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No Kashmiri in Governor Vohra’s Top Team, But That Doesn’t Matter

Governor’s rule was imposed on Wednesday, 20 June, for the eighth time since 1977 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Updated
India
5 min read
Narinder Nath Vohra is the 12th Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. 
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The Governor’s rule was on Wednesday, 20 June, imposed for the eighth time since 1977 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Chief Secretary Bharat Bhushan Vyas – who was on extension after reaching superannuation on 30 November 2017 – has been elevated to the position of an advisor to Governor. This, coupled with the appointment of BVR Subrahmanyam, a 1987 batch IAS officer of Chhattisgarh cade, and retired Director General of BSF, K Vijay Kumar as another advisor, has made it clear that nobody from the Valley will be in Narendra Nath Vohra’s top team this time around.

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No Ex-IAS or KAS Officer in Vohra’s Team

If sources in the highest echelons of the new dispensation are to be believed, Raj Bhawan has not extended any offer of a top position to any retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) or a retired Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) officer of the Jammu and Kashmir domicile.

Nevertheless, some senior bureaucrats point out that allocation of portfolios among the two advisors has not been made (until the filing of this report) despite the constitution of the State Administrative Council (SAC) – equivalent of a Cabinet in Governor’s rule – on Thursday.

The Governor is SAC’s Chairman and advisors Vyas and Vijay Kumar its members.

This is an indication that the Governor could be considering one or two more retired bureaucrats as his advisors. Maybe he picks up a Kashmiri, or someone from Jammu.
Principal Secretary to Government

When Vohra presided over Governor’s rule for 87 days from January to April in 2016, following the then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death, he had engaged two retired IAS officers, Parvez Dewan and Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, as his advisors.

While Ganai, now J&K’s Chief Information Commissioner, is a Kashmiri Muslim, Dewan has been living in Jammu and Delhi. His ancestors were from Baramulla district of Kashmir.

Should the Governor be content with just two incumbents – Vyas and Vijay Kumar – he is likely to find some of the Kashmiris sulking about the fact that nobody from the Valley had been taken in the highest decision-making forum. But Vohra’s choices are limited.

‘Too Old and Close to Politics’

Of the six J&K officers who have retired as Chief Secretary or equivalent, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool and Vijay Bakaya are too old to be taken as advisors. Besides, both have political labels. They have served as National Conference’s Members of Legislative Council (MLCs).

Retired Chief Secretary BR Kundal too has served as MLC and briefly as Minister in Ghulam Nabi Azad’s PDP-Congress coalition in 2008. Retired Chief Secretaries SS Bloeria and C Phonsog, hailing from Jammu and Ladakh respectively, were taken as Governor Vohra’s advisors in 2008 ahead of Omar Abdullah forming the NC-Congress coalition.

In 2002, retired IAS officer Mohammad Shafi Pandit served briefly as advisor to the Governor ahead of Mufti Mohammad Mohammad Sayeed’s formation of the PDP-Congress coalition. Khurshid Ganai and Parvez Dewan are the last of the lot who served as advisors to the Governor in 2016 ahead of Mehbooba Mufti taking over as Chief Minister.

BR Sharma, currently posted as Additional Secretary in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, has served a tenure as Chief Secretary. He is a resident of Jammu. Sources insist Mr Vohra has given no indication of recalling him to his home state.

Of the senior-most retired Kashmiri IAS officers, Mir Nasrullah has never functioned as advisor to Governor. Hamidullah Khan, hailing from Banihal area of Jammu but permanently settled in the Valley, served as Governor’s advisor in 1992-94. They are both over 90 years old.

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None of the retired IPS officers of the Kashmiri domicile has ever functioned as advisor to the Governor. Veteran police officer and retired director general of police, Peer Ghulam Hassan Shah, was the only Kashmiri who was picked up by Governor Jagmohan Malhotra as an advisor in 1990. However, according to Jagmohan in his book My Frozen Turbulence, Shah soon gave in to “family pressure” and refused to join.

As of now, neither of Vohra’s advisors is a Kashmiri. Chief Secretary Subrahmanyam is from Tamil Nadu. DGP Shesh Paul Vaid is from Jammu. Principal Secretary to the Governor is Umang Narula, Principal Secretary Home is Raj Kumar Goyal, Principal Secretary Finance is Navin Kumar Choudhary and Principal Secretary Planning is Rohit Kansal – all of these are “outsiders”.

‘It’s a Non-Issue With the People’

Notwithstanding some discomfiture in a section of the Kashmiri officers and bureaucrats, absence of local officials in top echelons of the Governor’s administration does not seem to be an issue with the people at large in Kashmir.

Mohammad Shafi Khan, a social activist, told The Quint that the domicile complex had been a problem in Jammu, not in Kashmir.

“We always welcome good officers irrespective of their domicile, religion and other affiliations. I remember imams at mosques praying for BB Vyas when he delivered justice and reached out to ordinary people as Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar in the thick of turmoil in 1993,” he said.

I remember Ram Lubhaya (who was from Punjab and has retired as ADG Security) used to be a very popular SSP of Srinagar in 1993-94. Some of them are, of course, hated for their communal prejudices but even today, honest, efficient and hardworking officers of any religion or background from outside the State are popular in Kashmir.
Mohammad Shafi Khan, Social Activist

Khan recalled that even Jagmohan, who had dismissed Farooq Abdullah’s popular government in 1984, became popular for his pro-people governance and development from March to November 1986.

“He brought about a veritable revolution of governance and development in his first term,” Khan asserted.

One of the former officers who retired after working as Deputy Commissioner and Director of several departments for over two decades, told The Quint that Vohra too had become popular among Kashmiris for a number of his decisions before Ms Mufti took over as CM in 2016.

“Arguably, the PDP-BJP government had grown as the most unpopular for flagrant nepotism, favouritism, corruption in high offices and over a hundred lateral and political appointments,” said a retired KAS officer on the condition of anonymity.

Be it the backdoor appointment of the separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s grandson or Deputy CM Kavinder Gupta’s daughter or sons and daughters of the PDP leaders Sartaj Madni and Peerzada Mansoor, or hundreds of similar appointments ordered under pressure of Social Welfare Minister Sajjad Lone, there was tremendous anger in the people, particularly among the youths.

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“Merit had been brazenly marred in most of such appointments. Money had changed hands in most of the allotments and supply orders. If the Governor will undo all such omissions and commissions, he can again grow very popular,” he added.

The officer said that the breakdown of the Mufti government itself has brought 30% relief to Kashmiris.

“I’m sure there will be a remarkable decrease in incidents of violence, disruption and stone-pelting in the next few days. There was no accountability in Ms Mufti’s regime. In the wake of an outcry, the government constituted an inquiry into the backdoor appointments in Khadi and Village Industries Board headed by Peerzada Mansoor.”

“It was supposed to submit its report in one month. It did nothing for four months. The governor and his team should pull up all these officers and thick-skinned bureaucrats and make them accountable. It will definitely prove to be an immense contribution to peace,” the retired KAS officer added.

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