It was around September or October 1978 that along with my 1977 IRS (Indian Revenue Service) batch-mates we were on Bharat Darshan. We reached Tamil Nadu’s famous tourist spot Kanyakumari or Coimbatore. We were out on site seeing that our Deputy Director training RN Puri greeted an elderly fellow tourist, a retired Commissioner of Income Tax. He was feeling nostalgic about his days in one of the India’s premier service -Indian Revenue Service. He was introduced to probationers of 1977 batch mate. When Mr Puri introduced me, the retired Commissioner remarked “oh you are from Kashmir.” We had a fine, efficient and high on integrity officer Mr Ghulam Hassan from Kashmir.” I was thrilled and elated to find such a glorifying description of an officer from Kashmir.
Shortly after Bharat Darshan part of our training we were posted in the field. I got my first posting in Jammu in November 1978. Shortly after some time I found Ghulam Hassan Sahab visiting my office at transport yard in Jammu with his sincere and fine friend Baldev Khular of Usha fans fame. Khular, a true secularist from Jammu, passed away last year at a ripe age like Munshi Ghulam Hassan. He continued his self less friendship with me till his death. When Ghulam Hassan Sahib entered my office room I found a radiant glow on his face. This was obvious that he was absolutely happy that a first Muslim direct recruit had entered into his parent service. Ghulam Hassan had enterd Jammu and Kashmir Government service before 1953. During those days Income Tax and audit and account services were with the Jammu and Kashmir in line with the terms of the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja Hari Singh. The agreement had provided that the all subjects except Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications shall be with the government of Jammu and Kashmir.
At the time of unprecedented, undemocratic and above all unconstitutional dismissal of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and putting him behind the bars for more than a decade, a fellow Kashmiri Munshi Mohammad Ishaq was also incarcerated. He was Munshi Ghulam Hassan’s father.
Around 1954-55 the financial autonomy which the State had got under a solemn agreement was also sacrificed on the altar of “integration”. Consequently the State Income Tax department got merged with Union Income Tax department. Hassan Sahab immediately after my introduction with him, on my query informed that the Jammu and Kashmir Income Tax department officers were given a choice whether they would join centre or state cadres. Late Noor Mohammad, among few others, opted for state Government and he later on reached to the highest bureaucratic position of the State –the Chief Secretary. Fearing political persecution at the hands of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad Government, Munshi Ghulam Mohammad opted for central Income Tax department. He was transferred as a punishment to Udhampur and Ganganagar stations. Ganganagar in those days used to be a punishment posting. Hassan Sahab created his own place in these hard places of postings.
After Sadiq took over at the end of Bakshi era, Ghulam Hassan returned to Kashmir as an income tax officer project circle Srinagar- a unit of Income Tax department which was exclusively meant to investigate Income Tax affairs of Bakshi and his colleagues. Hassan Sahab as an income tax officer had a reputation of being fair but strong willed officer with his command on tax laws and accounts. In those days the Income Tax practitioners were not as highly qualified as are today. Some touts with little accounting knowledge used to exploit gullible Income Tax payers. Hassan Sahab had with a strong hand and determination exposed such a person. Luck would have it that when I followed him in Srinagar as Income Tax authority much after Hassan Sahab’s retirement from Income Tax office, this person was singled out by me also and he would be mortally to appear before me. A close acquaintance and reputed name in Kashmir art goods from Saidaskadal, Srinagar, used to get exploited by this virtually illiterate practitioner because of his ignorance of tax laws the tax payer had to face heavy liability. Hassan Sahab, after knowing this congratulated me to make the tax payers to aware about pitfalls of getting advice from an “illiterate tax expert.”
It was Munshi Ghulam Hassan’s professional excellence which made Shiekh Abdullah in his post-1975 tenure as Chief Minister to bring him on deputation to state sales tax department as Commissioner sales tax. Hassan Sahab did a commendable job there and reformed tax laws and procedures. During Jagmohan’s tenure as Governor, Hassan became state subordinate service chairman and subsequently the Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Bank.
Ghulam Hassan was a great personality with qualities of head and heart, polite but firm in his ideas, imbibing strong conviction and being steadfast like his father Munshi Ishaq. He was a great Kashmiri nationalist with a strong conviction in the destiny of Kashmir. He proved to be an illustrious successor to an illustrious father. He used his retirement days fruitfully by serving his mother land when he edited and published late Ishaq’s very useful and informative memoirs “Nidayay Haq”. This is very useful addition to Jammu and Kashmir’s modern History.
Munshi Ghulam Hassan was true Kashmiri Muslim bereft of any sectarian views which were prejudicial to the larger Kashmiri narrative. During 2016 uprising when pellet guns were used like toffees, Munshi Sahab even in his ailing health joined justice Hussnain Masoodi, Mohammad Shafi pandit and myself to express his anguish and sorrow and appealed Governments of India and Pakistan to enter into a dialogue with people to seek a permanent and just reconciliation between the two states and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
We have lost a great human being and a great exponent and advocate, a great host, a great unifier among different sects; a great son of soil has departed. I was planning to visit him few days but alas could not meet him just before his passing away.