KASHMIR NEWS TRUST #KNT
Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) chief and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, ex-PDP MP and former minister Muzaffar Hussain Beig, and former BJP MLA and its J&K president Ravinder Raina are among 53 former ministers, ex-legislators and politicians, cutting across parties, who are occupying government accommodation in the Union Territory, long after they ceased to hold any constitutional or official position in government.
The information has been submitted by the J&K administration in response to directions by the J&K High Court, asking it to submit a copy of the recommendations of the Designated Committee – that reviews threat perception to individuals – as well as the names of the people allowed to stay in government accommodation despite not holding any constitutional or official position.
The UT administration had told the court that the Designated Committee, comprising senior police and intelligence officials, does regular assessment of security threats, and it was on this basis that the eviction of some was on hold.
A petition had been filed in court by a retired professor, S K Bhalla, through advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed asking why, in spite of repeated court orders clearly delineating the requirements for giving protection and official accommodation, the authorities continued to allow as many as 53 to stay in government accommodation past their stints in constitutional or official position.
The UT administration had sought that it be allowed to submit the list, including former ministers and ex-legislators, but that the recommendations of the Designated Committee regarding them be allowed in a “sealed envelope”, due to these being “confidential in nature”.
However, on Thursday, when the UT counsel tried to submit the recommendations in a sealed envelope to the High Court Bench headed by Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh, it noted that the Supreme Court had recently made observations against sealed cover practice.
The Chief Justice then asked the Senior Additional Advocate General S S Nanda to keep the sealed envelope with him, and said the court will take note of it at the next hearing, on April 28.
Ghulam Nabi Azad: A senior Congress leader from the time of Indira Gandhi, Azad last held a constitutional position in February 2021, when his tenure as Rajya Sabha MP ended. In 2020, Azad was awarded Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award. In August that year, he quit the Congress and floated his own Democratic Progressive Azad Party.
He has acknowledged sharing warm ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Muzaffar Hussain Beig: Having started his political career with the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, the Harvard University alumnus was one of the founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), founded in 1999. A two-time MLA from Baramulla (2002, 2008), Beig served as Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the state and as Deputy Chief Minister from 2002 to 2006.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he was elected as an MP from Baramulla. Two years later, after the death of then J&K Chief Minister and PDP supremo Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, he was named patron of the PDP. He resigned from the PDP in 2019, in the wake of differences with PDP president Mehbooba Mufti after the abrogation of Article 370, and has not held a constitutional post since.
In 2020, the Modi government awarded him the Padma Bhushan.
Ravinder Raina: The BJP J&K president was elected as an MLA from Nowshera in the 2014 elections. The Assembly was dissolved in 2019, and elections have not been held in J&K since.
As an RSS activist, Raina has worked in border Rajouri and Poonch districts, and is appreciated as an honest and outspoken politician.
Imran Raza Ansari: A PDP leader and well-known Shia cleric, he belongs to the influential Ansari family of Kashmir. After the death of his father Iftikhar Hussain Ansari in 2014, he was elected from Pattan Assembly seat as a PDP nominee in 2014 and became a minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government. He was also elected president of the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association in July 2016, thus ending the three-decade-long term of former CM and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah.
Since the Assembly was dissolved in 2019, he has not held a government post.
G M Saroori: Former Congress minister and three-time MLA from Inderwal constituency of Kishtwar district, Saroori is now a member of Azad’s party.
Shafiq Mir: He is the chairperson of the J&K Panchayat Conference, an organisation of more than 33,000 elected sarpanchs and panchs across the UT. He is also the elected chairman of the Bufliaz Block Development Council in border Poonch district.
Those occupying government accommodation in Srinagar include former legislators Hakeem Mohammad Yasin (PDP) People’s Conference leader Sajad Gani Lone, M Y Tarigami (CPM), Abdul Rahim Rather (NC), Sofi Yousaf (BJP), Ab Majid Padder (J&K Apni Party), Zaffar Iqbal Manhas (J&K Apni Party), Nizam-u-Din Bhat (People’s Conference), Abdul Gani Vakil (People’s Conference), Surinder Ambardar (BJP), Raja Manzoor (J&K Apni Party), Bashir Ahmed Dar (People’s Conference), Vikram Randhawa (BJP), Haji Abdul Rashid (Democratic Progressive Azad Party), Yasir Reshi (People’s Conference), Abdul Rahim Rather (National Conference), Mohd Amin Bhat (Democratic Progressive Azad Party), Shoaib Nabi Lone (Democratic Progressive Azad Party) and Mohammad Abbas (Peoples Conference).
Others include former MP Fayaz Ahmed Mir, besides Muzaffar Shah (Awami National Conference), Sonaullah Lone, Zahid Hussain Jan, S S Channi (Congress), and Reyaz Ahmed Mir (all politicians).
In Jammu, the list includes Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar (former NC MLA); Ravinder Sharma (ex-Congress MLC); BJP leaders Bali Bhagat (a prominent Dalit face), Sat Sharma (former J&K BJP chief), Neelam Langeh, Daleep Singh Parihar, R S Pathania, Vibodh Gupta, Pardeep Sharma, and Shilpi Verma (whose husband Kuldeep Raj died by suicide in July 2008 reportedly in protest against withdrawal of some land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board; the agitation had created a wave in favour of the BJP).[The news report was first published in ‘The Indian Express]