Team Kashmir: Meet officials who have been holding the fort since lockdownhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/team-kashmir-meet-officials-who-have-been-holding-the-fort-since-lockdown-in-valley-5954759/

Team Kashmir: Meet officials who have been holding the fort since lockdown

Since the Centre revoked J&K’s special status on August 5, Kashmir has been under a lockdown, amidst anticipation of violence. The Indian Express profiles the officials, of Centre and state cadre, in-charge of both security and administration, who have been holding the fort for nearly a month

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Journalists at the media centre set up by the administration in Srinagar. (Express Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)

B V R Subrahmanyam

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B V R Subrahmanyam

The Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir, Subrahmanyam is arguably now the most important figure in the state bureaucracy. Among the few officers said to have been in the loop ahead of the Centre’s decision to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories, his hold over the state bureaucracy is complete, with some officers even calling him the “defacto governor”. A 1987-batch IAS officer of the Chhattisgarh cadre, Subrahmanyam is an expert on internal security. He was Additional Chief Secretary (Home) in Chhattisgarh before he was deputed to J&K after Governor’s rule was imposed in the state in June last year following the break-up of the PDP-BJP coalition government in the state. The 56-year-old officer served as private secretary to then prime minister Manmohan Singh from 2004 to 2008. After a stint with the World Bank, he again joined the Prime Minister’s Office in 2012. He continued in the Narendra Modi PMO for close to a year before moving back to his cadre state — until he was called to lead the bureaucracy in J&K.

Farooq Khan

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Farooq Khan

A former J&K police officer who joined the BJP, Farooq Khan had been made Lt Governor of Lakshadweep in 2016. But a month before the Centre’s August 5 decision on J&K, Khan was brought back one of the five advisors to Governor Satya Pal Malik. Khan had joined the BJP in 2014, at a rally of Narendra Modi in Jammu, after retiring as Inspector General of Police. Originally from Jammu, his ties with the BJP go back to the days of his grandfather Col Peer Mohammad Khan, who was the first president of the Jana Sangh, the precursor of the BJP, in J&K. Khan has had his share of controversies — in 2003, when he was a Senior Superintendent of Police in South Kashmir’s Anantnag, Khan had been suspended for alleged involvement in the Pathribal fake encounter case (in which five civilians were killed and branded foreign militants) and for allegedly fudging the DNA samples of the victims. He was later reinstated after a clean chit from the CBI. In 1994, Khan was part of the first team of the J&K Police’s counter-insurgency force, the Special Operations Group (SOG). He is a cousin of the high-profile Khan brothers, Muneer and Baseer Khan.

Muneer Khan

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Muneer Khan

Like his twin brother Baseer Khan, Muneer Khan, a promotee IPS, is on a one-year extension. As J&K’s Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Law and Order and Security, he is seen as the “eyes and ears” in Kashmir of the security establishment in New Delhi. His job is to oversee the implementation of the lockdown in the Valley and parts of Jammu, along with the detention of mainstream and separatist political leaders and activists, civil society members, business leaders and potential youth leaders, who can rally people for protests. In March this year, Governor Satya Pal Malik had issued an order appointing him State Information Commissioner. The order said that his appointment shall “take effect from the day he assumes charge of the post”, thus effectively reserving it for him since he will continue as the ADGP for another year after the extension granted to him. A Kashmir Police Service (KPS) officer of the 1984 batch, he was inducted into the IPS in 1989. Before the August 5 scrapping of special status, he was part of several key official meetings.

