Monday, 30th October 2017

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Oppose India, accept pension

Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani's close aide Ghulam Nabi Sumji bats for Pakistan as a separatist but has no qualms about seeking Indian doles.

By MUZAFFAR RAINA in Srinagar
  • Published 8.06.18
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Mehbooba Mufti and Union home minister Rajnath Singh in Srinagar on Thursday. (PTI)

Srinagar: Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani's close aide Ghulam Nabi Sumji bats for Pakistan as a separatist but has no qualms about seeking Indian doles.

Sumji, a former MLA, has written to the Mehbooba Mufti government requesting a hike in his pension and release of his arrears, citing an amendment earlier this year to the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature Act through which the pensions of former legislators were revised.

Sources said the revisions were being done on a case-to-case basis and Sumji's appeal was approved by the government on Tuesday.

Although nothing legally bars former legislators of all hues from receiving pension, separatists are bitterly opposed to elections to the Assembly and Parliament and call elected representatives "Indian puppets".

Ethical questions abound when somebody espousing azadi or Kashmir's accession with Pakistan accepts such doles, more so when the recipient is a close lieutenant of Geelani who never shies away from taking the moral high ground and is believed to be among the frontrunners to succeed the ailing hawk.

"Sir, with due respect I beg to submit that pension of ex-MLAs has been revised and the arrear dues have been released by the Act," Sumji wrote in the letter addressed to the secretary of the state Assembly.

"It is therefore prayed that my increased pension along with arrear dues be released in my favour," the letter, sent earlier this year, added. The letter was mistakenly dated 2015.

The sources said the Assembly had approved the hike and communicated the decision to Sumji.

Sumji admitted that he receives the pension and had applied for a revision citing the recent amendment.

"Yes I had applied for the revision some two to three months ago and it has been approved," he told The Telegraph.

Sumji said he accepted the pension as a matter of right, "being a former MLA".

"If you look at it (from the standpoint of a separatist), then (accepting) the pension is wrong. But at the same time I have a right over it," he said.

The former MLA, who is now a general secretary of the Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference, said his pension had been revised to Rs 47,000 per month.

Sumji had served as a member of the Assembly from 1987 to 1989. He was one of the four representatives of the Muslim United Front (MUF), a group that had challenged the National Conference-Congress alliance in the 1987 elections which were believed to have been rigged. Sumji allegedly played a key role in the rise of militancy two years later.

Sumji won the election from Bijebehara, which is now represented by chief minister Mehbooba.

Three of the four MLAs, including Sumji, resigned in 1989, bowing to an unprecedented surge in separatist sentiments. But all of them, including Geelani, continued to accept the pensions, though quietly.

Of the four, three - Geelani, Sumji and Mohammad Sayeed Shah - supported or joined the separatist movement. Abdul Razzak Mir, who refused to resign as MLA, was killed by suspected militants.

Geelani stopped taking the pension when he was confronted by journalists at a news conference over a decade ago.

Sumji said the families of Shah and Mir also received the pension, but added he did not know if they had applied for the revised amount.

Sources said Sumji was one of several former MLAs who had applied for the revision.