Governor's Rule hasn't had a good track record in Jammu and Kashmir, but citizens expect NN Vohra to turn things around

Editor's note: With Jammu and Kashmir under Governor's Rule for the eighth time, Firstpost will run a series of reported pieces, analytical articles and commentary to track the progress of events.

Srinagar: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shocked its alliance partner People's Democratic Party (PDP) by pulling out of the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir last week, breaking off an alliance that had stayed together for over two years.

Amid increased militancy in the state, many anticipate Governor's Rule to bring about change, even though it hasn't had a smooth track record in the state. And while NN Vohra is credited with improving efficiency of the government during previous stints of Governor's Rule under him, Jagmohan Malhotra is still remembered and reviled for being at the helm of affairs when militancy and human rights violations were at their peak in 1990.

Vohra, who is about to complete his second gubernatorial term, has emerged man of the moment in Jammu and Kashmir yet again. He will continue in charge till the Amarnath Yatra concludes on 26 August, making this the fourth time Governor's Rule has been implemented during his tenure. With violence escalating to new heights, especially during the Ramzan ceasefire, the Centre and the governor have to ensure peace in the Valley.

Bloody history of Governor's Rule

Jammu and Kashmir is no stranger to Governor's Rule. It has been directly under central rule in the past as well, following the fall of elected governments. Kashmir-based political commentator Irshad Ahmad said, "We have never been satisfied with the popularly elected governments when it comes to deliverance. There is nepotism and a pick-and-choose policy. But the governor goes by merit."

Kashmir's governor N. N. Vohra speaks from behind a bullet-proof screen during India's Independence Day celebrations in Srinagar August 15, 2008. India rolled out a security clampdown on Friday ahead of annual Independence Day celebrations following recent bomb attacks on some of its cities and violent protests in its northern region of Kashmir. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli (INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR) - GM1E48F173601

File image of Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra. Reuters

Explaining how things are different under Governor's Rule, Ahmad added, "With Governor's Rule, bureaucrats and officials feel like they are in safe hands. So it's good. But history has given a bad name to this form of governance in Jammu and Kashmir."

Governor's Rule was first imposed in 1977 during LK Jha's tenure. The Congress, headed by Mufti Sayeed, withdrew support to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah's National Conference, leading the imposition of Governor's Rule, which lasted 105 days.

Then in 1986, Governor's Rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir for the second time, after Congress withdrew support to the Ghulam Mohammad Shah government. It was again Sayeed who was heading the Congress. Shah then became chief minister after leading a rebellion with National Conference against his brother-in-law and incumbent chief minister Farooq Abdullah in 1984. Governor's Rule lasted for 246 days and ended after Abdullah entered into an accord of his own with the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Governor's Rule was imposed again in 1990 and lasted six years and 264 days; it would be considered the most controversial one. During this period, Farooq Abdullah resigned and Jagmohan returned as governor. Though Jagmohan was recalled within six months, the rule continued, as militancy had greatly affected the state. Fresh Assembly polls were finally held in October 1996.

Jagmohan served two terms as governor: From 1984 to 1989, and then from January to May 1990. His first stint was believed to be peaceful, but the second stint left the state wounded. During this five-month tenure, Kashmir went through the worst phase of militancy.

On 19 January, 1990, the date he was appointed governor without consent from the state government, Kashmiri Pandits left the Valley in large numbers. Many believe that he facilitated their migration. Jagmohan sought the help of 15,000 Indian troops to quell the Kashmir uprising by imposing a form of unofficial martial law on the Valley. On his command, security forces used excessive violence on people, including beating up suspects and firing at civilians. He also extended curfews, house searches and widespread detention of suspected militants which led to more radicalisation among the youth. This same operation also led to the Gaw Kadal massacre on 21 January, 1990, when CRPF troops opened fire on a group of Kashmiri protesters, in which 51 people were killed.

The five months of Governor's Rule under Jagmohan saw killings by security forces in Handwara, Zakura, Byepass, Hawal and Mashaali Mohalla. Jagmohan was removed in May 1990, after Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farooq, father of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was assassinated. Firings during his funeral procession by security forces saw 70 people being killed in Srinagar.

No buffer between people and authorities

Though many experts call Governor's Rule "undemocratic", some believe it has led to development. Among them is senior bureaucrat Mohammad Sayeed Khan, who served in various positions between 1977 and 2012. Explaining how Governor's Rule in the past brought about significant changes where elected government failed, Khan said, "When Jagmohan became governor for the first time in 1986, he did a brilliant job, focusing on construction of flyovers, road development, etc. The work he did in just one year would have taken an elected government years. Governor's Rule works in the short term, but extending it is not a good idea."

The sentiment was echoed by Basharat Ahmad Dhar, another bureaucrat, who said that the governor cannot be a substitute for a democratically-elected government for long. "To handle an emergency situation, Governor's Rule is imposed. There is no political pressure on the bureaucracy during Governor's Rule. So work becomes easy as we do not have to go through long procedures. But otherwise, deliverance remains the same," Dhar said.

Dhar also praised current governor NN Vohra, saying, "I have worked under Vohra and he is a great civil servant. I learned a lot from him."

DS Hooda, who retired as general officer commanding-in-chief of the Indian Army's Northern Command, and former state police chief Kuldeep Khoda said there was little difference between the functioning of Governor's Rule and of an elected government. "In Jammu and Kashmir, for instance, the army doesn't have a fixed strategy. The situation keeps changing," Hooda said, while Khoda said, "I have worked under both administrations and it all comes down to performance. If you perform, change in guard does not matter."

In 2002, Jammu and Kashmir again found itself under Governor's Rule, with Girish Chandra Saxena in charge. His rule, however, lasted only 15 days, as the PDP-Congress alliance formed the next government.

The fifth time was in 2008 under SK Sinha whose 174-day rule came into effect after PDP withdrew from a coalition with the Congress. This was followed by widespread protests during the Amarnath land row agitation. Sinha came in for criticism for his role in the agitation, and he was replaced by Vohra. Central rule came to an end on 5 January, 2009, after Omar Abdullah was sworn in as chief minister.

The sixth time was in December 2014, after elections threw up a hung Assembly. Omar Abdullah was asked to be relieved of his duties on 7 January 2015. Governor's Rule came to an end after PDP and BJP stitched together an alliance, paving the way for Sayeed's return as chief minister on 1 March, 2015. His death in 2016 meant Governor's Rule was imposed for a seventh time.

Vohra has now taken charge again, the eighth time the state has had Governor's Rule. "This time, focus will be more on law and order. In this kind of a set-up, the buffer between people and the government ends. People can't directly go to officers and ask for help, unlike with a democratically elected government where the local leader has to listen to grievances," Kashmir-based journalist Zafar Meraj said.JK3-300x1031-300x1031[1]

For the local citizens, however, nothing changes. Srinagar resident Ghulam Muhammad Khan said whether there is a governor or an elected government in power, nothing changes. "We are tired of successive regimes. These politicians pile up their assets rather than thinking about the welfare of the state. All of us know about Jagmohan's rule. In the 1990s, people were picked from their homes, detained and killed for no reason. That was Governor's Rule for us," he said.

"We still have uncertainty, but the fear of the 90s never goes away. Both the Centre and state governments are responsible for our condition," he added.

Mubashir Bukhari is a Srinagar-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters


Updated Date: Jun 27, 2018 12:03 PM

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