By Shams Qari @shamsqari
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The factory once employed about two thousand workers and produced silk that was exported across Europe.
The process of weaving the silk was brought to Kashmir in the 8th century. As the silk route passed through the valley, the production of silk and its export to European countries became the biggest source of income for the government.
Established by Maharaja Pratap Singh, during the British colonial rule in the Indian Subcontinent, the factory was run by the British for more than two decades.
Abdul Rashid who is a caretaker of the factory said, “During the first years the factory was doing well but then the government neglected the need to maintain it.
“Everything changed after the government of that time killed workers. The factory lost its charm and people lost their love and interest for silk-weaving.”
The factory remains an important landmark in the history of Kashmir where the first revolt of the workers against the ruling government took place in 1924.
The protest against the low incomes and ill-treatment had lead to the death of 10 workers.
Mohideen Dar, who stays in the factory during the night said: “Workers went on a strike to demand an end to discrimination against the Muslim population and for their democratic rights.
“The agitation helped us overcome miserable conditions of Kashmiri Muslim workers in the Silk Factory in Srinagar under Maharaja’s rule. My grandfather was himself a part of the protest. His silk factory stories were the best we ever heard.”
The first silk-weaving machines in the factory, brought from Europe, remain covered in dust in two huge filature buildings while the third contains the new set of machines provided by the World Bank in 1999.
In 2001, the factory was closed for the final time due to falling levels of silk production compared to Indian states like Karnataka.
Nowadays, the administration section of the factory houses an office with a staff of seventeen who mainly take care of the abandoned buildings and its century old machines.
Ghulam Mohammad Tantray, supervisor at the factory said: “This factory had some of the latest technology used anywhere in the world.
"The buildings were fire-proof, the pipes had rubber valves, and, in case of a fire, they would automatically burst and sprinkle water all over to extinguish the fire.”