Thursday, August 14, 2014




The BHISHTIES OR MASHKIS or the water carriers have vanished from the Indian society . We had MASHKIS  in Kashmir also . They were Nicknamed as SAKKA. The MASHAQ or the carrying bag was generally made of Goat skin with a capacity to hold about 30 litres of water. We would see them sprinkling water on roads in summers and sometimes offering it to the thirsty . They would also appear in  marriage functions to sprinkle water on path to be traversed by Baratis or Guests . We would see them in Bazaars with the MASHAQ hung across their shoulders like a GUITAR .

( Autar Mota 14.08.2014 )

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( Photo Autar Mota )

Tche Roass gham choan Chhum Humdum ya Chha Kum,
Ya Gham Zakhmun Mei Chhum Marrhum Ya Chha kum,
Ba Kyaah Karra Vassal Kiss Shihliss Sharaabus,
Firaaqaetch Dugg Ta Dil Burhum Ya Chha kum.........................
( Moti Lal Saqi )

My simple English rendering of these lines is as under ..

In Your absence ,
Your sorrows turn my companion ,
Isn’t this enough for me ?
Like a relieving balm ,Your pain acts upon my wounds ,
Isn’t this enough for me ?
What shall I do with the soothing intoxication of our reunion ?
This pain of separation ,
This Desolation of my heart ,
Isn’t this enough for me ?

( Autar Mota 14.08.2014 )

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Thursday, August 7, 2014



 (Photo..  Dr Rajendra Prasad (1884-1963 ),The then President Of India  with Bakshi Ghulam Mohd in srinagar ).


Kashmiri poet Gh Nabi Khayal on Bakshi Ghulam Mohd. 

“ After completing my class 10 from Islamia High School, Rajouri Kadal, I visited Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad for a job. As the prime minister of state, he would hold public durbars on every Friday where he would resolve public grievances in a jiffy. When I asked him about a job, he told me: “You are a very tall boy. You should go to police. I will give you a sub-inspector’s post right now.” But back home, I faced a protesting family who didn’t allow me to join the service, which was looked down upon those days.
I completed my graduation, learned Persian and translated Omar Khayyam’s Persian poetry into Kashmiri. I again went to Bakshi sahib…
“I have heard that you have translated Omar Khayyam’s poetry into Kashmiri. He is my favourite poet. Publish your book and give me one copy,” Bakshi Sahab told me. 
“But sir,” I replied, “ I don’t have a single penny in my pocket.” He didn’t tell me anything. As I walked out, I saw Bakshi Sahab’s private secretary, RC Raina, who enquired: “How was your meeting?” I replied that it was very positive. Raina then handed over an envelope to me, saying: “This is for you.” As I stepped back on street, I tore open the envelope and found Rs 500 inside it. I understood that Bakshi Sahab had given me the amount for publication of my book. Later I gave him a copy of my published book, which made him very happy…”
( Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed Listening to   people inside a village  in kashmir )

( This Post is Based on  Excerpts from an Interview to Bilal Handoo Published in KASHMIR LIFE.My special thanks to Sh. Bilal Handoo and KASHMIR LIFE )

( Autar Mota )

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SYED  SAJJAD ZAHEER  ( 1905-1973 )

Mein Akela hi  Chala Thhaa janib e Manzil Magar
Log aatay hi gaye Aur kaarwan Bantaa gayaa

 Fondly known as   Banney  Bhai  ,  Syed Sajjad Zaheer was a founder member of CPI ( Communist Party of India ), IPTA ( Indian Peoples Theatre Association ) and PWAI (Progressive writers Association of India )    .PWAI received  unstinted support  from litterateurs namely  Munshi Prem Chand , Dr Mulk Raj Anand Faiz, Makhdoom, Ali Sardar Jafri, Majrooh Sultanputi, Kaifi Azmi, Vamiq Jaunpuri, Salam Machli Sahri, Sumitra Nandan Pant, Hiren Mukherjee, Sibte Hasan, Amrit Rai, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Ehtesham Husain, Ale Ahmed Suroor, Mumtaz Hussain, Krishn Chander, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Ismat Chughtai, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Upendra Nath Ashq, Yashpal, Ahmed Nadim Kasmi, Vishnu Dey and others the progressive writers movement did not remain as a ’literary club’, but became a movement that stirred the soul of the ordinary man reading literature in Hindi and Urdu. It expressed the concerns of the ordinary man through literature.  

