The mindset of the Bureaucracy at the highest level in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir at the time of neutering of Article 370 and its reorganization into two Union Territories has had a crucial bearing on the administrative processes that followed after the revolutionary changes in the state. The best insight into this aspect has been provided by none other than the former Governor of the state of Jammu and Kashmir Satyapal Malik. He publicly stated that when the then top babu of Jammu and Kashmir was asked for his response in case Article 370 was removed he had unambiguously stated that GOI had to be prepared for the loss of around thousands of civilian lives in the state.
This formal opinion of none other than the top babu of the then state proved to be out rightly wrong after the state was reorganized. His opinion was however an unambiguous warning to dissuade the Modi Government from embarking on such a political course. It also reflected the reluctance and clear aversion of the then top babu in the matter and this should have guided Government of India in deciding about the top most administrative set up in the post 370 new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Government of India however chose to persist with the same top babu in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir perhaps for providing the continuity in the administrative set or for acknowledging the peaceful transition after the reorganization. The fact however was that the top babu was not fully in sync with the decisions of Government of India that had local, national and geopolitical bearings
Government of India took the avoidable risk and post 5 August 2019 has been paying a price for it. Having committed LGs and half hearted top babu has created a dichotomy in the administration whose fall out has been invariably the undermining of the credibility of the Central Government. It is around this cleavage the over ground separatist establishment, Modis detractors in the opposition as well as those in the Parivaar have tried to galvanize themselves to secure their respective vested interests.
When LG GC Murmu was shifted to Delhi to take over the charge of CAG the buzz here in administrative corridors was that top babu has been able to dislodge somebody who was seen to be a close confidante of both the PM Narender Modi as well as the HM Amit Shah. That LG Murmu and the top babu were not getting along very well with each other was a common knowledge in the administrative circles in UT of J&K. Eventual removal of LG Murmu presented the top babu as a very strongly connected person. This impression soon reflected in his behavior when he started dealing with the administration with more arrogance.
A very recent example will elucidate the point. The Union Home Ministry while trying to implement the measures for national Unlock 4 issued the notification for lifting the inter-state/intra-state travel restrictions. But the top babu in Jammu and Kashmir refused to follow MHA guidelines and the restrictions were not lifted in the Union Territory of J&K. Even after the notification of Unlock 5 was issued the top babu took personal interest in persisting with the restrictions despite Union Home Ministry advising to the contrary. The restrictions at Lakhanpur the entry point into Jammu and Kashmir has caused huge discomfiture in Kathua. People of Kathua, the BJP stronghold, came out in large numbers to protest. Kathua people have close links to adjacent Pathankot. Even for day to day medical consultations people of Kathua choose to go to Pathankot rather than come to Jammu city. Sensing the local outrage the MP of Kathua Udhampur constituency and MoS in the PMO
Dr Jitendra Singh intervened and assured the people of his constituency that the restrictions will be soon lifted. He issued a tweet to the same effect to assure the people of Kathua. Instead of taking the cue from the assurances given by MoS PMO and the local MP the top babu deputed two additional officers to ensure that the restrictions are enforced in letter and spirit. That a top babu of a Union Territory can flaunt the instructions of the Union Home Secretary as well as the Union Minister of State is presenting the Central Government in a very poor light as a weak permissive government to the separatist establishment working hard to regain its grip on the internal politics of Jammu and Kashmir.
Top babu has also not allowed the 4G in Jammu where there is no problem of separatism or terrorism. Clubbing Jammu province with Kashmir province as pro-separist is seen as an insult by the people of Jammu. Punishing the patriotic people living in Jammu for separatist movement in Kashmir seems unjustifiable and is causing revulsion against BJP. Opposition parties like Congress and NC are fiddling in this simmering discontent and trying to convince people that the old order was better and the new order has in fact brought in disempowerment for the people of Jammu. Why should the top babu follow a course that not only harms BJP locally but jeopardizes the new JK policy of GoI itself? Post neutering of 370 and creation of UT of Jammu and Kashmir BJP has been experiencing erosion in the public support in its stronghold in Jammu province.
The above examples are not merely inadvertent acts of indiscretion. Developmental works particularly in Jammu have come to a halt. Tawi River Project, Jammu –Akhnoor Highway project, Jambu Zoo project, Mubarak Mandi Heritage restoration project, Metro Project for Jammu all are in a state of paralysis.
