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Moosa Raza | The scholar civil servant

Mr Moosa Raza was highly knowledgeable in Arabic, Persian and Urdu and about Islamic history
12:00 AM May 10, 2024 IST | KHURSHID A GANAI
moosa raza   the scholar civil servant

We have just received the sad news about passing away of Mr Moosa Raza, a retired IAS officer and former Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir. May Allah grant him magfirat and a place in Jannat. Aameen.


I can recall some part of his tenure as Chief Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir. He was from Gujarat cadre and was brought to J&K on request by Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah who had actually requested for posting of another reputed IAS officer Mr. H.K. Khan, then holding the position of Secretary in GOI.


Mr Khan who passed away in 2019, was also from Gujarat cadre and having expressed his inability to come to J&K, he reportedly recommended his cadre mate and a few years junior Mr. Moosa Raza and assured Dr Farooq Abdullah that Mr Moosa Raza was as good. So, on the request of the then Chief Minister of J&K, Mr Moosa Raza, IAS (1960), Gujarat cadre was posted as Chief Secretary, J&K in May, 1988 succeeding Mr. M.P. Khosla, IAS 1962, J&K cadre.


Mr Moosa Raza was brought in to put the administration in J&K back on rails as Dr Abdullah, his senior colleagues and many others, had been sensing gradual loss of control at the top bureaucratic level and certain amount of slackening down the line.


So, Mr Moosa Raza had his task cut out . He had no experience of J&K and so he had no alternative but to apply the basic principles of administration to set the house in order. Among the basic of the basic principles are, strict adherence to rules and laid down procedures, adherence to discipline and conduct rules, holding officials responsible for their tasks and duties and seeking accountability, showing no special favours and considerations on the basis of who you are and eliminating or reducing political interference in administration.


As is his style and true to his word, Dr Farooq Abdullah gave him a free hand in running the administration and Mr Moosa Raza began well. Although there were quite a few very senior and stalwart bureaucrats belonging to J&K cadre still in service and wielding considerable influence in the political and administrative circles, their presence and clout did not seem to overawe or deter Mr Moosa Raza as he went about his task in a clinical manner. To make monitoring a full time activity for ensuring accountability for results, a new department of Programme Implementation was created with Mr Parvez Dewan as its first Secretary.


As DC Doda, I had the opportunity of hosting him for a few days during his tour to the district  in October, 1988. It was at the insistence of the then MLA Doda, the highly regarded Maulana Ataullah Suharwardy that Mr Moosa Raza had agreed to undertake the tour.


The two had developed a bonding through their fondness for urdu and persian poetry and knowledge of Islam. Mr Moosa Raza was highly knowledgeable in Arabic, Persian and Urdu and about Islamic history. Maulana would therefore enjoy his company while Mr Moosa Raza found a good listener and conversationalist in Maulana.

I and the SP received the Chief Secretary at Banihal and accompanied him to Doda. A mushaira had also been planned and CS was to be the chief guest. It was an All India mushaira and I recall a few poets (shoura) had come from UP and MP and the late Farooq Nazki was also there. I was supposed to give the welcome address.

I had memorized my speech written in chaste urdu by Khalid Hussain, the then AC(D) Doda, a writer of repute of punjabi and urdu and it went off well and I didn’t make it look like it had been written by some one else. Maulana also spoke and the event concluded with the address by the Chief Guest which impressed one and all.

While on way to the venue, the CS had already given me a mouthful for not being sure about some information (details) which he asked of me. I recall him telling me,  ‘what an IAS officer can do as Collector or DC, he can not do in any other posting any time in his career because he wont have the same freedom’. I also recall him telling me about his work as Collector/ DC in Gujarat.

Even till this day I have not been able to forgive myself for giving the opportunity to the visiting CS to catch me less prepared. I was not used to not answering everything that was asked of me.
We were in Bhaderwah the next day after Doda and it was a Friday. He wanted to pray in the local mosque and our Tehsildar had reserved a place for the CS in the front row but Mr Moosa Raza refused to walk past others and instead settled in the last row in the available space and we had to do the same. Such was the man!

On the third day we were in Kishtwar and then he left for Srinagar taking the Sinthan route from Kishtwar. He had been accompanied by his wife and two daughters and therefore my wife had to accompany the touring party everywhere giving the family company visiting local bazars.

I still recall the last station Dandipora across Sinthan in district Anantnag where the Fisheries Department had arranged an interaction and tea. During this trip, Mr Moosa Raza got to see the problems in district Doda and he did sanction funds for improvement of some roads and a few incomplete projects.

Kashmir can suddenly turn tricky and difficult to handle even for the most brilliant and experienced. Mr Moosa Raza was also tested by the raging militancy and deteriorating situation in the valley towards the end of 1989. He was at the centre of everything when the Home Minister’s daughter Rubaiya Sayeed was kidnapped.

In his book ‘Kashmir: Land of Regrets’, Mr Moosa Raza has written about it. He was subsequently replaced in January 1990 by late Sh. R. K. Takkar, the senior most J&K cadre IAS officer then. Mr Moosa Raza had asked for his transfer as the pressure on him was increasing with the law and order situation slipping out of control necessitating imposition of Governor’s rule.

I met him in Delhi when he had been made Chairman cum MD of Trade Fair Authority of India after his transfer from J&K and also twice or thrice later. Last I spoke to him on phone in 2023 when he was in Chennai and heading the South India Education Trust. I offered to visit Chennai to meet him and work out any possibility of my involvement in his work in the Trust.

Somehow, it did not work out. He will be long remembered for his scholarship, his work as a civil servant and his post retirement work for education of common muslims belonging to south Indian states.

It is also time to remember our other Chief Secretaries who made significant contributions to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir but are no longer with us, Mr Noor Mohammad, Mr Mir Nasarullah, Mr R.K.Takkar, Mr Ashok Jaitly and my cousin who went very early Mr Mohammad Iqbal Khandey.  May their souls rest in peace!

(Khurshid Ahmed Ganai is a retired IAS officer of the erstwhile J&K cadre and a former Advisor to the Governor)