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Interview with Shamim Akhtar, CEO, Delhi Waqf Board: "India for all practical purpose is a Brahmin state. Muslims are the new untouchables in the Governance of India"

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Every year many Muslim candidates sit in civil service examination but once they become successful in their endeavor of becoming an IAS officer they get disappeared, whereas some of them remain in touch with community, and there are very few who are concerned and sincerely work for the betterment of the community. Shamim Akhtar is one such IAS allied officer who has over the years done lot of good things as far as community is concerned. Shamim Akhtar is ADM north as well as CEO of Delhi Waqf Board. Those who know him or met him are well aware of the fact that he is a very down to earth officer, a passionate photographer, extremely good human being and extraordinary genius. Shahabuddin Yaqub, Managing Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com, recently talked to Mr. Akthar and explored various facets of his enterprising personality. Here are the excerpts of his interview.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: I would like to ask first about your childhood memories. Have you ever thought that you were a different boy as compared to the rest of boys of your time?

Shamim Akhtar: I was born in an average Muslim family of Bihar. My honest father could not afford the tuition fee of any private school so most of my education was through Government Schools. Early childhood memories are filled with lots of love from father and a sense of responsibility as the eldest son in a family of eleven kids.

I never thought of being any different from my peer group, but I was born with a sense of responsibility as the eldest son.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Your father was a highly regarded man and an honest officer? What are the qualities you have imbibed from your father?


Shamim Akhtar: Yes. My father was a practicing Muslim and hence a very honest officer with Govt. of Bihar as PCS (Allied) service. His memory was extraordinary and I think I have inherited from him somewhat sharp memory besides being an upright man in my own right.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Where have you done your schooling from? Whom you remember when you reminisce of your school time?

Shamim Akhtar: I did my primary schooling from Chapra and then came to Danapur Cantt as my father was transferred and continued my education in Baldeva School (a Government School) and passed my 10th in 1985. I was almost friendless during my school days. The only friend other than School books were comics (I was very fond of comic books and I almost had a library of my own).

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Who inspired you to come to Delhi and get yourself admitted in JNU?

Shamim Akhtar: I was doing my B.A (Hons.) in Sociology from B.N College (Patna University) and almost everybody was filling the form of JNU. I was not interested in pursuing M.A (my idea was to go for civil services exam as my father wanted). A friend in college, Sanjay Nagpatni, asked me to fill the form of JNU and when I said that I was not interested in M.A, he challenged that I was not intelligent enough to qualify the entrance and if I qualified he would give me five hundred rupees.

It was he who paid for the forms and fees for me too. Incidentally I qualified the test and he could not.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: What was your first experience at the time of admission in JNU?

Shamim Akhtar: My result of B.A (Hons.) was delayed and with great difficulty I managed to get the provisional result from Patna University and in that confidential result it was mentioned that I had failed in Urdu (a qualifying subject only). I rushed to Patna, and got that rectified (it's another story).

So finally on the last day of admission I was formally admitted to JNU.

Needless to say that the campus has left a very strong impression on me.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Has JNU played a great role in your life? Or is it your hard work and dedication that has opened the doors of success in your life?

Shamim Akhtar: I spent only two years in JNU (After M.A., I did not write the test for M.Phil, but went ahead with my preparation for the civil service exam). But, yes to a great extent JNU not only influenced my thought process but almost reshaped my life. Nothing comes without hard work, but without JNU my path could not be as easy.


Moreover, I met Sasmita (my classmate and now my life partner) in JNU . Without Sasmita I probably could not have achieved much in life, so my sincere thanks to JNU.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Today you are known as one of the great and most admired photographers of India. Some of your works have been regarded as world`s best photographs. How did you get this success as you have not done any course in photography?

Shamim Akhtar: By the grace of Allah, now my work in the field of photography is being recognized a bit. I am a self taught photographer since the tender age of ten. At 15 years of age I used to do commercial photography in Patna for pocket money. It's a very long journey of passion. I do not consider myself to be a successful photographer yet , but Insha Allah someday I will claim my rightful position in Paris.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: You have done few coffee table books. Please let us know about these books and where did you get idea to write these books?

Shamim Akhtar: I was posted in Lakshadweep, the beautiful coral island of India, (my first posting) and there was not even a single good book on Lakshadweep. The photographer in me could not resist the idea of doing a coffee table book. Sasmita wanted to write a monograph on Lakshadweep, so we decided to do the fusion. She wrote the text and I did the photography. This book was completed in two years without any help from government or any other organization. At one point of time Publication Division "considered" our book and after two years returned saying that it was not up to the mark.