From this  platform , he  moved ahead and worked    closely With  Pablo Neruda , Nazim Hikmet  and  Faiz Ahmed Faiz  under the Banner of AAWA (Afro  Asian writers Association).
Sajjad Zaheer was born at Lucknow  in  an aristocratic    and educated family of  former Oudh state   .  His father, Sir Syed Wazir Hassan  was a former chief Justice of Oudh court. His personality has many dimension that I came to know only after  reading his Biography . I   quote something  for readers .

Banney Bhai   went to Oxford in 1927 ,  studied law to become a Barrister  and returned to India in 1935 . It was only at Oxford that he was driven towards Marxism. At Oxford he once posed a question to George Bernard Shaw who had come to deliver a speech . Shaw’s speech was mainly about his impressions of the Soviet Union, which he had visited a few months earlier. When the president invited questions, Zaheer asked Shaw: “Mr Shaw, you have told us about what you saw in the Soviet Union and how you were impressed by the communist society there. If this is your belief, why don’t you work for a communist revolution in England and why don’t you join the Communist Party of Great Britain?” Shaw replied: “Young man, you ask me why I don’t join the Communist Party of Great Britain? I want the Communist Party of Great Britain to join me.”
In  India , he came under the spell of  Gandhi ji’s freedom movement  and joined Congress party and  participated in many agitations . Banney  Bhai   wore khadi clothes , stopped eating meat and slept on floor . In an interview, Sajjad  Zaheer  informs   as under .

I was not the only communist who joined the Congress at that time. With me were Dr Mohammed Ashraf, Dr Z.A. Ahmed, Mahmuduzzafar Khan and some other people. All these people had taken their degrees in England and had come back. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was very proud of our group and he introduced us to Gandhiji and to Sardar Patel saying, " People say that Muslims are not coming in the Congress. Here is this brilliant group of young Muslims which went to England and took degrees there and had come back and joined the Congress." Anyhow, I was saying that this was the time when Panditji started his Mass Contact Movement and from the communist side, we too, were trying to develop the Congress as a sort of united national front of all the anti-imperialist elements in this country. The socialist band inside the Congress, apart from the communists, Jayaprakash Narayan, Minoo Masani, Rammanohar Lohia and others, were also in the same category of people who were thinking of new ways and means of achieving our independence ”

Sajjad Zaheer married a budding urdu writer Razia in 1938. Razia was also from an educated and progressive family of UP. Imprisoned in 1939  for two years  ,  Sajjad Zaheer   Co- founded  of CPI immediately after his release . After the Partition of the country , CPI advised him to move to Pakistan to organize communist Party of Pakistan  along with Faiz  Ahmed Faiz .Remaining underground for three long years, he travelled to the different cities meeting trade unionists, intellectuals, students and workers. But ultimately was arrested and implicated in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case along with poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.  He was   tried  for sedition and awarded Life imprisonment .It was only through Pandit Nehru’s intervention and  international pressure that he was released on parole .His family faced many odds  and financial difficulties  in India during his absence . He returned  to India in 1955 , settled with his family  and never went to Pakistan thereafter . From 1956 to 1973, he worked intensely for IPTA, PWAI and for the creation of a forum for Asian and African writers against imperialism. He revived the PWAI  and was elected secretary of the India chapter of AAWA (Afro-Asian Writers Association ). He also edited   party Newspaper Quami Jung and weekly Awami Daur (People’s Era) that was to later become Hayat (Life). His popularity soon grew all around and writers of various countries invited him. He was among the key figures who mobilised writers against US atrocities in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In collaboration with Mulk Raj Anand, he organized the first Asian writers conference .He died of a heart attack in kazakhastan  while attending Afro Asian writers conference.

