SRINAGAR: Former Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday, who was suffering from cancer, for the last two years is no more. For the last few days, he was admitted to the SKIMS after his condition deteriorated.
Khanday turned 63 on November 15, barely four days before he died. He is survived by his wife judge Kaneez Fatima and daughter Sehr Iqbal. Family sources said his funeral prayers will be offered later in the afternoon and he will be laid to rest at their Humhama cemetery.
“He was going to SKIMS on and off because he was under treatment,” one source close to the family said. “His condition deteriorated on the weekend and he was driven to the hospital where he was put on a ventilator. He had actually gone for immunotherapy.”
Khanday left the position of Chief Secretary on August 31, 2015, in anticipation of his superannuation after some ministers in Mufti Sayeed led government triggered a controversy with him. He remained confined to home, post-retirement. Sometime later, his cancer recurred and he was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai.
A 1978 batch IAS officer Iqbal Khanday was elevated to the coveted position of new chief secretary of J&K state in February 2013. The 1955 born Scorpio has held various positions in the state government before taking the top position.
Khanday was a Deputy Commissioner, a director and then headed planning – for a long time, tourism, health, home, finance, R&B, besides heading the IMPA. He was principal secretary to the former chief minister Mufti Sayeed.
Khanday was the third officer from Kashmir to get the coveted berth. But he is the first direct IAS recruit from Kashmir who could make it. His senior M Shafi Pandit could not make it and retired just a step earlier.
But reaching this position has not been so easy for Khanday. His first major issue was his health. A chain smoker – he quit it when he was Chief Secretay – he contracted cancer. He had to pass through critical surgery in advanced stage-III of lung cancer and a recurrence involving other organs more than twice at Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai and Sloan Kettering Cancer Center New York in 1995-97. Extensive recurrence of the malignant disease in April 1997 had involved his chest wall, ribs and pleura. He survived but did not quit smoking.
The second issue was when CBI arrested him in the sensational sleaze racket in 2006. Shocked, for many days, he did not ask for any defence and later when he did he knew the lawyer of his choice will not plead his case because of massive polarization in the society. He was bailed out later on health grounds and the defence proved that his stay in a less ventilated and overcrowded jail could reactive his health crisis.
He was finally absolved of all charges by the trial court in Chandigarh. It was this exoneration that paved way for his mobility within the administration.
Next came another crisis that was triggered after his daughter Sehr (now a mother) contested polls from Kokernag on PDP mandate. Though she finished second it was enough for the politicians to accuse Khanday of being in league with Mufti’s party. Khanday had been briefly Mufti’s principal secretary as well. He was transferred out of the civil secretariat and sent to head IMPA in the Lal Chowk for many years. Interestingly, the same government got him to head the state bureaucracy, later.
Khanday’s worst tragedy of his life, however, was the death of his son Sajid Iqbal (born June 19, 1984), the 28-year-old budding lawyer, who was killed in a road accident near Awantipora in the dead of one summer night in May 2011. Burn Hall alumni, Sajid graduated in law from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was occasionally writing for local newspapers.
Post-retirement, Khanday kept a low profile and stayed away from the public life. He rarely talked to media and was confined to his circle and relations. After the disease recurred, he remained busy managing himself.
Khanday basically belonged to the Devalgam village in Kokernag. His father Abdul Gani was a government employee and his mother was a school teacher.
Considered to be a strong-headed bureaucrat, Khanday would avoid mincing words. Shah Faisal, the IAS topper 2009 termed him “an odd man with a spine in India’s invertebrate bureaucracy”.
Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister wrote on his twitter: “Sorry to hear about the demise of Iqbal Khanday Sb. He was Chief Secretary in J&K & worked with me when I had the privilege of heading the government. My heartfelt condolences to his family & loved ones. Allah Jannat naseeb karey.”
“Rare of the rarest,” former finance minister Haseeb Drabu wrote on Twitter. “Don’t make them like him anymore. Not that they ever did! Truly one of a kind. Values of a villager, opinions of a liberal, sensibilities of a poet, actions of a radical. A “rinde”: a man who can do no wrong for such is his value system.”
Note: The copy was edited to clear some factual inaccuracies.