Tara-rara

Considered to be more than a love story between Tara Chand and his aide Kewal Krishan Sharma, the two fell apart in 2013 summer. Two years later, J&K is more knowledgeable as revelations offered lot of details in understanding how power makes people rich, filthy, daring and pervasive, reports  R S Gull

Tara-Chand-with-supporters

It set the newspaper front-pages literally on fire. In September 2014, Kewal Krishan Sharma (KK), the additional public relations officer (PRO) of the then Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand drove to Khour, the centre of Chhamb constituency in Jammu outskirts, ‘presided’ over a function and distributed bank cheques worth Rs 20 lakh among people. Intriguing part of the incident was that 2013-KAS officer Rakesh Kumar Bhagat, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of the area played the role of the facilitator.

As KK’s action embarrassed Omar’s coalition government, the Deputy Commissioner Ajeet K Sahu asked Bhagat to explain his position. He claimed he did not know the man who clicked the photographs of the function and managed their publication in two Jammu newspapers. He said KK was around to help identify the beneficiaries and not distribute the benefits! An ideal follow up was to seek a similar explanation from KK. That never happened.

Then, KK was the symbol of power, especially in Jammu and particularly in the education ministry. He was held responsible for changing Jammu’s Director Education as many as eight times as he was the most powerful aide of a minister in the last regime.

KK was a forest guard. In office he married Raj Kumari, a Kashmiri Pandit who was appointed in forest department under SRO 43 when her husband died in harness. People see his marriage as his takeoff. But he came into prominence only after he was appointed in the personal staff of Tara Chand. KK was enjoying a very close relationship with Tara Chand for a long time. The Congressman has actually fought at various levels to retain KK as his aide. People knowing the couple said they would both operate from Tara Chand’s residence and was more like a family. Tara Chand is also accused of breaking rules to appoint KK’s son Ishant Sharma in the state assembly. He is now deployed at the Jammu residence of Speaker Kavinder Gupta.

Enjoying absolute power, KK once ensured transfer of a police official for not offering him a chair. Insiders in Congress said KK would help his minister take the final call on administrative issues and the transfer industry that operated in education ministry had its keys with him only.

In July 2013, when KK petitioned police against his boss, it shocked many. He invited media and accused the controversial Congress minister of corruption, murders and inappropriate behavior as minister.

“He (Tara Chand) did not permit me to move from my (Srinagar) house and I had to literally escape,” KK told reporters. After reaching Jammu, he said, he submitted a complaint to the police – a statement police have confirmed. “I have a CD that has all the proofs of his misdeeds.” Corruption apart, Sharma accused his boss of being behind at least three murders, and having comfort women at his official residence. He specifically mentioned two Jammu girls who were raped by the minister.

Though KK promised reporters he would share evidences against the minister with them, it never happened. His press conference was a threat to Tara Chand to mend ways, which he did. The two mended the fences soon and things were normal. But police ensured KK residence should stay adequately protected.

People knowing KK said he was more intelligent than his minister and was daring enough to manage anything and everything that made him Tara Chand’s close confidant. Tara Chand who emerged as the dark horse from reserved Chhamb constituency – he won thrice in 1996, 2002 and 2008 before losing 2014 to BJP, is considered a politician of questionable competence and integrity. He is credited for making transfers in the education ministry a literal industry.

But what made him “special” was his failure in controlling himself in abusing power for emotional reasons. In the 2006 sensational sleaze racket, he has slept countless nights waiting for the CBI sleuths to knock at his door so that he shows his medical certificates to prove his innocence, an official privy of the man’s frustration said. His own colleagues in the party have stated it publicly that the intervention of the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had prevented his arrest in the sensational sleaze racket of 2006. Madan Lal, party MP told a public gathering on May 5, 2008 that Tara Chand and Peerzada Sayeed were named by CBI but “got away”. That is where KK has kept something in record in the style explained in the Dirty Politics script, something that is still giving sleepless nights to his boss.

Reportage about his actions motivated Prof S K Bhalla, a social activist, to file a writ petition against KK before the High Court. He had already written to Divisional Commissioner Jammu and Deputy Commissioner Jammu. He had only two pleas – withdraw the security cover to KK and investigate his wealth, which is disproportionate to his income.

kewal-Sharma-Pink-House-Jammu

On July 30, when the petition was being heard by Justice Tashi Rabstan, KK made an entry into the court room. His plea was simple: he still holds his former boss responsible for corruption, murders, sexual exploitation and still holds evidences with him. These evidences made him an easy target and on basis of which the government should restore his security cover. KK told the court he is facing threat from his former boss.

The court, however, asked him to submit in black and white the allegations he is making orally against the politician. Once that happens the issue of security cover would be taken up later. There has not been any development on KK’s security cover, so far.

But there was forward movement on many other things. State Vigilance Organization (SVO) had registered a case after massive complaints surfaced in the appointment of IV-class employees in the education department. It was already clear that the FIR registered against the then Chief Education Officer Jammu Tarsem Lal and three others has clear links with KK and his boss. From the office records, SVO recovered a series of documents explaining how the deserving were ignored on directions of the two.

Last week, the SVO set up three teams and raided various properties of KK in Jammu. By the evening of September 18, position was much clear. The forest guard turned political aide from Kachrial (Akhnoor), KK owned four palatial bungalows, plots, and a fleet of several luxurious vehicles. While the cash recovery from his home was Rs 10.82 lakh, the SVO said the banks accounts operated by him, his wife, and his son have recorded a transaction of a whopping four crore rupees in 2013-14, the peak of his powerful days. This is presumed to be the fleece from the transfer industry he was running as Education Minister’s aide. On basis of the recoveries made, the SVO has registered another case of disproportionate assets against him.

KK’s residences included the double storey palatial bungalow at Patta Paloura, Border Migrant Colony at Paluwan, Akhnoor, his ancestral village Dhangar, Kachrial in Akhnoor, in addition to the renovation and extension of ancestral house at Kachrial. Besides, he owned 17 marla land in Patta Paloura, Jammu.

Cars found parked in the premises of these four addresses included TATA Safari, Scorpio, 4×4 Thar Jeep, a commercial Volvo bus, matador, tractor, and a JCB. Interestingly, the sleuths found that KK had flown various destinations aboard during his powerful days in violation of the service conduct rules. They have apprehensions that KK might have deposited some of the money in foreign banks, an allegation they want to investigate once they would take KK for interrogation.

While it will take some more time to investigate KK, the case naturally will take the Khour route. But the question is whether at all there is some willingness in the ruling political class to take on corrupt? Tara Chand is currently not enjoying ‘Most Favoured’ status in the state Congress and even his political boss Gulam Nabi Azad is unwilling to help him out. What makes Tara Chand special is not that he was corrupt? He is an extra-ordinary case for destroying school education that is linked to state’s future.

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