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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Ban devastates shahtoosh workers
Kashmiri girls
Shahtoosh ban could affect 500,000 people
Shahtoosh workers in India's northern state of Jammu and Kashmir say the ban on trading in the wool could affect the lives of more than 500,000 people.

The wool is used to make highly prized shawls - a fashion item that has attracted the rich and famous.

But the wool comes from the endangered Tibetan antelope, and the trade has been the target of protests by conservationists worldwide.



With the ban, I am left on the street without a job

Nahida Begum, a widow
On Monday, shahtoosh workers gathered in Srinagar, to protest outside the shrine of Shah Hamdan - revered as the patron saint of shahtoosh weavers.

The ban on the shahtoosh trade was imposed last week by the Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah.

Shahtoosh trade

"Shah Hamdan introduced this trade 650 years ago, and today we have come to his shrine to seek his blessings and help," a 70-year-old weaver Ghulam Rasool told the AFP news agency.

Nahida Begum, a widow, said she had three daughters and their entire family was involved in the trade.

"With the ban, I am left on the street without a job," she said.


The endangered Tibetan antelope
The endangered Tibetan antelope
Shahtoosh shawls are made from the high-quality coat of the Tibetan antelope, known locally as the Chiru.

Conservationists say large numbers are being killed for their wool.

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

Chiru killing

But shahtoosh traders contest the claim that the Chiru is being killed for its wool.

A trade leader, Ghulam Mohammad Reishi, told the Press Trust of India that the business was over 600 years old and the Chiru would have become extinct if it were being killed for its wool.

He said the weavers depend on the wool shed by the Chiru every year, during the harsh winter.

The traders have appealed to the state government to reconsider its decision in the interests of the poor people associated with the trade.

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30 Jun 00 | South Asia
Kashmir to ban shahtoosh
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