BOPEE Scandal: Nothing Surprising

The recent scandal involving alleged sale of entrance exam papers by Board of Professional Entrance Examinations (BOPEE) chairman Mushtaq Ahmed Pir should not come as a surprise to most Kashmiris and all those who have watched Kashmir up close. It is another case in the long and never ending list of corruption scandals involving the high and the mighty in Jammu and Kashmir. There has been a lot of outrage against this scandal, especially on the social media among the Kashmiris, but most of it smacks of self righteousness.

As much as this case speaks of institutional decay and corruption in Kashmir, it is also a pointer towards the societal decay that Kashmir has undergone, especially in the last couple of decades. Mr Mushtaq’s alleged crime of selling question papers represents the institutional decay in J & K, but the parents who paid money to buy these papers so that their sons/ daughters clear the entrance examination point to the societal decay in Kashmir. Both these are equally condemnable and one cannot survive without the other. Let us accept the fact while looking into and speaking against institutional corruption is important, making sense of societal corruption is equally if not more important. But since most people themselves are a part of societal decay and corruption, not many fingers will be raised against it. It reflects the complete decay of values in Kashmir and hence for most people it is painful to reconcile with this painful reality. As happens with most cases of corruption, which come to light, Mushtaq Pir will be made a punching bag, as long as the news hogs the limelight. The more serious questions of the wider malaise that has hit the Kashmiri society will remain unanswered.

It is interesting to note that despite almost stagnant economy of the J & K State, Kashmir has witnessed a construction boom, especially in the last one decade. Land prices throughout the valley have skyrocketed. In normal circumstances, a stagnant economy should lead to a crash in land prices and one would hardly witness any construction. But the case of Kashmir is strange. It defies basic economic logic. But if one were to look deeply into this phenomenon, it becomes apparently clear that there are various forces at work here. People with almost no known sources of income are driving big cars and building palatial houses. These things point to a wider malaise that has engulfed the Kashmiri society. People seldom take note of such things, indicating that the decay in Kashmiri society is not an exception, but a rule now. The ends have become important, whatever the means.

Having said that, it doesn’t exonerate anyone who has indulged in any sort of corrupt practice and used their official power and position to illegally benefit themselves. The regular cases of corruption in Kashmir that have come to light so far also point towards the accountability of those in power. The biggest incentive for official corruption is that it will go unnoticed and unpunished. Once corruption works like a food chain, as it does in J & K, it is very difficult to nip it in the bud. It will take immense courage and integrity from those investigating this particular case to bring the real facts out in the open and have all those who are involved in this scam, punished appropriately. Unless an example is set that corruption and misuse of official power will not go unpunished, nothing much can be expected to revive a culture of accountability and clean governance in the State. It is also important that not only those who allegedly received the bribes, but also all those who paid these bribes, are taken to task. Also all those students who got admission through wrong means should not be allowed to continue with these degrees.Punishing the culprits will also send a strong signal among the common people that indulging in corruption has serious repercussions and doesn’t always pay.

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