Kashmir’s pashmina and Sozni (needlework) are famous all over the world but with the changing market trends, this craft is gasping for survival. However, a specially-abled man is not only trying to save this art but has also brought together  40 more people like him and created a self-help group with a focus on the revival of this craft.

Every morning in the neighbourhood of Gotapora in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district voices singing songs of joy and love echo. It is Tariq Ahmad and his associates starting their day at work with Kashmiri folk songs. Tariq is an award-winning sozni craftsman and has been suffering from muscular dystrophy, a rare neurological disorder that leads to degeneration of muscles. His condition hasn’t held him back from starting this group of 40 craftsmen. They have aptly named it the ‘Special Hands of Kashmir’.

It’s perhaps the first time any such group of specially-abled people in the valley have come together and are creating unique pieces of craft.

“I am thankful to you for coming to us. ‘Special hands of Kashmir’ is a group of artisans who are specially-abled. I myself am 90 percent handicapped but we are committed to promote and revive the craft of sozni. We need to bring in new designs, new products to create a market. We at Special Hands tried a few new things like khadi saree with sozni work, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked people to promote khadi. It got us inspired and we made use of it. We got a great response. We are trying to keep the traditional work alive by bringing in new changes as well,” said Tariq Ahmad.Tariq has received many national and state awards for his exemplary work. He has helped in reviving the art of sozni in the valley and also managed to put a big group of specially-abled together to save the craft. For him, it all started from his home as two of his brothers also suffer from the same disorder as him.

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