Hashmatullah Khan, the Padma Shri awardee from Jammu and Kashmir whose credentials for receiving the award have been questioned, insisted on Thursday that though he never sought the honour, he fully deserved it.
While being conferred the Padma Shri, Khan was described as a ‘master craftsman’ of the rare Kashmiri Kani shawl. Reports later claimed he was no craftsman, but a mere exporter of shawls
“I never claimed to be a craftsman,” said Khan. “I thought I was getting the award for my contribution to the revival of the Kani shawl, which is considerable.”
It now appears that Congress leader Haroon Yusuf had recommended his name.
The kani shawl — better known as jamawar — is named after the region Kanihama in Western Kashmir, where it is largely manufactured.
Hailing from Mughal times, it is entirely loom woven and renowned for its uniquely fine texture.
“This variety of shawl had virtually died out,” said Khan. “I’ve been trying my best to revive it from the mid 1990s.”
Khan took pride in having created a demand for kani shawls in major metros of the country. “Though a businessman, I am not an exporter,” he said.
State official sources, however, did acknowledge that they had not recommended Khan for the award, and the mystery how he came to figure on the awardees’ list remains.
In Delhi too, the union home ministry maintained a stoic silence over the controversy.. “We have nothing to say,” an official said.
A nine member committee headed by the cabinet secretary and including other senior bureaucrats and five ‘eminent persons’, selects the awardees from a list of thousands that is submitted to them every year.