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Friday, June 17, 2011

DNA is superior to Ph D in Cultural Academy

A rehabilitation centre for sons and daughters of litterateurs and journalists

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 17: When arguably the tallest of the contemporary literary figures in Jammu & Kashmir, Prof Rehman Rahi, wrote appreciation of his own daughter, Nausheen Nighat, while pushing her for promotion from Assistant Editor to Editor, sometime back, one of the Valley’s top leading newspapers carried a story. In short span of few years, Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture & Languages, commonly known as Cultural Academy, has become a rehabilitation centre for sons, daughters and other relatives of litterateurs and journalists.

Incumbent Secretary, Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, has, however, introduced a diversification to ensure that he and few other employees of the Academy also grab some share.

Recruiting relatives of literary and media personalities, less on merit and more on account of their blood relations, is not a new affliction with Academy but it has witnessed a significant growth during the ongoing tenure of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Chief Minister always functions as President of the Academy as per the organisation’s Constitution.

In the past, Additional Secretary Shameema Akhtar, came to be known as the cousin of a prominent journalist rather than a legitimately appointed employee. Editor Kashmiri, Muzaffar Ahmed Tak, is still more important due to being the son of eminent poet, Ghulam Nabi Nazir Kulgami, than being a contributor to any of the academy’s publications. Secretary’s Personal Assistant, Aijaz Ali, was privileged to be nephew of then senior KAS officer and poet Hakeem Manzoor, when appointed in last decade.

Prof Rahi’s student Prof Shaad Ramzan, who years later succeeded him as head of post-graduate department of Kashmiri at University of Kashmir, also learned the art of adjusting his son, Aijaz Ramzan, in Cultural Academy. Though one-odd exception in merit among all relatives of “VIPs”, Cultural Assistant Aijaz (MA English and MA Kashmiri) has been lately removed to an insignificant position to create a vacancy for one Zahoor Ahmed War alias Zahoor Sultan. Even after his rehabilitation in Academy, Zahoor Sultan is reportedly continuing with a Srinagar-based news agency.

Like many others of her breed, Nighat Yasmeen is considered to be meritorious on account of her being the daughter of a prominent journalist and editor of a daily in Urdu. For over two decades, Secretary Zaffar Iqbal has been a regular contributor to her father’s weekly-turned-daily.

Insiders insist that PRO, Shakeel-ur-Rehman too owes his appointment on the prestigious position to his mentor and another prominent journalist and editor of an English language daily. Both the journalists are famous for their integrity and bold write ups and both have been Secretary Zaffar Iqbal’s bosom friends for the last nearly 30 years. Speculations are currently rife that the lately appointed PRO was being further pushed to the post of a Deputy Secretary, an obvious heartburn to all old cadres.

While a former Secretary, Rafeeq Masoodi, had appointed a retired employee’s daughter, Aafia Qari, as a Copyist, incumbent Secretary Zaffar Iqbal has been kind to retired Calligraphist Mohammad Yousuf Miskeen. Miskeen’s daughter, Barjees, has been lately appointed as a junior assistant. However, while doing that, Secretary also took due care of his close relative, Tabinda, who has also been appointed as a Junior Assistant. 

Then Deputy Secretary, Zaffar Iqbal Manhas had allegedly influenced his predecessor, Rafeeq Masoodi, in getting his younger bother, Abdul Wahid Manhas, engaged “on the basis of need”. One of the senior Police officers, then posted as SSP in State Vigilance Organisation, was allegedly used to blackmail Masoodi on account of having recruited some relatives of certain highly ranking politicians through backdoor.

When Zaffar replaced Masoodi as Secretary in 2008, first thing he did in chair was to regularize the services of his own brother, Abdul Wahid Manhas, as Field Assistant (Pahari).

In 2010, when Kashmir was burning in the flames of street turbulence, activist-litterateur Aziz Hajini became the biggest beneficiary of Zaffar Iqbal’s largesse. For the purpose of adjusting Hajini’s daughter, Asmat Aziz, Secretary advertised a post of Proof Reader (Kashmiri) in pre-revised scale of Rs 5000-8000 (Revised scale of Rs 9300-34800) under Notification No: Adm/E/16/2010-11/5080-91 Dated 27-08-2010. ‘Graduate from recognized university’ plus three years experience of proof reading plus adequate knowledge of Cultural history of state, was fixed qualification for the candidates. Asmat Aziz, who has MA in URDU (not in Kashmiri) and has neither experience of proof reading of Kashmiri nor any knowledge of J&K’s cultural history, was selected and appointed as “Proof Reader Kashmiri” in December 2010.

