What Atal Dulloo’s appointment as Chief Secretary means for J&K’s people

Story by  Ahmed Ali Fayyaz | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 01-12-2023
Atul Dulloo (wearing dark glasses) on a field visit
Atul Dulloo (wearing dark glasses) on a field visit


Ahmed Ali Fayyaz/Srinagar

The 1989-batch IAS officer Atal Dulloo taking charge as the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir makes him the third Kashmiri Pandit to become the top bureaucrat of the (now) union territory at a time when the minority community has almost left the land due to turmoil.

Dulloo was the senior most in his cadre and his appointment was not out of turn. With age being on his side, Dulloo will have a minimum tenure of three years as he is due to rtire in October 2026.

A Kashmiri Pandit officer, Dulloo is J&K’s 31st Chief Secretary—18 were from outside the State/UT against 13 J&K domiciles. His appointment has been widely appreciated across the UT, mainly for his immaculate image of an unassuming, low-key bureaucrat with a track record of honesty and integrity.

“Atal Dulloo’s appointment as Chief Secretary is a welcome move. After a long time a J&K resident has been put in a position of power to serve his people when they find themselves in utter despair & dispossessed. Hope it gives way to a sense of empathy & redressal for the masses”, Peoples Democratic Party’s president and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti posted on ‘X’. 

Known for her severe criticism of the establishment’s actions and decisions in the last 5 years, Mehbooba Mufti has rarely praised an administrative order from the BJP Government at the Centre.

Employees waiting at the Secretariat at Jammu to welcome Atul Dulloo new Chief secretary of J&K on Friday

There are no negative comments from other opposition parties including Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference (NC). Mehbooba’s followers too posted positive remarks most calling Dulloo as ‘panun’ (our own).

“With Mr Atal Dullo serving as Chief Secretary, there is an unequivocal expectation that the interests of the people will undeniably be the focal point of all dealings. His commitment ensures that the welfare and concerns of the public remain paramount in every decision and action”, one Pervez Naik commented.Many people in Kashmir are obsessed with the State’s “sons of the soil” even as a number of the ‘outsiders’ have been popular and rated efficient administrators. In this bias, interestingly, the religion of the bureaucrat has never been an issue.

Of the erstwhile State’s permanent residents, Peer Ghulam Ahmad served the longest term of 10 years as Chief Secretary in Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s government from 1954 to 1964. 

Pushkar Nath Kaul served as Chief Secretary for 11 months in Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s government in 1977-78. Syed Muzaffar Aga was Chief Secretary in Sheikh’s NC government from 1978 to 1980.

Noor Mohammad was the 3rd Kashmiri Muslim who served as Chief Secretary from 1980 to 1983. Subsequently, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s son-in-law Mir Nasrullah was Chief Secretary in Ghulam Mohammad Shah’s government from 1984 to 1986.

After 1990, professor-turned-bureaucrat Sheikh Ghulam Rasool served as J&K’s Chief Secretary in the President’s rule from 1992 to 1994. Dr S.S. Bloeria was the 7th J&K resident and the first Dogra Hindu who served as Chief Secretary in 2002-05. Later, Kashmiri Pandit Vijay Bakaya functioned as the head of the State bureaucracy in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s and Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government in 2005-06.

C. Phunsog, a Buddhist from Ladakh, served as Chief Secretary in 2006-07. He was followed by Dogra Hindu B.R. Kundal who remained posted as Chief Secretary for the shortest term of 7 months in Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government in 2007-08.

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Though such appointments are made on merit and seniority yet in Kashmir, the common people are obsessed with ‘outsider vs local.’ So far of the 13 J&K officers who were appointed as Chief Secretary, 9 including Dulloo hailed from Kashmir, 3 from Jammu and 1 from Ladakh.