K Vijay Kumar

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K Vijay Kumar

In 2018, K Vijay Kumar, a retired 1975-batch IPS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, was appointed then governor N N Vohra’s advisor. Now among the select few people who were said to have been in the know of the Centre’s August 5 decision to revoke J&K’s special status, he continues to advise Governor Satya Pal Malik and is in charge of the key portfolio of Home, among other departments. His expertise and reputation as a tough officer — he was chief of the Tamil Nadu Police’s Special Task Force that took out forest brigand Veerappan as part of ‘Operation Cocoon’ in 2004 and was advisor to the Union Home Ministry on Left-wing Extremism — are central to his role in J&K. This is his second stint in Kashmir — between 1998 and 2000, Kumar served as Inspector General of the Border Security Force (BSF) in Srinagar. Kumar has in the past served as head of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad and was Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force for two years, from 2010. In 2012, he was appointed senior security advisor in the Union Home Ministry.

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Skandan Krishnan

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Skandan Krishnan

Advisor to J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, Krishnan comes with a vast understanding of Kashmir. For five years, from 2007 to 2012, he headed the Kashmir desk at the Union Home Ministry as joint secretary in charge of the ministry’s Centre-State division (Kashmir). During his days in the ministry, he established close contact with most of the key political and social figures in the state — both from among mainstream political parties and the separatists. In 2012, he was promoted as Additional Secretary, Centre-State relations, in the Home Ministry. Krishnan, a 1982-batch IAS officer from the Tamil Nadu cadre, was brought in because of these ‘connections’ on the ground.

Baseer Khan

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Baseer Khan

The Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Khan, a promotee IAS, is the face of the civil administration in the Valley — all the 10 DCs of Kashmir Valley operate under his command. A month before the Centre abrogated J&K’s special status, it had extended Khan’s services for a year as a “special case” — he was superannuating on June 30. The extension had raised eyebrows since Khan was charged in one of J&K’s biggest land scams — in 2007, he was accused of illegally transferring land to influential private players in the tourist resort of Gulmarg as Deputy Commissioner of Baramulla. In 2013, while serving as Deputy Commissioner of Kishtwar district in Jammu, Khan had been arrested but came out on bail the same day.

Achal Sethi

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Achal Sethi

After the fall of the PDP-BJP government and imposition of Governor’s rule, Achal Sethi, son of Krishan Dev Sethi, a pro-independence voice from Jammu region and the only member of the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly who is alive, was appointed Law Secretary with an aim to see the state through the massive constitutional changes in plan. A resident of Jammu, Sethi was named to the post after the unceremonious exit of Abdul Majid Wani, and superseded at least three of his seniors in the Law Department to become the top legal officer in the state. Sethi’s test is the legal challenge mounted in the Supreme Court against the revocation of J&K’s special status.

K J S Dhillon

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K J S Dhillon

As General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Army’s prestigious 15 Corps (Chinar Corps), Lt Gen Kanwaljit Singh Dhillon is the Army’s chief in the Valley. He was commissioned in the Army in 1983. With the Army playing a key role in the maintenance of law and order, especially in the rural pockets of Kashmir Valley, after the abrogation of special status of J&K on August 5, he has had an important role to play. With intelligence agencies on alert for a likely influx of militants from the across the border and amidst fears of local boys being lured into militancy, the role of the Army would be significant while dealing with the dual responsibilities of counter-insurgency and law and order. Lt Gen Dhillon has had five stints in Jammu and Kashmir since 1988. In his military career spanning over 36 years, he has held prestigious command, staff and instructional positions in the Army, including at Infantry School, Mhow, and Indian Army training team abroad. Before taking over as GoC, 15 Corps, in February this year, Lt Gen Dhillon was the Director General, Perspective Planning.

Swayam Prakash Pani

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Swayam Prakash Pani

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, S P Pani is the brain behind the “successful” implementation of the lockdown in the Valley. An IPS officer of the 2000 batch of the Jammu and Kashmir cadre, Pani served in the National Investigation Agency before joining his parent cadre state as DIG for South Kashmir in the wake of the mass uprising following the killing of Hizb militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016. Pani, 43, was tipped to leave for another stint in Delhi in February this year, but his deputation was delayed, ostensibly because the Centre wanted him to be at the helm in Kashmir at this critical juncture. Sources say he meticulously planned the security clampdown in the Valley ahead of the Centre’s August 5 revocation of J&K’s special status and that it was his micro-management that didn’t allow people to assemble and protest. However, given the fears and apprehensions in the Valley, the biggest challenge for Pani will be to ensure that protests don’t erupt once the curbs on civilian movement and communication are lifted.