Those dropped in the selection included exceptionally meritorious candidates like Shehzada Begam alias Shahida Shabnam who had BA, MA and M Phil in the relevant subject i.e, Kashmiri and is also author of Kashmiri short story collection ‘Nabid Baar’ and her creative poetry collection ‘Wachhuk Wath’. Another meritorious candidate, dropped in the selection, was Nisar-un-Nabi who has not only BA, MA and M Phil in the relevant subject i.e Kashmiri but was also completing his Ph D in Kashmiri language and literature.

President of Cultural Academy, Omar Abdullah, as well as Minister incharge Culture, Nawang Rigzin Jora, have completely shut their eyes to brazen favouritism and nepotism going on well under Chief Minister’s nose. While as Secretary Zaffar Iqbal was continuously not reachable, Mr Jora did not respond to phone calls when Early Times made attempts to learn why dozens of posts were being advertised and meritorious candidates were being duped if nepotism, favouritism and blood relation to litterateurs and journalists had been accepted as a rule in so-called Cultural Academy.

Fotedar’s favourite axis: Mufti-Soz-Geelani

‘Omar knows nothing of accession; Chidambaram knows nothing of J&K; Karan Singh is a Maharaja Bahadur’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 15: Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s confidante and key advisor on Jammu & Kashmir matters, Makhan Lal Fotedar, has hogged headlines in Srinagar on account of his outlandish likes and dislikes in politics. After remaining in oblivion for years, Fotedar has stirred a hornet’s nest in the principal ruling party, National Conference, over its describing the accession as “conditional” but has, at the same time, called PDP patriarch, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, as the “most competent Chief Minister” and the Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani as his “good old friend”.

Fotedar has been camping in Srinagar after participating in Mata Khirbhawani festival at Tulmulla last week. Hitting hard on NC over its ‘accession-not-merger’, Fotedar has disputed Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s knowledge and locus standi with his own argument: ‘Omar was not born when accession happened’. NC’s spokesman, in a quick reaction, maligned Fotedar as ‘an old snake in the (Congress-NC) sleeve’. “Why don’t they move out, if there are snakes in the Congress party?”, Fotedar asked bluntly in reply to a scribe’s question today.

“We won’t quit for two near-dead snakes. We are pretty comfortable with Congress in the coalition”, said a senior NC leader and Minister in Omar Abdullah’s Cabinet without naming Omar’s in-house enemies. Ask anybody. There will be invariably two names---Makhan Lal Foedar and Saif-ud-din Soz. And the old pundit of Kashmir’s politics himself makes his favourite axis complete. He recognizes “only Soz” as the ultimate authority in J&K Pradesh Congress Committee and, paradoxically, extols author of Kashmir’s “Self Rule”, Mufti Sayeed, as the “most competent Chief Minister”.

“There would have been no Kashmir problem, had the Congress allowed Mufti to continue as Chief Minister for full term of six years”, Fotedar has said in PDP founder’s praise. The NC stalwart views it in sharp contrast. “There would have been no Kashmir, had they allowed Mufti to rule for six years”, he claimed. He insisted that it was none but Mufti, with full support of Delhi people like Fotedar, A S Dulat, Ram Jethmalani and even Pranab Mukherjee, who flushed all of India’s Kashmir-related achievements of over 60 years down the toilet in 2008 and helped hardliners like Geelani and Massarat Alam become icons of the new generation in Valley.

While praising Mufti and Soz, Fotedar has, in his today’s interviews to media, belittled the biggest votary of NC-Congress bonhomie, Dr Karan Singh, as a king. “He is a Maharaja and we are the common, ordinary people”, Fotedar is reported to have said with a dig on the seniormost Congress leader and the party’s only potential successor to President Pratibha Patil. Transforming his old physics into a new chemistry, Fotedar has also called Geelani “as my old friend”. “He is a very good friend of mine. We used to be together in (J&K) Assembly”, Fotedar is reported to have said today.

Again interestingly, Fotedar has not spared even his party’s pride, Home Minister P Chidambaram. Not for his Naxalite failures. Obviously, for providing every possible support and shelter to Omar. According to Fotedar, Kashmir was all Greek to Chidambaram.

Indisputably, Omar Abdullah has not demonstrated desired competence and confidence in handling the crises in the last two years. Most of his election promises, as also the priorities flagged in NC’s Vision Document, are unfulfilled. Drive against corruption has remained restricted to clerks and Patwaris and the high profile politicians and bureaucrats, involved in serious matters of corruption and favouritism, are all scot free and, in fact, enjoying things with impunity.

