Curfew in Assam silk village over sale of Benarasi silk

It is Assam silk versus Benarasi silk. Tension prevailed in Sualkuchi — Assam’s famed silk village about 35 km west of Guwahati

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Guwahati | Published: April 1, 2013 12:34 am

It is Assam silk versus Benarasi silk. Tension prevailed in Sualkuchi — Assam’s famed silk village about 35 km west of Guwahati — for the third day on Sunday over a section of traders selling cheaper and machine-made Benarasi silk as hand-woven Assam silk.

Meanwhile,the Kamrup district administration has prohibited the sale of Benarasi silk as Assam silk.

Curfew was imposed on Saturday after violence broke out when angry weavers burnt heaps of Benarasi silk that a section of local traders were trying to dispose of as ‘paat’ (Assam silk).

“The village continues to be tense but under control. The police have arrested five persons in connection with the violence. We have prohibited sale of Benarasi or any other silk as Assam silk,” said S K Soy,district magistrate. Three persons were injured in police firing Saturday. Earlier several policemen,including an additional SP,were injured in stone-pelting.

Sualkuchi,a block with eight gram panchayats and more than 55,000 population,is the hub of Assam silk production — paat,muga and endi — with families engaged in manufacturing silk products,the most important being traditional mekhela-chador. Sualkuchi produces about four million sq metres of paat,muga and endi silk fabric a year,with a turnover of about Rs 80 crore.

Weavers and traders complained that mekhela-chadors procured from Benaras,which looked the same as Assamese paat silk,had posed a grave threat to the local industry,putting the livelihood of several thousand families at risk. A section of wholesalers had flooded the local market with Benarasi silk products at the expense of Assam silk,they complained.

Opposition parties have hit out at the Congress-led government for failing to protect the traditional silk industry of the state in the wake of cheaper products from outside. “The government has miserably failed to protect the state’s silk industry. If Sualkuchi collapses,it will also wipe out the handloom cottage industry,causing a major socio-economic crisis,” said AGP president and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.

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