Way back in early twentieth century the brilliant barrister statesman who along with his illustrious father is believed to have inspired Iqbal’s much quoted ‘Matla e ein akhtaran Kashmir e maast’, travelled to the valley on his honeymoon. But Kashmir, down the centuries will haunt his name as a beloved he kept unwillingly, employing love and war and going by the maxim everything is fair in both.
Varun Gandhi’s menacing entry into Indian politics is not only an antithesis of his ancestors but also a reminder to Kashmir about what his mother did to the people here. Soon after having passed the Autonomy resolution in the state Assembly the NC government extended ban on Shahtoosh to Kashmir in 2000.
Maneka came all the way to Srinagar to receive the gift of ban order from Dr Farooq Abdullah. She was a minister then in the NDA government where she had a charming, much younger colleague, Omar Abdullah, now our Chief Minister. It would be unfair to link the rather soft comments on Varun’s utterances about Muslims by Farooq and Omar in an uncertain election scenario to the NDA association. It might have to do more with future than the past.
Anyway, Shahtoosh ban has rendered the most vulnerable sections of our society jobless with hardly any alternatives. According to conservative estimates about twenty five thousand families in Srinagar have been affected.
The trade employed 70,000, mostly women workers, at different stages of making world’s finest fabric. It indeed sustained that great genre of workers with artistic finesse who gave Kashmir its global brand name, Cashmere. In the dark downtown alleys dreams have been carded, spun, woven, embroidered for centuries, which by the current market value would earn Kashmir not less than Rs 250 crore annually. With his mother having achieved that wonder anyway, would Varun still have to bring in the lotus to kill Muslims of Kashmir, obviously no less dangerous than their brethren from Pilibhit?
Another great impact of Maneka Gandhi’s love for animals can be witnessed anywhere on the near bombed streets of Srinagar, where dogs could soon outnumber humans or, have they? The city has literally gone to dogs and the protection of security forces that the canine population enjoys looks like a live demonstration of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s famous line “Ki sang o khisht muqayyid hain aur sag azad” (while stones are imprisoned, dogs rule the roost).
It remains to be seen which one is more lethal: Varun’s bark or his mother’s bite. To me it appears the later.