Looking for a government job, get a degree first. Want to make laws and rule the state, fret not. You can be a cabinet minister without ever attending a school! Syed Asma takes a look at behind the scene drama that keeps the show running in J&K
It is hilarious but it is true. The constitution of Jammu and Kashmir has put forward no criteria for being a lawmaker of the state. You can still be a lawmaker without even knowing how to spell it out! Zareef Ahmed Zareef, a historian and a satirist, says that politicians never want intellectuals to enter into politics, they only need faces.
“Mohammed Afzal Beg had once said, ‘humein siyasat mein daanishwuroon ki zaroorat nahi…hum mein kaafi daanish hai, humein sirf wur chahiyey’,” remembers Zareef.
Academic qualification can be a criterion for getting a government job but there is no qualification needed to frame the laws in the state.
There are many incidents and evidences that substantiate that the people who have never been to school are today Jammu and Kashmir’s law makers, cabinet ministers. They have been there since decades.
A school drop-out, Ghulam Nabi Sogami, Nasir Aslam Wani’s (Sogami) grandfather had once said, “Flood waaloon ko goli maaro, saihlaab zadoon ko imdaad karon.”
The senior Sogami, a cabinet minister of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed’s era has been famous for his laughable quotes. The anecdotes are shared and remembered by the local historians but are not recorded anywhere. A few of them are shared by Zareef. It is said that once Senior Sogami was travelling in his car on a steep road in heavy traffic and his car couldn’t take a smooth drive. He asked the driver, “kya daleel?” the driver replied, “yath hais phith motion?” His reply was, “addiy motion keetis yee?”
Ironically, the state’s Prime Minister of that era, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, projected as the best administrator of the state dropped out of school after 8th standard.
Many other ministers, MLAs and MLCs are in the list of being school drop-outs.
A former cabinet minister who was sitting behind NC’s Abdul Gani Veeri, during a serious discussion in legislative assembly saw Veeri taking notes on a notepad. Given Veeri’s reputation, the said cabinet minister got curious and leaned over to see what Veeri is noting down. “He was drawing a duckling.” Presently, his son, Dr Bashir Veeri, has reportedly earned a doctorate.
Having poor academic background, many MLAs and ministers were caught on the wrong footing.
Once in a rally, an MLA of Chadoora, Abdul Samad Mir, having a humble academic background was requested in his constituency to sanction a fire and emergency station.
His reply was, “I would immediately sanction one but tell me if it would be a success there or not,” Mohammed Ramzan, a resident of Chadora says with a smirk. “What measures the success of a fire station, the number of fire incidents?” asks Mohammed Ramzan, “it is not even laughable!”
Talking about the helplessness of being illiterate, a famous incident of 1960’s is when a National Conference leader, Ghulam Mohammed Khan, a resident of Yakbug, Budgam was asked to put his thumb impression on a paper. Khan represented Khan Sahib Constituency in Budgam then known as Dreygam. The paper read his resignation. He had no idea what was written on it. Irony is after his resignation the bi-elections were announced but he did not file the nomination papers as he did not know about the notification. After bi-elections Ghulam Mohammed Sofi from Srinagar won in his constituency.
These incidents are not limited to the era of Sheikh or Bakhshi but are happening today as well. It is said that the education minister, Tara Chand, makes his officers work a lot. The officers working with him say that he makes them to translate every single English sentence in Hindi. Perhaps, Chand has never been to school after Class 8th.
Apparently, the academic records of politicians are never made public.
These incidents does not always involve illiterate politicians only, sometimes the literate ones are caught off the guard. In 2012, Ali Mohammed Sagar, the state’s law Minister had to speak in a conference of Chief Justices and judges across India including the one from Supreme Court of India. Sagar, a Law graduate, chose to speak in English. “The Minister hasn’t rehearsed well. He re-read each sentence a couple of times – first in his original accent and then in the rehearsed one,” says an officer who was a part of the conference.
The immediate response of the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, was, “the best part of today’s conference was that my law minister chose to speak in English.” Everybody including Ali Mohammed Sagar burst out laughing.
The real capabilities and abilities of a politician are best known to a bureaucrat. They are the closest to them especially while making the policies.
A higher rung officer shares an incident. Of late, the department of law proposed a need of State’s Law Commission to the cabinet of ministers. The proposal was rejected.
The reason of rejection was, he share was the introduction of the proposal, “As per the state constitution’s article 370 we need to form our own monitory body to review our laws. Without understanding the significance of commission the proposal was rejected just for the mention of ‘Article 370’,” the officer says.
“They believe everything related to ‘Article 370’ is controversial!”
He adds, at times it is very difficult to convince a minister on even a genuine topic. “There are many ministers who just know a single English phrase, “shut-up”. They use it all the time, even if the person sitting across the table is talking sense,” he says.
The non-requirement of a proper qualification is such that state had Sham Lal Sharma as a Minister till recently.
Sharma was a store keeper in the Department of Health services and was dismissed from his services on charges of embezzlement. The constitution of the state is such that the same person became the minister of the entire sector.
It is Sharma who has often accuses Abdul Rashid, MLA of Langate, a qualified engineer, of being a Pakistani man. Er. Rashid often talks about revocation of AFSPA, ‘lawlessness of state police’ and about many other ‘sensitive issues.’
Many of the qualified MLA’s are of the opinion that like Pakistan, we at least need our law-makers to be graduates, so that they value their post and understand the significance of the powers they enjoy.
Apart from qualification of an individual age is another ‘exploited’ criterion when it comes to politics.
Even minors make it there. Example is Agha Ruhullah. He is the youngest Agha who represented assembly’s Budgam segment in the state legislature. He was a minor when he won for the first time in 2002. Ruhullah, rising over the sympathies created after his father, Agha Syed Mehdi’s, death defeated his relative Agha Syeed Mehmood. Mehdi a Congressman was killed in a mine explosion in 2000.
Apart from minors, retired professionals, senior bureaucrats, and police officials have started a trend of getting into the politics to enjoy the perks of being a politician.
The trend perhaps started in 2008 with B R Kundal, chief secretary, who resigned from his post to join Congress. In the list are many of them including Sheikh Ghulam Rasool and Vijay Bakaya joined National Conference (NC) after their retirement; Nayeem Akhtar who after retirement joined People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Many in the list are those who did not have an appreciable service record but are now the lawmakers of the state.
Reportedly, Syed Asghar Ali, from Chenab valley who lately joined PDP was suspended by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during his tenure as Chief Minister on the charges of corruption. Ironically, today Ali is a part of Mufti’s PDP. Another former bureaucrat, B A Runyal, joined PDP in June, 2014 also has number of corruption cases against him.
Similarly, names like Khursheed Alam, the trade union leader representing PDP would be contesting from Khanyar in the upcoming assembly elections. He being a store keeper in Food and Supplies department is reportedly an owner of stone-crushers, factories and flour mills.
Raja Aijaz Ali, a retired police officer whom once Mufti called a ‘killer’ would be contesting his party seat from Uri. Ali was the IGP Crime when Haji Yusuf died in the CM’s residence.
And in the latest significant development, former SSP, Ashiq Bukhari, joined PDP. Bukhari retired early this year. The party, later, disowned fearing impact on polls.
Seeing the people in politics or getting into it, Zareef says, in Kashmir you become a leader either by hereditary or by an accident!