At a time when Kashmiri traders in the state — and across the country — have been facing attacks and threats from a section of people in wake of the Pulwama terror attack, shops selling Kashmiri products in Kolkata say they have not witnessed a drop in sales.
Established in 1925 in New Market area, Pumposh (Kashmir Shawl Emporium) has been frequented by customers since last week. “So far, we have not witnessed any decline in sale of products from Kashmir. Our customers are mostly Bangladeshi nationals who come to Kolkata for various purposes. We even received calls from our Bengali customers inquiring about our safety and offering to provide accommodation if we face any difficulties. However, business has been normal,” shop owner Sarfaraz Ahmed told The Indian Express.
Post the Pulwama terror attack, there has been a series of attacks against Kashmiris living in various parts of the state by mobs who are enraged over the attack on a CRPF convoy on February 14 that killed 40 personnel. A group of shawl traders from Kashmir were targeted in Kolkata on Sunday night. Another shawl trader was severely beaten up in Nadia district’s Taherpur area.
These attacks come close on the heels of a Kashmiri doctor being threatened by some unidentified youths to leave the state.
During the heights of insurgency in Kashmir in the early 1990s, there was a campaign in New Market area as part of which posters were put up saying ‘Boycott Kashmir Products’. “At that time, we had faced a decline in business as people stopped buying Kashmiri handicraft products. Those were difficult times. However things have not taken such a turn after the Pulwama attack. Yes there has been some incidents where Kashmiris were targeted but the community is by and large safe in the city,” said Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Set up after Independence, Kashmir Government Arts Emporium is the among the most popular among people looking to buy shawls and carpets.
The sale of Kashmiri products has not been affected here, too. “I cannot say anything about other places but we are doing normal business in Kolkata. There were reports that some traders went back to Kashmir from several places in north India. However the community is safe in West Bengal. Our sales have not been affected,” said shop owner Mushtaq Ahmed.
There were reports that Kashmiri traders staying in Ramgarh in Haryana have alleged that they were forced to shut their shops and leave the area by local residents. As many as 60 Kashmiris fled, leaving their goods behind, early Tuesday. A spokesperson of Kashmir Crafts Emporium in New Market area who did not wish to be named said the footfall at their shop is decent at this time of the year. “We usually don’t get see a large number of customers in February as winter has already ended in this part of the country. However demands for carpets has been the same as it was before the terror attack. We have not seen any changes in the buying habit of our customers. They are accepting Kashmir products just like before,” the spokesperson said.