Then Sasmita decided to publish the book on her own, and by the grace of Allah, our first book "Floating Pearls in the Arabian Sea - Lakshadweep" was published by Nishcam Publication (Sasmita's firm) in 2007.

The second book "Rode to Heaven - Ladakh" is my biker's diary which did much better in open market and boosted our confidence. This was published in 2009.

The third book "Forgotten Dilli - Portrait of an immortal city" is actually a body of work on mediaeval Delhi which took 16 long years of research and passionate photography. This book has won international applause. This was published in 2010.

My latest coffee table book is "Kailasa - a journey within". This is one of a kind book on the abode of Lord Shiva and has been liked by scholars like Dr. Karan Singh. This was published in 2011.

All our books are self funded without any support from any organization.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Apart from photography what are your other hobbies? I have heard that you are a passionate biker too? Please tell us about this.


Shamim Akhtar: Since the age of 18, I have been riding solo (mostly in the Himalayas). I can't say that I used to ride to take pictures or vice versa! I am still a solo rider and I have ridden almost all over the Himalayas on my Bullet. In fact My Ladakh book is a testimony of my ride. I have ridden to Ladakh four times now.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: As a civil servant, an allied IAS officer, how is your experience?

Shamim Akhtar: Though there are 27 services in the list of Civil Services conducted by UPSC, in reality there are only two civil services -- IAS and non- IAS. Allied services are second grade and I can't say that my experience is very positive.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: We heard about corruption. Do you agree that there is corruption in bureaucracy?

Shamim Akhtar: Without corruption bureaucracy is unthinkable. There is absolute corruption at every level.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: If so, then what is the way to eradicate the corruption from bureaucracy?

Shamim Akhtar: It's a long debate, but from my point of view to eradicate corruption, we will have to eradicate bureaucracy itself. In fact I absolutely agree with the point of view of Sardar Patel that free India should not have permanent bureaucracy which British used for the drain of wealth. It was the mistake of Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru that he retained the same pseudo son of the British. There is no difference in the then ICS or the IAS of today. Bureaucracy works for itself and not for the nation.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Many efforts are being done to increase the number of Muslims aspirants In IAS but the percentage of success is not growing. Why is it so? Is there any way to maximize the numbers in civil service examination?


Shamim Akhtar: What I feel of Civil Services, I have already mentioned in my previous answer. Though, what cannot be cured must be endured. Since India is still governed by IAS officers, there is a need of more Muslim representation in the service. Why there are very few Muslims in Civil Services, reasons are many, I would make an attempt to pen down few...

(1.) This exam requires mental confidence starting from class ten. Most of the Muslims do not take their school education very seriously. Neither there are many English medium Muslim schools in the country.

(2.) This is an expensive exam (books , coaching etc). Needless to say that the Muslim community is not very well placed financially.

(3.) This exam requires full time preparation of at least two years, which not many Muslim parents are willing to afford...

As such the reasons could be many, but the fact remains that our community is not a very well educated one. To maximize the numbers of Muslims in IAS, a long term strategy is required.

Emphasizing the need for good English medium schooling could be a good starting point.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Have you ever felt that you are being discriminated because you belong to a particular community?

Shamim Akhtar: If I say that there is no discrimination in Governance, I would be a hypocrite and an insult to my father's teachings. India for all practical purpose is a Brahmin state. Specially in Civil Services, the hierarchy is as follows...

Brahmins

Other Upper Caste Hindus

Lower Caste Hindus

Scheduled Caste Hindus

Scheduled Tribes

Jains

Sikhs

Buddhists

Jews

Christians

and at the bottom Muslims.

Muslims are nothing but the new untouchables in the Governance of India. Of course, I have been discriminated despite my hard work because I am a Muslim.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Why is communalism growing in India? What are the reasons according to your understanding?

Shamim Akhtar: Let's look back in history, why there was not a single Muslim reform through legislation in the time of Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru? He enacted several legislations for Hindu reforms. Communalism is not a two way process in India. It has been imposed on Muslims. and the system branded Muslims as communal and terrorists. It's a conspiracy of the Government. Look at the Babri Masjid verdict, it is very clear that how Brahmins perceive Muslim and their culture and identity.


