Violence has cast a dark shadow on Kashmir’s Rs 30-crore cricket bat industry, whose products are said to be second only to the English Willow.
An eerie silence pervades the bat hub — comprising seven villages of Charsoo, Hallmullaha, Bijbehara, Sangam, Sethar, Pujteng and Mirzapor in south Kashmir — since the armed seized the road.
The deserted bat factories, which used to manufacture over 5 lakh bats a year according to traders’ figures, are spread over a radius of 20 km on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.
Most of them are closed, with huge stacks of handle-less bats inside.
Traders and workers say they are forced to sell their belongings to survive.
“We are ruined. We pass our days in constant fear. The industry employing the majority of the male populace in the seven villages is in its death throes. We pray normalcy returns,” says Shaukat Ali, owner of one of the factories in Charsoo.
“Charsoo village alone accounts for about 70 bat factories churning out nearly 70,000 bats annually, but trade has come to a standstill for the past three months,” he rues.
“Our factory is closed. We have made hardly 2,000 bats this season but there are no takers. During the normal days, we fetch up to Rs 12,000 a day, which goes up during the cricket matches,” Ali said.
Another factory owner, Gul Mohammad, says most of the villagers in Charsoo have been rendered jobless. There are
no transporters to supply bats to other parts of the country.
“The Amarnath yatra season used to fetch us brisk business but pilgrims seldom stop here now,” said Mohammed Ashfaq.