His short stories collection Angaaray  was banned by British Government in 1932 immediately after it was published. He wrote Gazals , poems and plays .His prominent woks include London Ki Ek Raat- a novel, Roshnai  a collection of essays on progressive writing and the progressive writers movement, Zikre Hafiz- A  research based book on Persian poet Hafiz and Pighla Nilam-A collection of his poetry. He also translated OTHELLO , GORA and  PROPHET  to urdu.
Najma , Noor , Nadira and Naseem are his four brilliant and talented daughters  .Najma  married   Prof. Ali Baquer  ( Died 2007 )  from Hyderbad  .Najma  was   a   professor of Biochemistry at JNU  New Delhi. Ali Baquer had worked at the universities of Oxford and London .He has been member of various high-level committees set up by the Planning Commission of India, Doordarshan, IGNOU and other national and international agencies dealing with education, health, mental health, management and disability issues.
Noor is a well known  Researcher , journalist, kathak dancer  and Writer . Her Hindi Novel “Mere Hissey ki Roshnaai” is a treat to read .  Her other Books are Surkh Karwan ke Humsafar, a travelogue of Pakistan, Bad Uraiyya, a novel, and My God is a Woman. She married Amitava Dasgupta (1947-2010) – a Marxist  and a Theatre personality (founder-director of Brechtian Mirror).

Nadira, A graduate from NSD is  a well known name in Indian   theatre ( EKJUTE )  and  is married  to Actor Raj Babbar.  Naseem  now Dr Naseem Bhatia ( Married  Historian  Prof. Vinod Bhatia  ) worked as joint secretary of UGC and later Vice Chancellor of Jodhpur University.
Adds Dr Naseem Bhatia ,
"The family income was paltry. Father received Rs 45 as remuneration for being the editor. Grandfather used to send Rs 200 every month and that’s the way the family expenses were met which included the hospitality of the guests, mostly poets  who often stayed overnight in our tiny flat." 
Adds Nadira Babbar

“Not even once, did my parents talk to us about religion. The first time that someone told us we were Muslims was at school.   Writers, activists, theatre persons were walking in and out of their house all through the day, with the atmosphere abuzz with art and literature. From anti-nuclear protests to peace marches, to poets' meets and seminars, our  house was the rehearsal room for a range of things. We were fortunate to have parents like them. They gave us such a rich legacy of values and ideals, and without ever making us conscious of it. It was a natural part of our upbringing; much later in our lives, when we were on our own, slowly these things moved up to the surface ”

Banney Bhai’s  wife Razia Sajjad Zaheer ( 1917-1979 ) was also from a  Nationalist Muslim family . She has written many novels and short stories . Razia made name as one who perfected her craft in the language of tension and her stories, namely "Amar Jyot", "Ravan Jal Gaya", "Mojja" and "Allah De Banda Lo" were much read in the 60s and 70s. Her short story NEECH ( lowborn ) comes to my mind at the moment especially the Characters of   Shyamali and Ramavtar  she created for this story. She taught at Karamat Hussain college and wrote Novels and short stories . She was also associated with   PWAI .

Till the end Banney Bhai  remained a dedicated comrade always at the call of the party and rose to the rank of being an external member of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union).

I end this brief post on Syed Sajjad Zaheer with  lines from  a   poem of   Kurdish poet Sherko Bekas …

We were millions
An old tree
A young tree
We were seeds
The helmet of Ankara
In a bloody night came
To uproot us
They did,
They took us away long away!
On the way many old trees bent
In the cold many young trees died
They froze
Many seeds were trampled
They were lost and forgotten
Like a river in the summer we had little water
Like birds in the autumn, we became fewer
We ended up in thousands of homes
There were still seeds among us, the wind took them
The wind returned them
They reached the thirsty mountains
They hid among the rocks
The first rain
The second rain
The third rain
They grew again
We are now a forest again
We are millions

( Autar Mota 06.08.2014 )

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This portrait is on display in an Art Museum in UK.
Wiliam Carpenter was in Kashmir for three successive summers of 1853, 1854 and 1855 . Apart from meeting the last sikh Govrnor , Sheikh Imam Ud Din , He also met the then ruler Maharaja Ghulab Singh. When William Carpenter sought time for a Portrait to be painted by him , the Maharaja readily agreed .