There appears to be a pattern in the administrative behavior. The sections of the pro-separatist bureaucratic establishment, elements within the administration who are not happy with the August 5, 2019 changes in Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi have found the top babu of UT of Jammu and Kashmir a willing tool to ensure that the old hegemonic order survives the demise of Article 370. Most dangerous implication of the administrative stalemate led by top babu is an impending failure of Modi’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir.
It is a known fact that the top babu was putting up a formidable resistance to almost all measures suggested by the former LG to revamp the administration. The most revealing case is that of the reorganization of the Public Service Commission (PSC) of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Then LG Murmu wanted a senior retired bureaucrat from Jammu to head it. In the hegemonic environment of the past PSC would invariably be led by a person from Kashmir. He wanted the political signal to go that slowly a balanced administrative order, and not a hegemonic order, is being restored. Top Babu put a stiff resistance to these changes knowing well that the prescribed changes had the blessings of GoI. Twice the orders were issued to appoint B R Sharma as the Chairman of PSC and twice the top babu succeeded in blocking them. Eventually after a relentless pressure he was forced to budge but only after incorporating his nominees as the members of PSC. Most intriguing has been the names which the top babu batted for one of the names considered to be very sympathetic to radical pan-Islamist Organisation Allah Walle and was also responsible for communalizing of the Rasana rape and murder case putting the entire Jammu province on the mouth of a communal cauldron. Another person which he proposed as the member of PSC was considered very close to Jamait-e-Islami. Due to the sustained pressures from top babu the new PSC that finally emerged was a compromise between the desired changes and the old subversive order.
The previous LG after assessing the officers leading various departments of administration and the Secretariat found some officers to be posted in the same department for a long period. Many of such officers were supposed to be acting as props for the separatist politics within the administration. Two babus working in Home department were considered entrenched support structures of the separatist establishment in Jammu and Kashmir. They had been in their respective departments for two decades dictating the matters of the government and safeguarding separatist interests. Realizing the dangers of these entrenched instruments the then LG made a government policy of transferring all officers who had served in a department for twenty years. Accordingly orders of transfer for one of the babu was issued which was not complied in spirit thanks to the patronage provided to the officer by none other than the top babu. That babu was actually safeguarding the interests of Jamait cadres entrenched within the administration. The Governor of the Jammu and Kashmir State had publicly stated that more than 45% of employees of secretariat were Jamait-e-Islami sympathizers.
The previous LG had also taken up the issue of settlement of seniority of Kashmir Administrative Services as many genuine officers were deprived of promotion benefits as per their seniority. It was particularly creating problems in Jammu as many genuine officers had been deprived of their due service rights. Several High Court Orders to rectify the wrongs were being flouted. The discontent amongst the officers belonging to Jammu was not hidden. LG interventions to correct the situation were not heeded to and the top babu played a crucial role in this injustice. In a way he continued to be the citadel of protection for the old hegemonic order. In this matter the internally displaced Kashmiri Pandit Officers who were looking towards the top babu with hope to address their genuine issues were also ignored brazenly. The promised facilities to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s employment package for Kashmiri Pandits were never provided. LG Murmu’s efforts to address such a crucial issue were again met by resistance of the top babu.
Genuine Women officers, who expected due recognition of their services and seniority, also continued to be ignored even after the new UT government took charge. Instead women officers without proper seniority and due process of approval were posted in important positions at the behest of top babu raising many eyebrows as to why they were being unduly rewarded.
The entire separatist establishment which includes the over ground masquerading as the political mainstream was thrown off their wits after the state was reorganized. This over ground remained stunned for some time and soon devised a broader long term strategy which was somehow not to allow the erosion of their hold of the administrative spheres of the government. They chose to play for time till Modi government is at the helms in New Delhi. Slowing down the pace of administrative changes required to make the new dispensation successful constituted the crux of their strategy. Top Babu became a handy instrument in this game. He was a very close and trusted bureaucrat of Chidambaram. He was sent to World Bank only to shift him out of the lime light. After his return from the World Bank he served a stint in PMO. He gained confidence of PM Narendra Modi in his early hours before being sworn in. He was later shifted as a Additional Chief Secretary Home in Chhattisgarh. BJP lost the elections there and many say top babu indulgence with leftists and over ground workers played a crucial role in this defeat. Now in his stint as top babu, he has already helped in building a situation where BJP is losing control of its strongholds as almost all of his administrative actions seem to be invariably been damaging to BJP. His continuance confirms that a subversive process is functional in New Delhi itself to see that Modi is brought down from inside; in the next general elections.