All About Administration!

As the Tehsil headquarter started functioning at Kreeri, its neighbouring village, Wagoora, took to streets against the move. The matter finally went to the courtroom, but as Bilal Handoo reports, the issue can set an example in other places where new administrative units are coming up  

Wagoora-protesing-against-the-Tehsil-set-up-in-Kreeri
Wagoora protesing against the Tehsil setup in Kreeri

On a medieval mud shop, three boys are staring hard at army personnel. These uniformed men have halted all civilian vehicles in the main market of north Kashmir’s Wagoora area for hassle-free movement of their convoy. The scene has set agitating expressions on the faces of trio. These youngsters and scores other in Wagoora are already miffed at the moment over Tehsil status awarded to its neighbouring village, Kreeri.

But before Wagoora simmered with high tension protests last month, the glimpse of ire was noticed in the summer of 2013 only. Hundreds of people in the area held anti-government protests against the shortage of clean drinking water supply.

And then, anger again rose on Dec 27 last year following reports that Commissioner Secretary Revenue has passed an order for appointment of Tehsildar at Kreeri. This forced hundreds of people of this relatively quiet village to stage protests against what they termed “an open conspiracy against Wagoora”.

On the left side of Wagoora market (nestled by medieval structures), an average built man with a lean figure is flipping pages of an Urdu daily. His name is Ghulam Nabi Wani, one of the two elected Sarpanchs of Wagoora. Like others, Wani too is a miffed man. He points toward a blue painted billboard attached to a building in the market. In the bold letters, ‘Office of Naib Tehsildar’, is written on it.

“For past three decades, Wagoora is housing Naib Tehsildar office,” says Wani, 36, while taking me around the village. “And instead of upgrading it to Tehsil office, government scripted a decision in favour of Kreeri, which is at the borderline of the Sangrama Constituency. The favour, I believe, has been done as Kreeri happens to be the hometown of an elected MLA Sangrama, Basharat Bukhari.”

And then, he points out at the big potholed blacktop in the village. Situated at less than 4 km from Highway, potholed roads are the first ominous signs in Wagoora. And the next immediate (and palpable) sign in the village is rage among people against an elected MLA, Bukhari “for his cold shoulder approach towards them.”

Annoyed

Housing nearly 8,000 souls, Wagoora thrive partly on horticulture and agriculture. The official records show that mere two votes were casted in Wagoora during 1996 Assembly elections. But when 2008 elections dawned, people vote in good numbers “to stay in good books of authorities”, but of no avail.

Lately, complaints against Water Works and erratic electric supply have created a sense of neglect in locals. Health Centre is a distant dream in Wagoora, Wani continues, and the village still lacks a dispensary. There is no bus stand. And after the land was identified for the same, the funds never mobilised, claims Wani.

But the level of “neglect” doesn’t end there. “You see, the recent agitation here wasn’t merely for Tehsil headquarters; rather it was a protest against discrimination faced by Wagoora on developmental fronts,” Wani says, adding that PHE Sub Division and Irrigation Division were shifted to Kreeri in Bukhari’s time only.

Bukhari, an erstwhile broadcaster in Radio Kashmir who shot to prominence as a newscaster of ‘Shaherbaen’ (the evening news digest), is being said to have invested some Rs 84 crore in Kreeri only, claims Wani.

“You see, the height is that, he even awarded Rs 8 crore Stadium to Kreeri only as if no other village existed in Sangrama,” he says.

Nothing against Kreeri

Fresh from the agitation, people in Wagoora say that they have nothing against people of Kreeri.

“No doubt we are demanding Tehsil status,” says Mushtaq Ahmad, a local in Wagoora, “but that doesn’t mean we are not happy with the progress that has swept Kreeri from past few years. It is no feud, no dispute and certainly, nothing against Kreeri.”

Why Wagoora deserves what it demands

Some 30 villages in Sangrama constituency want Tehsil office in Wagoora, besides in past, 54 villages have given a written application that they want Tehsil office in Wagoora. The number game, says Mushtaq, favours Wagoora.

Kreeri: We deserve what we got

Some 3 km away from Wagoora, life looks vibrant in Kreeri. At the back side of the market, Abdul Aziz Mir, one of the two Sarpanchs of Kreeri is quietly sitting in his tailoring shop.

“Look, it is never Kreeri versus Wagoora. They are our brothers,” says Mir, an elderly man. “But I don’t think anybody should have an objection toward the setting up of Tehsil office in Kreeri.”

Mir cites history of about 600 years to convey his point. “The historical as well geographical position favours Kreeri. If you peep through the Kashmir history, you will find out that the Qazi-e-Kashmir [chief justice of Kashmir], Syed Haji Mohammad Muraad Bukhari Sahab was from Kreeri under Budshah rule in Kashmir.”

Kreeri, which is spread over some 60 villages, houses more than 15,000 people, besides has every administrative unit functional. Four thousand students daily visit the village’s 20 educational institutes. And more than four road links connect Kreeri to Highway.

But while people in Wagoora are vocal that theirs is centrally located area, people from Kreeri say that since last 600 years, they are centrally located place. But does that give Kreeri an edge over 97 villages in Sangrama for having a Tehsil office?

