Srinagar, April 29 : While the ongoing peace process has been able to bring solace to people in the Kashmir Valley, the sharp decline in deaths has affected the income of d Epitaphists.
Epitaph writing has been in demand in Kashmir. It is about personal details about the deceased are carved on tombstones.
The frequent deaths due to routine clashes between militants and the Indian Armed forces during 19 years of turbulence in the State kept Epitaphists busy. But these days due to peace in the Valley, it's tough time for these writers.
"During 1990-95 when militancy was at its peak we had enough work. But with the decline in militancy during the last two years, we are also facing a severe crunch in our profession," said Farooq Ahmad, an Epitaphist.
The practice of writing epitaphs gained currency, as it helps in identification of graves.
"In earlier days, epitaph writing was not much in vogue. But now it is almost mandatory, as it is convenient for people to submit information to the government officials looking for identification of the dead," said Mushtaq Ahmad, one Epitaphist.
It normally takes two days of hard work to chisel and engrave a marble epitaph and five days to prepare a 'Peur' or, a tombstone.
Usually, apart from holy verses from the Quran and relevant Urdu couplets, it is the name of the dead, his or her lineage and the day and date of death, which are inscribed on the epitaphs.
People feel that the government should take serious steps to keep the art and the livelihood of artists alive.
"As a local resident, I feel that the government should take some steps to keep the art alive so that their (epitaph writers') families can be provided with enough livelihood," said Niyaz Ahmad, a resident.
Hundreds of families have been associated with the trade for over a century in the Valley. Their ancestors used to carve idols and statues but now their job is limited to etching epitaphs.
Kashmir Valley has been under the shadow of militancy since 1980s. There are about a dozen militant groups operating here.
Officials say violence has declined in Kashmir since India and Pakistan, who have gone to war twice over the region, launched a peace process in 2004.
More than 42,000 people have died since militancy erupted in the Kashmir Valley in 1989, as per official Indian figures. Human right groups put the toll at about 60,000. ANI)