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Shawl of contention between India & Pak
Sozni shawls: Patent row

Srinagar, Feb. 21: India and Pakistan are locked in a fresh dispute over Kashmir, this time over its famed handicrafts.

Pakistan opposes Jammu and Kashmir’s efforts to get a geographical indicator patent (GIP) on its centuries-old Sozni shawls, saying this embroidery craft is in vogue in its part of Kashmir, too. The neighbouring country’s traders want Sozni shawls made in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir included under the patent Kashmiri Sozni.

Jammu and Kashmir’s Craft Development Institute (CDI) had applied for patents on three handicraft products — Pashmina, Sozni and Kani shawls — with the Chennai-based Registry GIP in 2005-06. The Registry, as required, invited objections from within and outside the country.

“We have asked the registry to verify their (Pakistani traders’) claim,’’ said Mohammad Shariq Farooqi, the director of the CDI, a government body funded by the Union textiles ministry.

Officials said the Pakistani traders had also opposed the registration of Pashmina as Kashmiri Pashmina. “But since they filed their application late, the registry did not entertain it. We do not know what will be their future course of action on Pashmina,” he said.

“We are contesting the Pakistani claim on several counts. First, we believe our craft is superior. Second, the other Kashmir is not called by this name but carries the prefix ‘occupied’ or ‘Azad’ (free), so it cannot call its products Kashmiri.”

However, the director of the state handicrafts department, Riyaz Ahmad Qadri, said the government might agree to a joint patent if the Pakistani traders could establish that the PoK-made products were of the same quality.

“It’s two years since the application was filed. The registry first verifies the applicant’s claim, invites objections and then verifies the objector’s argument. Each verification process involves historians and other experts and takes a long time,” Farooqi said.

Many of the existing 32 Kashmiri handicrafts have a global market, but a flood of machine-made fakes is hurting the artisans and the crafts.

The CDI is seeking a temporary patent on Pashmina, Sozni and Kani till an artisans group, Tahafuz, can stand on its feet and stake a claim to these crafts. Associations of individuals, rather than government bodies, are supposed to seek patents.

The CDI has shortlisted seven more crafts — including lattice work, wood carving and embroidery like namda and crewel — and will apply for temporary patents on them.

Kashmir has already lost the battle for brand Cashmere, which was once used exclusively for Kashmiri Pashmina.

“The brand Cashmere has become generic and is used extensively in the West. That is why we have applied for brand Kashmir Pashmina,’’ Farooqi said.

Countries like China and Nepal, too, claim they produce Pashmina. In many parts of India, such as Amritsar, imitation Pashmina shawls are made on the Jacquard machine and sold as the Kashmiri original. “This has dealt a big blow to our crafts. We are late by years and want to get our economy back on rails by obtaining patents,’’ Qadri said.

Kashmir’s artisans and their family members — who number several million — have suffered also because of the ban on shahtoosh and leather manufacturing, which involve the killing of the Chiru and other endangered species.

Several artisans have committed suicide after losing their livelihood.

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