Employment promises, including SKEWPY and Rangarajan, have proved to be a mirage. Despite Omar’s consistent pushing, bureaucracy has not let the Chief Minister’s unpublicized dream of ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ (6-lane N-S-E-W connectivity) in Valley realize in last 30 months. But, packed to capacity with all-time high tourist rush, Kashmir is calm and predominantly in favour of peace. Schools and shops are open and 0ver 80% people have participated in Panchayat elections. Nobody has died in street demonstrations since middle of September 2010. Is this enduring peace compatible to Omar-Sonia-Chidambaram-Karan Singh axis or Fotedar-Mufti-Geelani-Soz axis, everybody is entitled to hold an opinion.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Fotedar’s seventh symphony of ‘rotational Chief Minister’

PDP may not benefit from jingoism of its Delhi-based lobbyists

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 14: In order to neutralize the criticism of being an “undependable partner”, Congress made it unambiguously clear in Parliamentary elections of April 2004 that it would not break any alliance or seat adjustment with its allies “in any circumstances”. Thereafter, it did not repeat its characteristic mistake, even in most compelling and tying conditions created by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP in J&K, DMK in Tamil Nadu and many others. In J&K, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was forced to swallow the bitter pills till PDP unilaterally withdrew support and broke the coalition in June 2008.

On scores of occasions from 2004 to 2008, it appeared that the country’s principal political party under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership was more keen to uphold its image of being a “dependable partner” than anything else. In fact, the UPA coalition was disastrous in many fields and never before had the country suffered the ignominy of being a ‘Banana Republic’.

Notwithstanding an overwhelming public impression that Mufti would continue as head of the coalition beyond his fixed term of three years, Congress sent Azad all the way from Delhi to take over as Chief Minister in November 2005. Even the most mature in PDP did rest assured that Sonia would snub the delegation of Congress party’s MLAs the way Indira Gandhi did once to sort out a rift between Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq and Syed Mir Qasim.

Equating Sonia with Indira was potentially disastrous. Dictatorship, arrogance, belligerence and breaking partnerships served as marks of identification for Indira’ rule till she breathed her last. Sonia has come in total contrast. Nevertheless, she had put her foot down to enforce all pre-poll seat sharing and post-poll coalition arrangements with the UPA constituents without regard to anybody’s sentiments. Mufti stayed as CM for only three years because there was an agreement in November 2002. Azad was not permitted to part with PDP because the coalition had been indelibly created for six years.

Notwithstanding his strong clout in Delhi, Omar Abdullah may not be allowed to remain J&K’s Chief Minister a day beyond January 5, 2012, in absence of an agreement over his full term in November 2008. Dr Karan Singh, who played key role in weakening his party’s pro-PDP lobby and getting Omar installed as the head of the coalition in J&K, made it clear to one and all after the swearing-in ceremony at Zorawar Singh Hall of the University of Jammu that everything had been settled. He made it clear to bigwigs of different parties that Omar would be the CM for full six years but key portfolios would be retained by the Ministers of Congress party.

More jubilant over PDP’s exit than NC’s entry, Azad too left nothing to speculation. He indicated on several occasions that Omar would continue as CM for full six years. On the other hand, Azad’s bete noire, Prof Saif-ud-din Soz, has been promoting the idea of having a “rotational Chief Minister”---NC’s for 3 years and Congress’ for 3 years. Since a non-Kashmiri, non-Muslim has never become the head of the government in J&K, Soz can not be naive to understand that Congress would have nobody other than him to induct as CM in the event of the change of guard within the ruling coalition.

Remarkably, BJP stalwart Ram Jethmalani and now senior Congress functionary, Makhan Lal Fotedar, have lately surfaced in sync with Soz. One does still expect a similar statement from men like Pranab Mukherjee. Most of the people in this pro-PDP lobby were proactively at work against Omar’s “Government of serious governance deficits” this season last year. They included mediapersons, academics, columnists and businesspersons.

Failing to get the desired ambience from Valley----June half way through and still no khoon ka badla---Jethmalani’s and Fotedars have turned politically bankrupt. Be that Jethmalani’s dig of “Nazi Regime” or Fotedar’s expression of school kid politician, nobody in Valley seems to be interested in politics, upheaval, Egyptian-type revolution, Tamil Nadu-type changeover, Intifada-type resistance.

By visiting friends in PDP and appreciating Mufti’s rule as the best one, frequent flyers like Jethmalani and Fotedar have only exposed themselves and adopted a position with which they can seldom help the Muftis. Fotedar’s public criticism of Omar Abdullah’s contention of “conditional accession” would only help the wrong player in Valley. Many in Srinagar say Omar had been surviving because of separatist radicals like Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Jethmalani and now Fotedar have come only as a bonus. Omar has to be indebted to them all for simply overshadowing the factors of his loose governance and flawed delivery systems.