Ghulab singh was a Surajvanshi Jamwal Rajput , a descendant in direct line from Raja Dhrou Dev Jamwal of jammu . When Maharaja Ranjit singh wanted to annex jammu to the Lahore empire , Ghulab singh led the Dogra Army that fought against the sikh forces defending Jammu Principality . He led the jammu forces so well that he won the admiration of Maharaja Ranjit Singh . Ghulab singh was offered the post of Commander in chief by Shah Shuja of Kabul but Maharaja Ranjit singh brought him to his own Kingdom . He fought many successful battles for the Sikh Army from 1815 to 1820 and became a favourite of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who gave jammu as a Jagir to him . He also conquered Rajouri , Reasi , Kishtwar , Bhaderwah and Dera Gazi Khan for Maharaja Ranjit singh . In 1822 ,Gulab Singh was confirmed as Raja of Jammu by his suzerain, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He was also granted the jagir of the salt mines in northern Punjab, and the nearby Punjabi towns like Bhera, Jhelum, Rohtas, and Gujrat. 

The death of Maharaja Ranjit singh in 1839 created a chaotic situation followed by many intrigues within the Lahore Darbar. In the Anglo Afghan war of 1841 , British army sought Ghulab Singh’s support that led to a new friendship between him and the British .The Lahore Darbar intrigues weakened the kingdom. The British tried to take full advantage of the divided Lahore DARBAR and attacked Sikhs in 1846 to annex Punjab . The British forces won this war but had to pay a huge price . After the defeat of sikhs in Puinjab , the British wanted to snatch Kashmir from them which they did not want to rule or govern themselves due to various reasons . The British wanted to divide and weaken Sikhs by depriving them of Kashmir . At this stage , Ghulab Singh intervened and negotiated a reasonable treaty for the defeated Sikh Kingdom . He pleaded for Duleep Singh ‘s ( Youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh ) sovereignty which angered Lal singh who managed to get himself installed as a Sovereign in place of Duleep Singh .Lal singh ( Prime Minister ) secretly entered into a Treaty with the British whereby he was required to pay an indemnity of 15,00,000 British pounds .This he could not pay by any means . The British now made an offer to Ghulab Singh to pay them Rupees 75 lakhs ( Nanakshahi ) and keep Kashmir and other hilly areas situated between River Indus and River Ravi (which formed a part of the Lahore empire )including Chamba but excluding Lahaul . Ghulab Singh agreed and the Deal came to be known as Treaty of Amritsar which was executed in 1846 . 
The treaty only transferred a legal title and no actual possession was handed over to Ghulab Singh. Ghulab singh had to dispatch Dewan Lakhpat Rai to take possession but the last sikh Governor did not surrender and offered a fierce resistance. Ghulab singh now sought the help of Col. Lawrence and finally Sheikh Imam Ud Din Surrendered . He was treated fairly by Ghulab Singh and permitted to stay in Kashmir as he clarified that he had acted according to the instructions of Lal singh from Lahore Darbar. The British installed a Resident in Kashmir and intervened in affairs of administration till the reign of Partap Singh .

It was not an easy task for Ghulab singh to overhaul the administration which had gone from bad to worst prior to his rule .The shawl industry was almost in shambles on account of exorbitant Taxation . Begaar ( forced labour ) was rampant . Illiteracy and poverty were everywhere . Epidemic Diseases , Robberies , Fires , floods ,Famines were common . The Revenue collectors including the village Doom fleeced the poor Zamindaar .Many poor villagers amongst Pandits and Muslims had moved out to Punjab , Kishtwar , Bhaderwah and other areas to save themselves from starvation .Many shawl weavers had also moved out of valley to Punjab and hilly kingdoms of Nurpur , Basholi , kangra and Chamba . 
Ghulab Singh belonged to the school of Napoleon , burning with desire to conquer . He had already conquered Ladakh in 1842 , annexed Chillas in 1850 and subdued Gilgit in 1852.He devoted more time in consolidation and building Jammu And Kashmir state . Some remarkable reforms were later introduced by his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh .I quote a few …

