Muslims wiped out of top rungs in J&K administration
On September 23 this year, India’s renowned TV journalist Karan Thapar interviewed Kashmir’s veteran pro-India politician Dr Farooq Abdullah. Towards the end of the interview, Thapar asked Abdullah an intriguing question: “Kashmir is India’s only Muslim majority state, now a Union Territory and yet I noticed that all the top positions in Kashmir today are occupied by non-Muslims. The Lt Governor is a Non-Muslim, the Chief Secretary is a non-Muslim, the Police Chief is Non-Muslim, both Divisional Commissioners are Non-Muslims, both IG Police are Non-Muslims, the Chief Justice is a Non-Muslim. As a former Chief Minister how do you view this?”
Abdullah, wearing a grey tinted Karakul cap held his head down for a moment, smiled and said: “How do you think I should view it?”
In a separate interview a few days later, Abdullah had this to say: “When we were in power — be it my father, me, my son, Mufti Sahab or others — Hindus and Muslims were equally distributed in the bureaucracy. Today, you have the L-G who is Hindu, the DG and the two IGs are Hindus. We had representation from both communities…Today, that balance is not there. There is a total wipeout. Do you think only one community has the brains and the other community does not have any brains at all?”
Deluge of misfortunes
Post Article 370 abrogation, there are fears among the local population that the special status that they had secured 70 years ago within India’s suzerainty was removed by India’s pro-Hindu federal government with a sole objective of enslaving the Muslim population. These fears are turning to be real. At present, within Kashmir's administrative set-up, the situation is grimmer than what Karan Thapar projected.
Kashmiri Muslims are 67 percent of the population of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State and 97 percent of the population of the Kashmir valley, and yet, the presence of local officers in the administration is a mere 45 percent. Out of the total of 520 officers in the Kashmir Administrative Service, merely 238 (less than 45 percent) are Muslims. Out of 20 Districts of Jammu and Kashmir, only nine have Muslim Deputy Commissioners. Among a total of 58 Indian Administrative Service Officers of Jammu and Kashmir Cadre, only 11 are Muslims or 18 percent.
Key posts held by Non-Muslims
The department of Finance is headed by Arun Kumar Mehta (Non-Muslim). The Principal Accountant General of Jammu and Kashmir is Ila Singh (Non-Muslim). The Housing and Urban Department is headed by Dheeraj Gupta (Non-Muslim). The Transport Department is headed by Pardeep Kumar (Non-Muslim). The Social Welfare Department is headed by Bipul Pathak (Non-Muslim). The Department of Revenue is headed by Pavan Kotwal (Non-Muslim). The Public Works Department is headed by Shalindra Kumar (Non-Muslim). The Department of Planning is headed by Simrandeep Singh (Non-Muslim). The Water Works department is headed by M Raju (Non-Muslim). The Department of Industries is headed by Manoj Kumar Dividi (Non-Muslim). The Department of Power and Information is headed by Rohit Kansal (Non-Muslim). The Department of Law is headed by Anchal Sethi (Non-Muslim). The Department of Home headed by Shaleen Kabra. The Department of Food Supplies is headed by Simrandeep Singh (additional charge) (Non-Muslim). The Department of Agriculture is headed by Navin Kumar Choudhary (Non-Muslim). The department of School Education and Higher Education are headed by Asgar Hussain Samoon and Talat Parvez respectively. There are just two Muslim bureaucrats in the midst of a hoard of Non-Muslim bureaucrats.
A senior politician who has been a minister in a past government termed the situation in the administration as worrying to the core. Wishing not to be named, the politician said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government is busy establishing a culture of impunity, a polarized administration, systematic sidelining of local officers, fragmentation of the bureaucracy on feudal lines and perpetuating the quid pro quo culture of rewarding incompetence.
He further said that there is an unprecedented level of corruption in the system and Kashmir has become an unguarded market for plunder. “The civil liberties of the entire population have been suspended. The mineral resources are looted and this plunder now enjoys official patronage,” said the political leader.
Is history repeating itself?
In the year 1929 when Kashmir was ruled by a despotic Hindu Prince Maharaja Hari Singh, the condition of Muslims in the civil administration was similar. In the department of Forests, out of the total 124 officials, only four were Muslims. In the Department of Education out of 56, six were Muslims. In the Judiciary, out of 33 officials, four were Muslims. In the Department of Health, out of 220 officials, 32 were Muslims. In the Department of Revenue, out of 148 officials 35 were Muslims. Out of 87 senior police officers, 12 were Muslims. (Jammu Kashmir Conflict by Ashiq Hussain Bhat Page 270).
Further, higher officers for running the administration were imported from British India, particularly from Punjab. The officers imported for the top posts never had any sympathy for the people of Kashmir (and that was an essential qualification for these posts).
Till August 5, last year, Kashmir had its own constitution, police laws and a separate flag. The region had a unique law in accordance to which no person living outside Jammu and Kashmir could buy property and become its permanent citizen.
However, uncertainty gripped the region on August 5, 2019, when the federal government led by the Hindu nationalist-BJP announced that it has repealed from the Indian constitution Kashmir’s autonomy and has also abrogated the law that used to bar people from the other Indian states from purchasing land in Kashmir and becoming its permanent settlers. The government also reduced the status of Jammu and Kashmir that used to be India’s only Muslim majority State to that of a centrally-administered Union Territory.
This led to outrage and protests and the government clamped severe restrictions across the region, blocking the internet, mobile and telephone landline services for several months. High Speed Internet continues to be blocked.