To my understanding, if the governance of India does not change its perception about Muslims, we can expect much worse condition in times to come.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: You are ADM north as well as CEO of Delhi Waqf Board. Is there any reason to be given additional responsibility to you, while other Muslim officer could be appointed as CEO of DWB?

Shamim Akhtar: As per the Waqf Act, only a Muslim can be appointed as CEO. So there is no choice. There are very few Muslim officers, hence this additional charge is routine. Moreover, ADM is much too junior a position for my seniority ( I am 1996 Batch of DANICS and in JAG grade since 2010. Despite repeated request to services, the Govt. is not posting me to my deserving position.)

Shahabuddin Yaqub: As a CEO what are the challenges before you? How you are going to solve it?

Shamim Akhtar: The biggest challenge is the financial health of Waqf Board. I alone as CEO can't do much.

There is support from the Chairman and all the members. So, through rationalizing the property management, we are soon going to be financially independent... Insha Allah.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: DWB has ample resources to generate money but these resources are not being managed properly, do you agree?

Shamim Akhtar: Yes, the properties are not managed properly. We are trying to do so slowly but surely.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Muslims are far behind in education, health and employment. How can Delhi Waqf Board play a role to bring community forward in these areas? Community does not have good schools and hospitals in Delhi, as CEO have you given any thought to it?

Shamim Akhtar: Education, Health, and Employment is the domain of Governance and my previous few answers clarifies the attitude of Governments towards Muslims. Not much should be expected from Waqf Board which is not even able to manage its day to day affairs.

But, soon, we are going to develop our properties and even opening good schools and hospitals for the community is on our agenda.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: We perceive that DWB is not well connected with the community. As far as youths are concerned they are not very much aware about DWB? Do you want youths to be part of DWB? What initiatives are you going to take in this regard?

Shamim Akhtar: It is correct that Muslim youth are not aware of the good work being carried out by DWB, but we have to work hard to involve youth so that they understand our work and be a part in conserving Waqf properties.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Please put some light on the activities and responsibilities which are being carried out by DWB towards community?

Shamim Akhtar: There are twin fold responsibility of the Waqf Board. All the mosques, Muslim graveyards, madarsas, dargah ...etc is to be managed by Delhi Waqf Board in Delhi. Social welfare measures like widow pension, financial support to students, etc is also to be taken care of by DWB for Muslims in Delhi.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: On the occasion of thanksgiving program which was held at IICC recently you have presented dozens of your precious photographs to IICC, what prompted you to present them to IICC?

Shamim Akhtar: I have done the book " Forgotten Dilli - portrait of an immortal city" with a purpose of making the citizens aware of the fact that Delhi was not built in a day. These mediaeval monuments are witness to our composite culture and pride. The pictures from the book was displayed recently at IICC, New Delhi and I gifted them my work so that they can understand the relevance of these pictures and preserve them for future generations.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Do you have any message for the Muslim community?

Shamim Akhtar: First of all, every Muslim in India should ask a question to himself. Who partitioned this country in 1947, and if at all it was the will of the Muslim community in India, why majority of Muslims decided to stay back in India?

We the Muslims of India must remember that our ancestors decided to stay back here for the sake of love of their motherland and that makes all of us patriots. Muslims should restrain from all kind of violence and through education and right politicization, must reclaim their rightful palace in India.

Moreover, the responsibility to unite India once again lies on the shoulder of the Indian Muslims.

We must raise voice for unification of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to make India once again the glorious nation that it is.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: What are priorities in your life? In next ten year what you are going to plan?

Shamim Akhtar: My priorities are very simple, to be a good son to my family and to be good father to my kids besides being a good and responsible citizen of INDIA.

I have always pursued my passions and would continue to do so till I die. So, in the next ten years I see myself very much on the same road, few miles ahead of being the upright man that I am. Rest is the will of Allah, that always prevails.
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3 comments:

  1. He is a great Soul and I wish him extreme success in anything he pursues - we need more such frank, honest, passionate and creative souls .......

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  2. Really Indian Muslim community should ask them- self , what he want to there progress and who's stopping there step to doing this. India can become a powerful nation when both of the community move forward to each other.

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  3. Typical two faced traitor! It's unbelieveable that India has law because if it did then man should be behind bars for making racist and anti Hindu & anti Brahmin comments. What a shameful disgrace is this man. He lives off our money and is even married to a Hindu girl and tells us he is being discriminated! I always say problem is not Islam problem is that we have got worse traitor Muslims in the world. Thank God for Modi! You deserve only Modi!

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