Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s grandson, Anees Ul Islam, is under the scanner of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in cases of alleged terror funding.
Son of the jailed separatist leader Altaf Shah (alias Fantoosh) who was arrested in 2017 by the NIA along with several other separatist leaders in alleged terror funding cases, Anees was recently summoned to the NIA headquarters in New Delhi.
There is, however, a huge irony in how the government deals with cases linked to him.
While on the one hand, there is no clarity about how thoroughly he is being investigated, on the other hand, what is murky is that agencies are apparently completely ignoring how he got a government job.
Smiles. But also questions: How did Anees Ul Islam end up getting a government job? Why do the answers look weak? (Source: Instagram)
His alleged links to terror funding may or may not be true and that is something for the courts to decide. But there’s a possibility that the way he got the job may actually have made some other educated but jobless youth pick up arms.
The previous Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party (PDP-BJP) alliance is often accused of ‘bending’ rules to recruit Anees in the government department. It’s largely believed that Anees was ‘blessed’ with the government job as part of a secret deal between the separatists and the government.
Though the government had defended the appointment, no probe was ordered to verify the allegations of favouritism. However, to my mind, the prima facie proof, coupled with circumstantial evidence, is enough to raise eyebrows.
In 2016, Kashmir witnessed a phase of long unrest, spanning over six months, in the wake of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and two associates. Over 100 civilians were killed, dozens got blinded by pellet guns and more than 20,000 were wounded in government crackdowns on the protests that were spearheaded by the Hurriyat.
Despite repeated appeals, the separatist leadership had not been willing to call off the strike.
Finally, there came a sudden twist in the tale on December 6, 2016 — the Hurriyat issued an unusual statement asking tourists to visit the restive Valley.
The statement hogged the headlines with many questioning the logic behind the invite — after all, why to invite tourists to a place-in-grief, where normal life was badly affected and protests were still on?
Back then, no one had even imagined that barely a week before the Hurriyat’s unusual invite to tourists, Geelani’s grandson had secretly joined the plush Sher-e-Kashmir International Convection Complex (SKICC), on the banks of the Dal Lake, as a research officer, reportedly at an annual salary of more than Rs 12 lakh and other perks.
His recruitment would have remained a tightly kept secret — but in March 2017, The Times of India exposed the muck.
It was reported that the rules were apparently “bent” to recruit Geelani’s grandson — and the news spread like wildfire.
In response, the government came out with a formal statement in support of Geelani’s grandson. The rebuttal, however, was full of loopholes.
As per the statement: “The SKICC management today made it clear that Anees-ul-Islam has been appointed as Research Officer in the said organization purely on the basis of merit and the CID wing of the J&K Police has also given satisfactory/non-involvement report in favor of the selected candidate.”
In a state where the number of jobless — including B-school passouts — runs into thousands, the government claimed to have received only 196 applications for the job supposed to be ‘princely’. Out of the total applicants, 35 candidates were shortlisted. But the names of shortlisted candidates or the one finally selected was never made public. This undue secrecy had kept other aspirants in the dark as many of them apparently thought the interviews were yet to be conducted.
But reportedly, Anees had already joined — secretly.
Violence in Kashmir, manifesting itself in stone pelting and militancy, is a constant, stoked by separatist leaders. (Source: Reuters)
In fact, he had appeared in the interview on the day when his grandfather had given a protest call, asking Kashmiri youth to assemble at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar for a sit-in.
As about the government statement, the formal clarification raised more questions than answers it wanted to give. As per the statement, the CID wing of Jammu and Kashmir Police had given “satisfactory/non-involvement report in favour of the selected candidate”.
Well, to set the records straight, the CID clearance has nothing to with the recruitment process because such verification is done only when one gets selected.
And then, as per the same TOI report to which the government reacted, Anees in 2009 was apparently denied a passport due to an adverse report submitted by the CID.
So, how did an adverse report turn positive? Were there political pressures or was it a ‘police-orchestrated’ miracle?
The government’s silence thereafter on Anees’s questionable recruitment is not only injustice with such job aspirants, but it has also emboldened those who were reportedly part of the murky deal.
At that time, it was an open secret that Mushtaq Chaya, a prominent hotelier, was apparently frequently visiting Geelani’s Hyderpora residence.
Was a govt job for Syed Ali Geelani’s grandson part of a 'peace deal' between Delhi and the Hurriyat? (Source: PTI)
Though Chaya subsequently told the media that he had “nothing to do with the appointment”, he was accused of being Geelani’s “middleman” in the deal.
Very recently, the same Chaya, on behalf of the government, promoted Kashmir tourism in Maharashtra. Putting it in a spicy way, it seemed like ‘Geelani’s man’ promoting Kashmir in a BJP-ruled state!
Over the years, Geelani’s chronic silence on the entire episode has only made it look murkier.
Can a government job for Geelani’s grandson be seen as a temporary resolution to Kashmir? What message is New Delhi trying to give — at least to deserving job aspirants, whose legitimate share may have been snatched in the process?
Well, for that matter, even Junaid Ashraf, son of Geelani’s successor in Hurriyat G, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, is a B-school passout. A jobless MBA from Kashmir University, Junaid picked up arms in 2018 within a week of his father replacing Geelani on the Hurriyat throne.
Agreed that the job scandal took place during the PDP-BJP regime, but now, the state is under President’s Rule.
It’s high time for Governor SP Malik to investigate and where required, to undo injustice.