NN Vohra has his work cut out for him, given Jammu and Kashmir's violent history under Governor's Rule

In May 1995, when General KV Krishna Rao was the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, government forces had launched what was one of the biggest operations in the history of the Valley. Nearly a hundred militants were holed up inside the town of Charar-e-Sharief when the Indian Army cordoned it off. The militants were heavily armed and had also planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the roads. In the two months that the town remained cordoned off, as many as 150 militants engaged in gunfights with the security forces. Only one militant was killed, and a majority of them, including top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Mast Gul, had managed to flee.

In what had turned into a crisis for the then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao, security forces had burnt down nearly 800 houses and 500 shops in the Valley, triggering widespread protests.

File image of Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra. Getty Images

File image of Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra. Getty Images

With his background as a former chief of army staff, Krishna Rao was known for his hard approach towards militants and did not show any restraint while dealing with pro-freedom protests in Jammu and Kashmir. In October 1993, when civilians in the state staged protests against government forces laying siege at the Hazratbal shrine in South Kashmir's Bijbehara area, 43 people were killed after the troopers opened fire on them.

The incident took place during Krishna Rao's second tenure as governor of Jammu and Kashmir. His first was a short term between 11 July, 1989, to 19 January, 1990. His second term as governor lasted from March 1993 to 2 May, 1998.

The need to deal with militants in Jammu and Kashmir with a firm hand was one of the reasons the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said was behind its decision to withdraw support to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as a result of which the state is — for the eighth time — under Governor's Rule.

Unlike chief ministers, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who were tied down by "vote bank" politics and the compulsions of running a government in coalition with the Congress and BJP, incumbent governor NN Vohra functions through an administrative council he heads as its chairman. The council enjoys the wide powers that were earlier vested with the state cabinet.

Only three days into the latest stint of Governor's Rule in the state, violence has escalated in the region. On Friday, four militants were killed in an encounter with government forces in Anantnag's Srigufwara area. A civilian and policeman also died in the gunfight, and several others were injured. The same day in  Tral, nine police officers and troops of the Central Reserve Police Force were injured as militants opened fire using assault rifles after lobbing grenades at them.

Although the governor has told security forces that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir should be dealt with firmly, political analysts believe that the deaths of civilians will further disrupt peace in the Valley.

Former interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir MM Ansari said the Centre will advise the governor on ways to deal with militancy in the state. He also alleged that the BJP was using the tension with Pakistan and resorting to polarisation ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Rather than "adopting a muscular policy", he said there was a need to initiate talks with both the Hurriyat and Pakistan.

A look at the rule of previous governors indicates that incidents of violence rise in Jammu and Kashmir when it is under the direct rule of the central government. During the tenure of Girish Chander Saxena between 2 May, 1998, and 4 June, 2003, several civilians were killed during protests. Saxena, an IPS officer, had headed the Research and Analysis Wing from 1983 to 1986 and had served as the police chief of several districts of Uttar Pradesh before being appointed the governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

Subsequently, during the tenure of a former vice chief of army staff, Lieutenant General SK Sinha, who served as governor from 4 June, 2003, to 25 June, 2008, there were widespread protests in Jammu and Kashmir over the transfer of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board. In the agitation that lasted two months, several people, including Hurriyat leader Shiekh Abdul Aziz, were killed.

Political commentator Noor Mohamamd Baba said that Vohra was seen as a "seasoned" governor, and that the earlier governors had held office under different circumstances. "Both KV Krishna Rao and Girish Chander Saxena worked in an era when militancy was at its peak in Kashmir," he said.

The vice president of Jammu and Kashmir Congress, GN Monga, said that "both the PDP and BJP were responsible for the Govenor's Rule in the state as well as the current turmoil in the Valley".


Updated Date: Jun 23, 2018 16:55 PM

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