SHAHNAWAZ AALAM (July 1958- September 2019)
Jammu and Kashmir’s top Rural development academician, Prof ShahnawazAalam, 61, died On September 17. Cancer in his lungs was detected in February last and for the last seven months he was shuttling between various hospitals within and outside Kashmir. For the last three days of his life he was communicating by writing only. He was laid to rest on September 18 at their ancestral graveyard at KakMohallaNowhatta near Naqshband Sahib.
Aalm was a professor at the Jammu and Kashmir Institute of Management, Public Administration and Rural Development (IMPARD), a multi-disciplinary institution where government trains its human resources and initiates key policy studies. Since his appointment in IMPARD in 1987, Aalam trained a few generations of officers, elected representatives and might have done as many as 300 policy and background papers for the government.
Born to Ahmadullah Shah, A Waqf Board employee, he was the youngest of his three brothers – KhursheedAalam (politician), MuzaffarAalam (a retired government employee), and SartajAalam (a Delhi based businessman). They have three sisters as well one of whom is wife of AbulRouf, former JK Bank President.
Aalam did his masters, pre-doctorate and PhD from the University of Kashmir. His thesis was on Kashmir agrarian economy under Prof Bashir Ahmad Khan.
His colleagues remember him as the most popular faculty, an honest intellectual, an impressive trainer and a knowledgeable mentor. He was the main driving force behind the J&K EDI having a sprawling structure outside the confines of Rajbagh, where it was initially supposed to operate from. He even drafted the SKEWPY, the main policy for which EDI is known for.
A liberal, Aalam was a silent helper to the needy – his colleagues say some still visit his IMPARD chambers, a voracious reader and mutton-eater; he knew English, Persian, Arabic, Urdu and Kashmiri and was a class singer to his classmates. His wife is a homemaker. He is survived by two sons – Mohsin (works for JK Bank), and Shuib (still in his 12th class), and a daughter who is settled.
Authorities drove his elder brother from jail on January 18, morning and permitted him to be part of the burial and funerals. By around 6 pm, he was driven back to the Centaur Lake View Hotel, where Kashmir’s political class is in custody since August 5. Two days later, he was sent home on parole for four more days.
Aalam lived his life like a king. For his entire career, he did not avail an official vehicle. In run up to September 2014 floods, he spent literally one month in personally cleaning the IMPARD like a labourer. In 2013, almost four years ahead of his superannuation, the always smiling Aalam submitted his papers for voluntary retirement. His request was not accepted. Finally he resigned in December 2016, when he still had 18 months to go. Post-retirement, he turned down at least three major consultancy offers – two had come from the central government, insisting that he wishes to spend time with his family. Though he died in a hospital, he lived up to his words – he stayed with his family and in last three days would communicate by writing notes. He literally wrote his death. Before he stopped talking, he would sing the famous ghazal: AayKatib-e-TaqdeerItnaTouBataday, Kya Main Nay KiyaHai, KyounMuj Say KhafaHai.
While the Supreme Court has permitted Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to visit Kashmir, the governor’s administration has sent back former BJP minister YashwantSinha back from Srinagar airport. However, his three colleagues’ journalist Bharat Bhushan, civil society members KapilKak and SushobaBharve were permitted in. Sinha leads the Concerned Citizen’s Group on Kashmir. At the airport, Sinha was served an order terming him to be a “threat to maintenance of public order” and quickly another order directed him to fly back. Sinha told reporters in Delhi that he defied the restrictions but instead of arresting him, he was forcibly put on a Delhi flight.
After being denied permission, Communist leader Sitaram Yechury finally took the Supreme Court help in flying his ailing comrade Yousuf Tarigami to Delhi. Now Targami has become the first Kashmir politician to open his mouth almost 40 days after the clampdown. “This is a Kashmiri, an Indian speaking. We must also get the chance to live,” Tarigami was quoted saying in Delhi. “We only ask you to take us along. An average Kashmiri asks for nothing, we don’t ask for the stars, we don’t ask for the heavens. We just want the chance to merge with you.” He further said: “All they say is that no one is dying. People are dying slowly. There is suffocation. And that’s why I appeal, not to the rulers to whom my voice may not reach, but to the common public and the poor that we also want to live. We must also get the chance to live.”
Nazir Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Rafiabad, spent days in Srinagar to seek help in getting his son-in-law freed. Tanveer Ahmad and Bhat’s daughter were supposed to marry on September 8; weeks after their nikah took place. However, a day after the abrogation of Article 370, Ahamd, a Sarpanch was arrested by police and moved to a jail in UP. Now his father in law is trying to seek some support. He is carrying the nikahnama to explain his crisis. Bhat wants his release for wedding so that it enables his daughter to go her home so that she can take care of his ailing parents.
For many it was a windfall. Days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the Pakistan administered Kashmir; the local government announced “generous” allowances to its employees. The Utility Allowance for Civil Secretariat officers is up to Rs 20,000. A special allowance up to fifty percent of the basic pay was announced for all the twenty pay scales.
Syed Mubarak Hussain, a US based neuroscientist and LS Shashidhara of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) joined hands to help the students who missed their deadline in fresh admissions across the world. They have identified the case and are making requests to the universities to retain the berths for the Kashmir students. Hussain has said that some Kashmiri students who had confirmed admissions under China Scholarship Council have missed the bus because of communication blockade. Professor Shashidhara, currently with Ashoka University, has written to many universities so that the students do not miss the precious year. Hussain said they have helped 400 students by raising money from their pockets to fund the fees as students were unable to access their parents.
Their battles apart, India and Pakistan have not changed their off shore. The armies of India and Pakistan have joined their counterparts in Russia in multinational counterterrorism military drills. China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has organized the exercises in Orenburg. SCO was established in 2001, with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its founding members. Last year India and Pakistan had participated in the SCO anti-terror military drills, also hosted by Russia, after becoming full members of the organization in June 2017. India and Pakistan armies have also been working together in UN peacekeeping missions.
Kashmir’s longest serving governor N N Vohra has not spoken a single word on Kashmir when he released David Devadas’s The Story of Kashmir in Delhi. He was asked pointed questions about his assessment but he did not respond. He did find “critical gaps” in the book, however. Vohra who took over as Kashmir governor at the peak of 2008 unrest and was replaced by Satya Pal Malik, a decade later, was the person who had met every single legal expert in India on Article 370 and submitted a detailed report to then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.