Srinagar: Leading from the front, women are now heading several key governmental departments and bodies in Jammu and Kashmir.
For the first time in J&K’s history, bodies like the Waqf Board and educational institutions like the Kashmir University have got women heads under the present government led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. Similarly, the Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council too is headed by a woman and women continue to hold important posts elsewhere.
Many observers believe that LG’s move serves a dual purpose of gender quality while the same time hitting hard at the allegations of regional and religious discrimination post the reading down on Article 370. “ You can check data across the country. It will be difficult to find even one state or UT where in women are holding so many key positions. Let us only look at muslim women on important posts in Jammu and Kashmir”, says a keen observer.
Sources within the Government say that it was almost like a policy decision taken by LG Sinha to ‘empower women through role models and Sinha was keen to start from the Governmental set up itself. District Heads of Jammu and Baramulla are women as is Director Industries Kashmir.
“ How can we now talk about being overlooked in administrative machinery when so many of our women colleagues are at top jobs in the administration. Plus all of them are doing stellar work. In cricketing terms it’s a yorker to which we have no answer”, says another observer.
&K Waqf Board chairperson Dr Darakhshan Andrabi
The Waqf Board had always remained in news for the wrong reasons as question marks were raised over its functioning and accountability vis-a-vis funds received by the body. Andrabi’s appointment as the first woman chairperson of the Waqf Board surprised many. Just months after her appointment, she took quite a few bold steps that included banning ‘forcible’ donations at the shrines. Amid resentment from several quarters, she minced no words in saying that a huge amount of donations was pocketed by people having a sound economic background.
She said constructing hospitals and educational institutions was possible only if the donations were not gobbled up by a certain section of people that occupied ‘windows’ and ‘staircases’ at these shrines. Now, she has assured to lay the foundation stone of a cancer hospital very soon and set up other facilities at the J&K shrines managed by the Waqf. “Wakf belongs to the nation and its people. All shrines have been made on Waqf land and whatever the income it gets is called bait-ul-maal. This bait-ul-maal should be used to serve the poor and make hospitals. Setting up hospitals is the need of the hour,” she said while outlining the Waqf vision.
J&K Sports Council secretary Nuzhat Gul
She was known as the first female golf course expert and when Nuzhat Gul was appointed as the Secretary, J&K Sports Council, it was seen as a move to give impetus to the sports infrastructure in the union territory. The government has on many counts underlined the importance of sports and engaging the youth. The LG has already stated that the government aims to engage 35 lakh youth in various sports activities and the JKSC is taking several steps to realise the vision.
Gul said they were aiming for mass involvement of youth in ‘mission mode’. “The sports council across the UT is holding several events and more will be held in the future. We want mass involvement of youth. We are working in a mission mode of ‘My Youth My Pride’. Parents and the civil society at large should ensure the success of government initiatives so that youth take to sports and stay away from drugs and other social evils. The present government is providing the best infrastructure and support and we have to take full advantage of the facilities offered,” she said.
KU vice-chancellor Professor Nilofar Khan
The Kashmir University has seen several vice-chancellors, both local and non-local, but a woman never held the post till May earlier this year. And when Professor Nilofar Khan took over as the vice-chancellor of the KU, it was seen as yet another step towards empowering women in the Kashmir valley.
Soon after taking over, Prof. Khan said the welfare of the student community and implementation of National Education Policy-2020 NEP-2020 would be amongst her topmost priorities. “The implementation of the new education policy in our university and its affiliated colleges will be another key area of focus and concentration, alongside exploring all areas where we can focus on tie-ups with reputed international institutions, in line with the new guidelines of the University Grants Commission. The doors of my office will always be open for our students and research scholars. I shall be frequently interacting and engaging with them to address their needs and requirements vis-à-vis academics and research,” she said.
Women at other key posts
Though they had held prominent positions in the previous regimes as well, other women continue to enjoy prime postings right now as well. While IAS officer Syed Sehrish Asgar had become the first woman to hold the charge of the Director, information department in J&K, she is presently posted as DC Baramulla. Similarly, Hina Shafi Bhat was appointed the chairperson of J&K Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB) in December 2018 and continues to hold the post.
As women can be seen in prominent roles elsewhere too, analysts say these postings have sent out a clear message that the government wanted to see women lead from the front.
“By appointing women in key positions, the present government is sending out a clear message towards their empowerment. It wants the women to lead from the front and they also have been given roles that were not given before. Waqf or other religious bodies have mostly remained a man’s domain but having a woman as a Waqf chairperson sends out a certain message and so does having women lead KU or the sports council. It sends out a strong message about the role the government wants women to take in society in key areas of religion, education and even sports,” said a political analyst.