“Look, the decision has been given by revenue department in favour of Kreeri,” says Zahoor Ahmad, 27, a Hardware shopkeeper in the main market of Kreeri.

But as Wagoora is pitching that after housing Naib Tehsildar office for 30 years, they deserved the Tehsil office. Many in Kreeri say it is a flawed argument.

“Look, Naib Tehsildar office can’t be upgraded,” claims Abdul Rashid, a man who runs a private school in Kreeri. “Tehsil is a creation, and not an up gradation.”

And many in Kreeri allege that Shoaib Lone, the predecessor of Bukhari overlooked them. The same feeling runs deep in Wagoora where people claim that Bukhari is more concerned about his hometown (Kreeri) than any other village in Sangrama.

“Now see, if people in Wagoora are feeling that they have been deprived of something, then, who is stopping them to approach the court,” Rashid says.

Sangrama Constituency

With total electors of 59,013 (as per 2008 Assembly elections), 27, 809 (47.12 %) votes were casted from 84 polling stations in the said elections. Basharat Bukhari, the PDP MLA swept to victory by 1330 votes in last election. He got 7812 votes while his closest rival Shoaib Lone got 6482 votes.

Seven MLAs have been declared winners so far from the constituency starting from 1977 when NC’s Ghulam Rasool was declared winner.

Genesis Of Tehsil Issue

It all started with the proposal made by Wazir Commission that full-fledged Niabat (Naib Tehsildar) to be setup at Wagoora (for the village is centrally located). And then in 2003, Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, in response to the then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir letter Divcomm/LRS/MISE03 dated 09-04-03, recommended Wagoora village to be elevated as Tehsil.

Four years later, PDP led coalition government granted Tehsil status to Kreeri. To decide the location of tehsil headquarter, the state government in 2007 constituted a cabinet-subcommittee headed by then deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma, with cabinet ministers Nawang Rigzin Jora, Hakim Muhammad Yasin and Qazi Muhammad Afzal as members. The committee deleted headquarter status to Kreeri.

Cabinet Decision No. 77/8 dated 31-03-2007, reads at clause ‘C’ Headquarters mentioned against ‘Kreeri, Srinagar-South and Nubra Tehsils will be deleted.

And then in 2008, state government vide its order NO 378 formally deleted Kreeri Baramulla as Tehsil headquarter.

Residents of Wagoora claim the subcommittee in its report decided to establish the tehsil headquarter at Wagoora. But the order was delayed. And soon, Wagoora “which fulfilled all requirements” for Tehsil including Naib-Tehsil office, Block Development Office and other top administrative units, staged massive demonstrations.

The situation took an ugly turn when the authorities appointed a Tehsildar at Kreeri in 2010. By October 2011, government posted Ghulam Mohammed Khatana as Tehsildar Kreeri triggering wide spread protest in Wagoora, forcing government to issue another order bearing NO Rev/Gaz/205 of 2011 dated 24-10-2011  in which the Tehsildar Kreeri was attached to office of Deputy Commissioner Baramulla till further orders.

Judicial Decree

And then on the first day of 2014, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed the government to make Tehsil Kreeri functional. And soon the Commissioner Secretary Revenue passed an order for appointment of Tehsildar at Kreeri. The order triggered protests again in Wagoora.

“…The words used in the order, of which vacation is sought, are posting of Tehsildar in Tehsil Kreeri,” said Justice A M Magrey, in his order. “The order does not provide for location of Tehsildar’s office, therefore, needs no clarification.”

However, the court has issued notice in an application filed by the residents of Wagoora who seek impleadment as a party in the matter.

And meanwhile, the court has asked Advocate Jehangir Iqbal Ganaie, the counsel for the residents of Kreeri to file reply within four weeks.

Clearing the stand

Finding himself at the storm of allegations, MLA Sangrama, Basharat Bukhari clarifies that Tehsil headquarter was proposed to Kreeri when Shoaib Lone was an elected MLA.

“First of all, it is unfair to look Sangrama [a constituency spread over 97 villages] through the lens of just two villages [Kreeri and Wagoora],” Bukhari told Kashmir Life. “Look, as per the development is concerned, I have sanctioned a water works schemes worth Rs 7.5 crores, a bridge worth Rs 1.6 crores and Rs 50 lakh Animal Husbandry scheme to Wagoora.”

So nearly, over Rs 10 crores has been given to Wagoora only, says MLA Bukhari, “So how come people in Wagoora claim a sense of negligence meted out to them.”

Bukhari plays down the allegations that he is more focussed into Kreeri than in any other villages of Sangrama. “Please understand, my constituency isn’t about two villages only, I have to look into the needs of far off villages as well. The matter between two villages has no bearing on the whole constituency.”

Last word

As the matter has finally entered the courtroom, many in Wagoora say that open voting between Wagoora and Kreeri for Tehsil headquarter should be done to rest the issue. “I think, this will solve the matter once and for all,” says Bashir Mir, a local in Wagoora.

But as Assembly elections are approaching fast, Awami Ittihaad Party (AIP) president Engineer Rashid has cautioned government of many further conflicts in the near future:

“It will be proper for the government to constitute a commission that must comprise of neutral officials and should give a patient hearing to the concerned parties before reaching any final conclusion.”

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