Kashmir

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New Delhi, Feb 22 (UNI) A British government-supported project has helped rehabilitate the people of Kashmir associated with Shahtoosh shawls, the trade and manufacture of which faces international ban.

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) President Fred O'Regan said here recently that the anti-Shahtoosh campaign was launched by the organisation simultaneously in the UK, China and India several years ago.

He said the extremely successful campaign helped in giving a new lease of life to the endangered Tibetan antelope (Panthelops hodgsonii), known as Chiru, after Shahtoosh was made illegal in Kashmir, the only place in the world, which produced the finest wool.

''However, the story could only be completed when the human dimension was looked at and addressed. Much of the weaving and spinning of the prized wool is done in Kashmir by women and those whose families had already been affected by the civil unrest in that part of the world,'' Mr O'Regan said.

He said the IFAW and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) have been working with these women in a project supported by the British government.

''The project helped these Kashmiri women to produce a new eco friendly pashmina wool, thus giving them livelihood without endangering the Tibetan antelope,'' the IFAW president added.

An international ban on Shahtoosh was imposed in 1995 following a high-profile campaign which targetted several American celebrities and asked them to surrender their expensive wraps.

The selling or owning of Shahtoosh, a Persian word meaning ''Pleasure of Kings'' or ''King of Wool,'' was made illegal in all those countries that signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The Jammu and Kashmir government had banned the manufacture and trade of Shahtoosh in 2000.

Following the ban on Shahtoosh, all efforts were directed towards developing the Kashmir handmade pashmina.

The WTI also helped in registration of the Kashmir Handmade Pashmina Promotion Trust (KHPTT), an organisation of artisans, which brought together the traditional artistry of Shahtoosh and Pashmina workers to promote Kashmir handmade pashmina and to establish it as an exclusive brand.

The WTI is helping to revive forgotten techniques of processing pashmina, which is combed from a farmed goat.

The KHPTT has been granted 'Craftmark,' a handmade process certification mark for Indian handloom products. Its products have been successfully exhibited and sold in India and would now be marketed internationally.


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