(1) Administration was divided into three heads . Daftar e Nzamat , Daftar e Diwani and Daftar e jangi .
(2) Adalat sadar was created in Jammu and Srinagar and Ranbir Penal Code was implemented .
(3) 25 courts were set up in the state and a law department under a secretary was established .
(4) Dag e shawl which yielded a revenue of 12 lakhs to the state , was remitted altogether to help the Industry .
(5) Many Taxes like Tax on Trade , Import Duty, marriage Tax ,House Tax , Fruit Tax , Animal Tax , and Tax on Arts and Crafts were also remitted altogether .
(6) During the famine of 1877 , The maharaja issued an order that any person importing grains from Punjab to the extent of Rs20000/= would be rewarded Rs1000 as Khillat .The Government started Free langars in Srinagar and the state had to spend a sum of 33 lakhs .
(7) A bridge over river Chenab was constructed at Ramban and a cart road was started between jammu and Srinagar .
(8) Postal and Telegraph system was introduced in the state by inviting Mr Hogg the then post master General of Punjab to the state .
(9) Mulbery seedlings were imported from china to revive silk industry in the state .
(10) A paper Mill was started in the state .
(11) Maharaja donated 6.25 Lakhs to University of Lahore and students from the state were sent for Education to Lahore .
(12) A mint was started to print currency .
(13) During a Shia –Sunni clash in 1872, the Maharaja gave a cash relief of rupees 3 lakhs for the loss suffered by people .
(14) Complaint Boxes were placed at prominent places and the Maharaja personally read these complaints .

( Autar Mota )

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Thursday, July 31, 2014





This Painting shows a Kakear ( One who used to serve Hookah to customers)

Sometimes only Dua salaam , sometimes a handful of rice and sometimes a coin . That is what the Kakear ( Roadside mobile HOOKAH shop ) got who offered people Hookah puffs in the BAZAAR. Kakear was a part of the kashmiri society . He carried a bag across his shoulder in which he would keep three or four tongs , a pouch of fresh Tobacco and some charcoal in a Kangri nearby. This was a mobile Hooka shop that existed in a BAZAAR . They would also be seen in Fairs and gatherings outside shrines.Pay something and have a puff. Not in cash . Pay in kind as well. He would cater to poor and the working class who could not carry the Hooka along .

Kashmiri Pandits were also addicted to HOOKAH. A HOOKAH was the first thing that was kept ready in the morning by the Daughter in law generally for her father in law. Sometimes the son would perform this duty . It had to be cleaned , a kangri had to be kept ready with burning charcoal , the tobacco box had to be kept full and a measured quantity of water had to be put inside the HOOKAH water tank so as to produce proper gurgling sound . Excess water would neither produce the Gurgling sound but would invariably enter the mouth on puffing . 
Once The eldest family member had his puffs , he would keep the HOOKAH aside and leave for his daily work . Young boys would also take a puff secretly . It was followed by Puffs from womenfolk in the afternoon .

Kashmiris were addicted to Tobacco through this HOOKAH or JEJEER.

With the arrival of Cheap cigarettes and overall development and progress in many spheres ,Kakears or kakouris (as some people called them ) suddenly became non existent from kashmiri society sometime around 1975 or 1976.

( Autar Mota 31.07.2014 )

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014




(Photograph by R.E.Shorter 1911 . The  Tailor Master is  at work with his SINGER FOOT PEDAL SEWING MACHINE while a group of Pandits are seated on the shop front and busy in gossiping and posing for the photograph  )

According to Walter Lawrence (  From “Valley of Kashmir “ published in 1895 ),

"The vast majority of the Pandits belong to the Karkun class and have usually made their livelihood in the employment of the State. But as State employment became harder to obtain and the numbers of the Pandits increased, the Brahmans of Kashmir sought other occupations.  Briefly, it may be said that a Pandit may follow any trade or occupation except those of the cobbler, potter, corn-friar, porter, boatman, carpenter, Mason, or Fruit-seller etc.

Pandits have been known to adopt the profession of Acting and Music, and a Pandit now in my employment was once a cavalry soldier in the army of His Highness the Maharana of Oodeypore ( Udaipur ).  As time goes on these intelligent and quick-witted people will no doubt take to new occupations. But  the present   Karkun Pandit regards the pen as his natural destiny, and though many have taken to agriculture and many more are looking to land as a means of employment and subsistence, they would infinitely prefer to spend their lives as clerks in some office. The Pandits of the villages consider it no degradation to follow the plough and to carry manure; but the city Pandit, who has not severed himself from the literary atmosphere of the capital, is inclined to look down upon the Brahman agriculturist, and though he will take a wife from the villages he will not, if a man of any position, permit his daughter to marry into a village family.
 The future of the city Pandits is a matter of some anxiety. They have not the keen trading instinct of the natives of the Panjab, and may neglect the chances of commerce which easier communications with India should now offer. "

From the above statement of Walter lawrence , it appears that Pandits had no hesitation towards taking up Tailoring as a profession in 19th century .

