Inflated by power, Kashmir SDMs create their own battlefields

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SRINAGAR: In the last few weeks, two Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s (SDM) were reported on news paper front pages for creating news that forced the government to face music. Both of them are posted in south Kashmir. In both the cases, a crisis was created that the rest of the administration is still managing.

ReT teachers protesting against the proposed Screening Test in Srinagar Wednesday. (Photo: Bilal Bahadur/KL)

The first incident was reported from Zainpora, a sub division and a tehsil, where Sub Divisional Magistrate Zainapora Muhammad Sayeed Kataria had visited the local hospital. His visits, he later said, were response to the complaints he was receiving about the absence of the doctors and the medical personnel.

In one of his visits, probably the last in the series, Kataria found a doctor not wearing his apron. It broke hell lose and he talked in a high pitch, that incidentally, was recorded bys somebody on his mobile and put on internet. The clip of “humiliation” was watched by tens of thousands of people forcing the newly elected Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK) to react. In order to defend the civil officers, the KAS Officers Association reacted terming it a “minor issue”.

DAK wanted action against the SDM. They reported a serious concern over what they said, about the “sham superiority approach” of KAS Officers Association for terming “humiliation of a senior doctor” as “minor issue”. DAK said the video is the evidence that suggests the SDM having exhibited “humiliating behaviour” in full public glare which not allowed under rules. Besides, the SDM had forwarded a complaint against the medical doctor to the police. The issue was already with the Divisional Commissioner, the senior most civil administration officer in Kashmir.

While the dust is yet to settle on the Zainpora issue, another SDM has gone many steps ahead. He has summoned a teacher and “punished” by spotting on a wall and then cleaning it by his forehead. In Kashmiri, this is called Nasreekh, an old tradition of elders reprimanding minors for the wrongs. But the institution of Nasreekh’s has seemingly upgraded itself.

Details already in the public domain have identified the teacher as Abdul Qayoom Wani. His “wrong” was that he had sought return of the teacher back to the school whom the SDM had taken for some work related to local elections. He had made this request and conveyed the same to the teacher Gulzar Ahmad in capacity of Academic Monitor for Lidder Zone. The “call” he made to SDM office was in wake of the Education Ministry’s directions that the teachers will not be deployed to any work that is not academic in nature.

The call, teacher said, got nasty as a clerk in SDM office abused him and he paid in the same coin. Next day he was summoned to the SDM office where he alleged he was beaten and later forced to clean his own spit by his forehead. He has even alleged that his phone was sntached away from him, formatted and returned.

The SDM in this story is Rauf Rehman. He has refused to have beaten the teacher. But he has admitted that he made the teacher “to spit and rub his forehead over it”. The civil administration officer has insisted: “This was the least punishment I could think of.” The officer has now found the argument that the teacher was attempting “sabotaging” the electoral process.

The incident took place in presence of two police officers, who denied teacher marshalling but admit the Nasreekh.

Deputy Commissioner has initiated an investigation. A new battle is about to start between the two appendages of the governance structure.

Private Schools Association of J&K (PSAJK) has strongly condemned the assault on a government teacher by SDM and his clerks and sought a strong punishment against the guilty officer so as to make it a deterrent for the future. The Association termed the assault on a teacher appalling and said that it highlights the level to which few officers in administration can go without any fear of accountability.

“Teachers are the builders of nation and their position in the society is sacred. But in a place like Kashmir they are being beaten, harassed and assaulted without impunity,” PSAJK leader G N Var said. “It is high time that government pulls the reins on these errant officers in administration who are always on the lookout of derailing the education sector.”

The Association said that the incident is not an isolated one and infant is part of series of such incidents. “Not only administrative officers often harass these teachers but we have police also flexing the muscle of their authority freely on teachers. In place like Sopore it is worst situation and police raids, harasses teachers in tuition centres, coaching centres and private schools frequently. Despite them having no authority to raid education institutes they still do it,” the statement said.  “The Education Minister has already promised to look into the matter and we hope justice is delivered at the earliest.”

Feeling vindicated, President Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) Dr SuhailNaik has termed the barbaric behaviour of SDM Kokernag as criminal. Condemns the pathetic and psychiatric behaviour of the concerned administrator, it has stressed the authorities to justify his moronic behaviour.

“This is lunatic dictum of highest ebb and shows extreme colonial mindset of the SDM which has brought disgrace not only to the civil administration but to the whole government,” DAK said. “The administrators across the district have to abide rules for smooth functioning of administration but such behaviour is shocking and beyond condemnation. The recent humiliation of a doctor by SDM Zainapora and now this ugly incident has put a black spot on whole administration and puts a question mark as how they might be behaving with common public.”

“Teachers are nation builders and if such inhuman and unpardonable treatment is shown by SDM there is a dire need of the government to intervene seriously otherwise the administration as an institute will be seen lobbying for colonial culture,” the DAK said. It has suggested a joint umbrella for all technical staffers to fight such injustices jointly.

Kashmir University Teachers’ Association (KUTA) has condemned in strongest possible terms the alleged beating and manhandling of a teacher at Kokernag. A spokesman of the Association said in a statement that teachers are the pivots of a society and architects of a nation and therefore teachers working at any level in the education sector should be treated with dignity and respect. Any disrespect or ill-treatment of a teacher reflects the level of moral degradation in a society.

KUTA has called for an immediate inquiry into the incident that should be followed by strict disciplinary action against those found guilty. Besides, KUTA has also called for exemption of teachers working at all the levels in the education sector from election duties or similar non-teaching assignments.

(Photographs used in this news story are not directly relevant to the contents of the copy)

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