Anand Jain

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Anand Jain

A 1999 batch IPS officer of J&K cadre, Jain heads the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) set up by the J&K Governor’s administration last year. Under his watch, the ACB cracked down on mainstream political leaders and top businessmen in the Valley, including J&K Bank. Many in the Valley believe that the aim of the anti-corruption crackdown was to shake up mainstream political leaders, businessmen and civil society members before the Centre’s August 5 decision. A day before Mehbooba Mufti called an all-party meet to discuss the special status of the state, the ACB issued her a notice, asking her to explain her position in the alleged recruitment scam in J&K Bank. Mufti termed the notice an attempt to “browbeat” the mainstream leadership and to “thwart potential efforts of collective response”. While the Anti Corruption Bureau has initiated action against many mainstream political leaders and businessmen in the Valley for alleged corruption, his biggest challenge would be to legally prove these cases in a court of law.

Rohit Kansal

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Rohit Kansal

As the main spokesperson and face of the J&K administration since the August 5 lockdown in the Valley, the 50-year-old IAS officer of J&K cadre has the difficult job of being the government’s media manager. Kansal, who is Principal Secretary, Planning, in the J&K administration, is currently part of the core team of J&K’s Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam. He was earlier Mehbooba Mufti’s Principal Secretary.

Shaleen Kabra

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Shaleen Kabra

J&K’s Principal Secretary, Home, and a member of Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam’s core team, Kabra took over three weeks before the Balakot air strikes. An IAS officer of the 1992 batch of J&K cadre, Kabra, an engineering graduate, was earlier Chief Electoral Officer of J&K. In the midst of the panchayat elections, he had been shifted as Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce.

Farooq Lone

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Farooq Lone

Lone heads the General Administration Department of the J&K government. A Jammu & Kashmir Administrative Service officer who was inducted into the IAS in 2009, Lone was Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar when the killing of Burhan Wani triggered a mass uprising. His experience in handling the uprising has come in handy as the administration sees J&K through the constitutional changes.

Mir Imtiyaz Hussain

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Mir Imtiyaz Hussain

A Senior Superintendent of Police, Hussain looks after the security wing of the J&K Police. A local cop known for his counter-insurgency operations, Hussain has emerged as the unofficial spokesperson of the government, articulating its position especially on social media. Hussain’s appointment as SSP (Security) was followed by the administration’s move to remove security cover of mainstream leaders.

Shahid Choudhary

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Shahid Choudhary

As the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, Choudhary has emerged as the “perception manager” of the government. In the run-up to the Balakot strikes, it was under his watch that the government issued various warnings — closing down fuel stations and schools and issuing advisories to medical staff and hospitals. Originally from Jammu, the 38-year-old has served as Deputy Commissioner in six districts of the state.

Arshad Ayub

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Arshad Ayub

A Jammu & Kashmir Administrative officer of the 1999 batch, Ayub is special secretary to Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam. He was Special Secretary in the Home Department earlier. Ayub is believed to have been pivotal in providing local knowledge, especially regarding the administration and local officers, to the government ahead of the preparations for the constitutional changes of August 5.

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Sheetal Nanda

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Sheetal Nanda

With the Centre counting the 2018 panchayat elections in J&K as among its “successes”, as Secretary, Panchayati Raj, Nanda, a 2006- batch IAS officer of J&K cadre, has a prominent place in the bureaucracy. With the entire political mainstream leadership in Kashmir under arrest or detention, the government has completely shifted its focus towards panchs and sarpanchs to create a new political class in the Valley.