Bengaluru: The Gram Seva Sangh and its affiliated bodies have planned a public space takeover in the heart of Bengaluru on 7 August to mark National Handloom Day by creating awareness around the ongoing struggle of weavers in North Karnakata.

The takeover, which the Gram Seva Sangh calls a satyagraha, will involve the sale of handloom products at the junction of Bengaluru’s M.G. Road and Brigade Road.

Theatre director and social activist Prasanna, former IAS officer and Unesco ambassador Chiranjivi Singh, and artist and handicrafts activist Chandra Jain, will be present at the event. The satyagraha, which is largely a movement to showcase solidarity with the weavers, also aims to show policymakers that there is a huge market for such products.

Gram Seva Sangh, which calls itself a bridge between the citizen in the city and constructive work in the village, will continue its satyagraha beyond 7 August though at a different place. On 9 August, people will sit in protest in front of the Hubli head office of the Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation (KHDC), which has been ignored during allocation of funds and has, therefore, failed to protect the livelihood of weavers, said the organizers of the satyagraha.

“Over the years, the Karnataka government has been killing handloom by refusing grants and neglecting it and not promoting KHDC. You cannot celebrate handloom just because our policymakers are wearing it. You cannot celebrate when the weavers are in a very bad shape," said Gram Seva Sangha secretary Abhilash CA.

Weaving generates the most number of jobs in North Karnataka after farming. The region, which comprises Bombay-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka, is home to the second-most arid and backward part of the state. It is also fares poorly on several economic and social parameters when compared with the rest of Karnataka.

Late last month, influential heads of religious mathas (or mutts) reiterated their demand for a separate statehood for the region, which accounts for at least 13 of the 30 districts in the state and around 40% of the entire population.

“If you revive handloom, it can provide jobs for at least 1.5 lakh people in North Karnataka. The number of weavers in that region is larger, but I am talking of a fair estimate of how many looms can be revived over the next five years," said social activist Prasanna.

KHDC does not know how to sell handloom as a branded item and has, thus, fallen into the trap of selling it as a subsidised cheap fabric, Prasanna said. The Gram Seva Sangh and its affiliated bodies are asking the government to create an Amul-like cooperative model for the handloom industry.

“The satyagraha is a great idea because it generates a lot of interest in the general public. Right now, it is a bit nebulous in the general public’s mind—why does handloom as a sector need support. Unless this percolates down to the general public, the cause could remain very niche," said Mala Dhawan, co-founder of A Hundred Hands, the non-profit trust that has been organizing “The Handmade Collective" event in the city since 2009.

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