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1989 communal riots + silk syndicates = complete destruction of century old Bhagalpur silk industry ! –Part-I


May 23rd, 2017

Our Bureau/

Bhagalpur silk once stood tall in the world market, today lost its grandeur. Transformation of traditional cocoon based Bhagalpur Tasar silk into artificial China-Korea yarns, in nineties, mostly just after the infamous communal carnage of Bhagalpur in 1989, had robbed off the glitters of Bhagalpuri silk. Not only that, Bhagalpuri silk mostly Tasar silk variety, eventually lost it’s charm in the world markets today mostly because of loss of  its virginity- introduction of foreign artificial yarns had made it adulterated.

We are trying to present how conspiracy was engineered to destroyed century old traditional silk industry at Bhagalpur. Through the eyewitnesses’ accounts of the infamous communal riots here, recently narrated before news5pm team.

No dreams : a silk labour at Bhagalpur .



Introducing smuggled foreign yearns in ancient silk city :

Anwar Ansari was a busy person  till up to October 1989 with his full-fledged silk manufacturing unit having  22 handlooms and 200 staffs at his native village Toumani, located some 40 km from district headquarters.

52 year-old Ansari today became a daily wage labouer in a silk manufacturing unit at Champanagar locality with a remuneration of Rs 30 for weaving one meter silk cloth. He still could recall how thousands of rioters destroyed everything and killed many in the village on the fateful morning of October 26, 1989.

Illiterate traditional silk weaver Ansari somehow managed to escape from the rioters, however could not change his profession even after the lull of 28 years. But he lost the essence in his production. Before the communal riots Ansari used to manufacture traditional Bhagalpuri Tasar, an indigenous silk produced from the cocoons. Today he has been assigned by his master to prepare cloths with imported artificial China-Korea yarns.

Like Ansari there are no longer many wavers with their nimble fingers that wove exquisite Bhaglpuri silk on the strings of their handlooms. Bhaglpuri silk had a great demand in the world markets since the time of Mahabharata. Different old books of the epic period and old scripts depicted how the traders from Bhagalpur set out on voyage to the different markets abroad with ships full of silk woven items. Till end of eighties, Bhagalpur silk had its monopoly in the world markets which subsequently had to face its death with the communal tension in 1989 here.

uncertain future : a weaver on a power loom at Bhagalpur.


Binoy Sharma, a silk exporter here recalled  local Tasar yarn was available in the market at Rs 2400/Kg while the imported China-Korea yarns are available in between Rs 1700 to 1800 only. Just after the riots , the smuggle China-Korea yarns launched here on Rs 180/ Kg while at that time local Tasar was available here at Rs 750/Kg. According to reliable sources, the cost of the China-Korea yarns in the international markets were not less than Rs 450/Kg but its price had been reduced much below only for the  introduction.   One meter local Tasar costs here Rs 180-200 while the same cloth woven with the imported foreign yarns costed Rs 60 to 80 only during 1988-89.

According to Md.Obetullah Ansari, a local silk manufacturer,  there was 28 big silk export houses having all its headquarters at Bhagalpur. Majority of those silk houses  operated by the members of minority community, exported silk items to Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, America, Australia, England etc. Besides, Bhagalpuri  silk had a big demands at the markets in Asia. Apart from silk garments different daily uses items like wall hangings, carpets, bed sheets etc manufactured with silk verities here had great demands in the middle east markets. Ziaur Rahaman, another silk exporter here said presently there were 12 export houses in the city but none of them have its headquarters here today as all were shifted places like Calcutta, Delhi, Mumbai from here  just after the riots.

Black & white game : indigenous and foreign artificial silk yarns !


Sources of local regional office of the state bank of India disclosed that the main branch of the bank had to open a separate branch, foreign exchange department after having the rush of silk manufactures. “The branch used to transact over Rs 20 to 30 crores foreign currency every year from the silk units here upto 1989. Today the flow of foreign currency reduced much and hardly we transacting Rs 2 to 4 lakhs every year from the silk units here,” a senior SBI official revealed here.

“Local under world dons having the patronage from the local politicians who played a major role in engineering the riots here also involved in smuggling of silk cloths. Entire diara (island ) of river Ganga and Koshi was their safe zone and they used to supply silk items to Bangladesh and Nepal,” local experts on silk affairs claimed.

“Smuggled artificial silk yarns on 1988-89 reached to Nepal from China. The international smugglers involved with it, were looking for a consolidated market and Bhaglpur having a big silk production center lying near to Nepal’s border and they subsequently managed local silk syndicate here. Incidentally, the silk syndicate who were operating silk smuggling earlier, started importing smuggled artificial foreign silk yarns for Bhagalpur silk units”, they pointed out further.

Former official in research and analytical wing (RAW)  on condition of anonymity, revealed that in the report to the prime minister’s office (PMO), the agency earlier had mentioned the same facts. He revealed that it was also mentioned in the report that the than deputy superintendent of police (DSP), Nathnagar, Sukehdeo Mahata was burnt alive by an angree mob of weavers on 1984 on the instruction of the silk syndicate and the underworld dons targeted the than superintendent of police Bhagalpur, K S Dwivedi on the fateful afternoon of October 24, 1989 during the Ramshila procession which was the epicenter of the biggest riot in the post Independence era here. “Dwivedi was targeted because he earlier on August 1989 killed 6 associates of a powerful don, Anatulla Ansari  who wanted to capture the silk syndicate,’ he recalled.

special treatment of yarns before rolling it to looms.


“Two gangsters, Ansari and Md. Sallan who were archrival to each other operated silk syndicates and to established supremacy over the trade, group clashes and crimes were very common here. Interestingly, Ansari said to had close patronage from veteran local Congress leader, Bhagwat Jha Azad while Sallan enjoyed the umbrella of Siv Chandra Jha, another noted leader of Congress from Bhagalpur”, political observers recalled. “After the riots Late Azad had to face strong public protests and not only that Congress lost the assembly polls in Bihar on 1990 which as public mandate was against Azad who was chief minister at that time,” they added further.

Most interestingly, just after the riots, form 1990 to 1995 the export houses had witnessed sudden raise in the demands of supply order from outside markets. “There was a record production. But we received the supply order for China-Korea made cloths only, no local Tasar fabric woven items,” many recalled here.  In 1991 under the liberation policy of the government, import of China-Korea yarns became legalized.

Incidentally, after the riots, more than 300 people who reportedly engaged in smuggling of the imported yarns get killed by their rivals. “From 1990 to 1997 Bhagalpur police had to witness alarming raised only such crimes related to smuggling of the foreign made artificial silk yarns,” police records point out. Many riots victims weavers had adopted crime as their profession at that period, the records stated.

(to be concluded)


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