Rampant institutional corruption recently became one of the major reasons for J&K’s push to 5th most corrupt state across India, in a study done by Indian Corporation Studies. Among the departments on the study radar is Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, apparently hiding much behind the well-managed media glitz.
Beyond the culture shows featured with the recurring “rescue rant” of the “deteriorating native” character, many young qualified persons are constantly finding doors of Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL) shut on their faces.
The event done in the name of revival of heritage hides the Academy’s existing ‘deadwood’ which stands accused of shielding newcomers’ entry despite being eligible and qualified for the position, against candidates who stand disqualified.
In 1983, one Abdul Salam Kausri was appointed as a Copyist in JKAACL against the eligibility criteria of being a Matriculate and having a diploma in Calligraphy.
But as per his challenger Mohammad Anwar Lolabi, Kausri met no such criteria.
“Among the 27 other candidates applying for the post then,” Lolabi said, “Kausri was officially given a ‘relaxation’ in qualification.” And since then, he has been getting promoted, a whopping three promotions in the past ten years, ‘which is against standard practices’.
In 2000, Kausri was ‘promoted and adjusted’ against the available vacancy of Senior Instructor Calligraphy in the Academy’s sub-office.
In 2006, he was promoted from Sr. Instructor Calligraphy to the post of Katib before being promoted to the post of Sr. Instructor Calligraphy in 2010.
For Lolabi, the chance to challenge Kausri’s posting came on 24 Jan 2014, when a final seniority list was issued. Lolabi’s name was on the list on 7th number. But he curtly decided to object Kausri’s promotion by filing a writ in the court on 27 December 2014 (Academy Order No. 28 of 2014).
“On scrutiny of records,” the notification reads, “it has been found out that Sh Abdul Salam [Kausri] was appointed as copyist vide academy Order No. 84 of 1983 dated 05/10/1983 with a relaxation of qualification bar.”
But even then, Kausri was placed from Sr. Instructor Calligraphy to Calligraphy Officer and managed to get the promotion. Earlier, the technical post of a Santoor player was redesigned as a Calligraphy officer as per Academy Order No. 41 of 2009 dated 4/09/2009.
And again, for being a Sr. Instructor Calligraphy or head Katib, the eligibility was Matriculation and Diploma in Calligraphy from a recognized institution or promotion. Kausri, Lolabi said, wasn’t eligible.
Eventually, the matter was referred to General Administration Department (GAD) for opinion and guidance vide No. Adm/E/24/2012-13/7607 dated 21/01/2014 and till then, the seniority of these officials remains tentative.
In between, on February 28, 2014, the Academy had issued order No. 03 of 2014 according to which, a meeting had been held on February 17 that year. And by order of the then Administrative Officer, Lolabi’s name was cleared for the promotion of Head Katib from Katib.
The next jump for Lolabi would have been to the post of Calligraphy officer, the post for which Kausri was thought to be promoted to.
“But I’m holding a certified post,” said Kausri, justifying his position. “I’ve Arabic-Persian Maulvi Fazil certificate with me. I submitted the application form, faced the interview with 27 candidates. Khawaja Mohammad Yousef sahib passed me in Calligraphy diploma-equivalent after I submitted my certificates.”
While working in the Academy for last 28 years, Kausri said, “I’ve printed around 10,000 books in various languages like Urdu, Gojri, Pahari and Punjabi. And if I wasn’t eligible, then why would they hire me and keep me here?”
Denouncing Lolabi’s ‘campaign’ against him, Kausri said that some people ‘neither work themselves nor let others work’.
“I had a reserved category (ST) which I never used here. I came on merit. I’m working as a technical teacher. My elders had suggested for me to do this job.”
But Lolabi said amid the ongoing case, nothing is hidden. “There’re many more of such cases. My only point is, this injustice has to end.”
Many believe that the ongoing case has only exposed the deep-seated rot in JKAACL, a constitutional body established in 1958 to promote the art, culture and languages in the State.
While the Governor and the Chief Minister are its respective patron and president, the Secretary is the principal executive of the largest autonomous body, having 300 posts against only 170 positions in the National Academy. Infact, many trace the corruption roots right from the time when the academy recruits someone.
However, its ‘cultural curator’ known for his televised Kashmiri tutorial classes wants people to appreciate the Academy’s “contribution, infrastructure and future plans” amid the contentious ‘deadwood’ controversy.
Heaping praises on ‘the four huge buildings’ called “cultural complex” in Lal Mandi, Abdul Aziz Parrey aka Aziz Hajini, JKAACL Secretary said, “The Academy is trying hard to maintain and promote the rich cultural and lingual diversity of the state. But a lot more needs to be done still.”
Hajini sounded like a cheerful visionary whose problem is his Nero behaviour at a time when the raging controversy in the Academy is keeping the fresh talent at arm’s length. But that hardly is the concern, “as the court is overseeing the matter”. Instead he is supervising a meeting space for “writers and intellectuals” these days.
“The place will be called Kashmir Cultural Centre,” he flashes a satisfied smile. “With 9 comfortable and all facility rooms, the Centre will have a local cultural touch like Khatam Bandh and Paper mâché,” Hajini continued. “It will also have a reading room.” But even more is in offing.
Tehzeeb Mahal near the Tourist Centre, Shams Fakir School of Sufiyana, Folk music at Bemina and Art Gallery at Hari Niwas are being worked upon.
“So,” he said, “what we’ve is not less, but we need more in the form of regional centres, the Visual Arts field, Art Gallery in Srinagar and computerized records to go global.” The Academy is also coming up with awards from this year in the performing arts.
“It’s a prestigious award of Rs 10 lakh,” the smiling Secretary said. “We’ve named it Sharf-e-Sakhawat. We’re also trying to sensitize people to follow their own culture rather than the western culture.”
But, the awards and rewards are the last desire of young people like Altaf Mirza, whose appointment continues to get eclipsed by existing deadwood in the Academy.