 I have also  heard that  cinema Actor  A K  HANGAL ( 1914-2012 ) , Born in a kashmiri Pandit family  of Peshawar , started his early  life as a Tailor  ; But then  this kashmiri Pandit Family had migrated out  from Kashmir valley long back  and as such  was far away from the mainstream and Core Kashmiri Pandit society .

For sure , Kashmiri Pandits had some aversion towards  joining any  Business  activity   .  A job that required a pen in hand or meant  writing work was generally  sought after  by them .That is why no kashmiri  Pandit was an Artisan  . By artisan I mean carpenter , Tailor , Masson , Blacksmith,  Papier Mache Artist , Shawl embroider , Carpet  weaver  ,   Plumber etc . etc. During my childhood , I could see just one Masson , One carpenter  and some drivers    from kashmiri Pandit community.  

Although many    Pandits  had  Bakery ( Kaandhar vaan  )  shops  or worked as  professional  cooks   but for marriage  within the core kashmiri Pandit society ,   these men could not get a match. Accordingly , Most of them had to get married to Girls from nearby hilly areas of  Kishtawar , Bhaderwah and Ramban  

You can see  from the above photograph clicked in 1911 that there were Kashmiri Pandit Tailoring shops in Srinagar city ..  I am informed by elders that there was a problem for Boys engaged in this business when they had to look for a match to get married . Kashmiri Pandit society considered this business as something inferior and later shunned this occupation altogether .

But then again ,Some time around 1940 , Lamboodhar Nath Tikoo , An educated and enterprising kashmiri Pandit , belonging to an affluent and infuential family, surprised his community members when he opened a tailoring shop under the name and style of “ NAVYUG TAILORS ” at Habba Kadal Srinagar. Pandit Kashyap Bandhu , A reformist leader amongst Kashmiri Pandits during those days, personally attended  the opening cermony of this shop at Habba Kadal. To attract VIP and European customers , the Business location was immediately shifted to Amira Kadal in srinagar City . 

Son of an Engineer who had built BC Road during Maharaja's rule, Lamboodhar Nath went to Bombay to study engineering but returned to valley after learning professional Tailoring . He would cater to VIP customers and was much in demand for stitching stylish suits, Tweed coats and  fashionable shirts. Very soon, NAVYUG TAILORS opened another branch at Residency Road in Srinagar city. Pandit Triloki Nath Tikoo , a young kashmiri pandit with modern outlook , joined his brother Lamboodhar Nath Tikoo in this venture from day one . For Tikoo brothers , it was also a step towards reforming the community and motivating youth for starting such like business ventures that were tradionally shunned . Tikoo family was from Reshi Peer Mohalla in downtown Srinagar .

Pandit Laxman Joo Tikoo ( Father of Lamboodhar Nath and Triloki Nath  ), felt sad and disillusioned at the venture of his sons . Lamboodhar Nath had to start an urdu Newspaper “ NAVYUG “ simultaneously to protect his father from recurring satires from relations and friends for this Tailoring venture looked down upon by orthodox kashmiri Pandit society during those days. Young Nand lal wattal ( who later joined as editor of Urdu newspaper Khidmat ) from Rainawari was brought in as Editor of this news paper . Tailoring Business of Tikoo brothers was directly hit by the second world war as most of their European clients had to move  out of kashmir . The tribal raid of 1947 dried up almost all the residual clientele of  NAVYUG TAILORS .The News Paper had to be closed down for various reasons . "NAVYUG TAILORS " also pulled down its shutters permanently after sometime .

Some Muslim Boys, who worked as Apprentices at these shops , became excellent Tailor masters and opened independent tailoring shops in Srinagar city  .

( Autar Mota 30.07.2014  )

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