On December 6, 2016, during the chronic unrest in Kashmir, the united Hurriyat issued an unusual statement asking the tourists to visit the Valley. The statement hogged the headlines with many questioning the timing of the invite. When Hurriyat was religiously issuing protest calendars, and hartals continued to paralyze the normal life, what was the fun of inviting tourists?

While the people had been guessing the reasons behind such invite, the code has been cracked after four months as one discovers a clear-cut link between the Hurriyat’s statement on tourism and the Tourism department.

Barely a week before the issuance of an untimely invite to tourists, senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani’s grandson Anees-ul-Islam was given a job by the Tourism department on November 30.

For all these months, the almost-backdoor recruitment remained a secret, till the media exposed that Anees was appointed as a Research Officer in Sher-e-Kashmir International Convection Complex (SKICC) at an annual salary of over Rs 12 lakhs and other incentives.

Though the state government has come out in Geelani’s support to “refute” the media reports, the details given in the official clarification clearly vindicate the allegations of favoritism in the selection process chaired by the Secretary Tourism, Farooq Ahmed Shah.

“The SKICC management today made it clear that Anees-ul-Islam has been appointed as Research Officer in the said organization purely on the basis of merit and the CID wing of the J&K Police has also given satisfactory/non-involvement report in favor of the selected candidate,” the official handout said. The government said an advertisement vide notification No: 01-SKICC of 2016 dated: 03.10.2016, issued by SKICC for the appointment was published in the leading dailies. But what happened after floating the advertisement is a tightly-kept secret.

Though the government claims that SKICC received 196 applications out of which 35 candidates were shortlisted, the list of shortlisted candidates or the one finally selected was never made public. The undue secrecy kept other aspirants in dark as many of them thought the interviews were yet to be conducted.

The government clarification also says that the “CID wing of Jammu and Kashmir Police has also given satisfactory/non-involvement report in favor of the selected candidate.” To remind the government, CID clearance has nothing to with recruitment process because the verification is done only when one joins the government service. The government clarification has messed up the issue and maybe it was done to discredit Geelani.

The dropped candidates, on the other hand, are up in arms. “If this post was meant for him (Anees), why wasn’t it mentioned in the eligibility criteria that the applicant should necessarily be Geelani’s grandson,” an aspirant who did not want to be named told InUth.

Since October 2016, when Kashmir was simmering, it was an open secret that Mushtaq Chaya, a prominent hotelier and a close aide of Secretary Tourism, was frequently visiting Geelani’s Hyder Pora residence. Such visits continued until December. Media had been guessing the reasons behind such secret interactions.

Though Chaya admits having frequented Geelani’s residence during the period, the businessman claimed that he was going there on the behalf of tourism fraternity and not the government. “Yes I was going there, but it was for the cause of my fraternity during the unrest. I have nothing to do with the appointment nor lobbied for it.”

Interestingly, the situation started improving phenomenally in December as the Hurriyat softened the protest program, something that must have benefitted Anees in reaching his new office hassle-free as compared to the previous hartals days.

Call it fate or coincidence but the two major unrests have ended up as a blessing for two generations of the Geelani family. After the unrest in 2010 when around 120 civilians were killed, Geelani’s son Nayeem Geelani permanently returned from Pakistan after 12 years.

And during 2016 uprising Geelani’s grandson secretly became a government servant when the Hurriyat wanted a youth of his age, mostly jobless, to take to the streets and chant: Hum Kya Chahte Aazadi!