President Ram Nath Kovind on June 20 approved the imposition of Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect. Governor NN Vohra had sent a report to Union Home Ministry on Tuesday evening recommending Central rule in the State after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti submitted her resignation soon after the BJP pulled out of the alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
As Kovind is on a three-nation tour, the proposal was sent to Suriname, his current stop. “When the Governor sent the proposal, the President was already in transit from Athens to Suriname. As soon as he touched down in Paramaribo, he signed the recommendation giving his assent to Governor’s rule in J&K,” said an official. When President Kovind accepted the Centre’s recommendation for Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir, it was for the eighth time that the state went under direct central rule.
The PDP had emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats in the 87-member house in the staggered elections held over five of the last six weeks of 2014. BJP was close second with 25 seats followed by National Conference (15 seats), Congress (12 seats) and others (seven seats). Though Governor’s rule has been imposed and the army given a free hand, it is too early to say if the killings will stop and the Valley will become fully peaceful.
The Governor’s rule was imposed for the first time during the tenure of Governor LK Jha in March 1977 when the Congress withdrew support to the then government headed by National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Till the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire in the Ramzan month, the BJP had totally gone along with the wishes of its coalition partner, the PDP. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was given a long rope both by the centre and the state BJP. Though there were allegations of disparity in the allocation of funds for development, and the Valley was pampered at the cost of two other regions, Jammu and Ladakh, the BJP grudgingly kept quiet.
The coalition of the BJP and the PDP was rightly described by the late Mufti Mohammad Syed as the coming together of the “North and South Pole’. Ideologically, the two parties are poles apart. The PDP strength is confined to the Valley while the BJP’s base is in Jammu and Ladakh. Many eyebrows were raised when the two parties after months of negotiations worked out a Common Minimum Programme for the development of the state. Power-sharing was initially smooth with the BJP satisfied with playing second fiddle, though hardliners in both parties resented each other and some were openly critical of the other.
When on June 18, BJP Chief Amit Shah called a meeting of senior functionaries from Jammu and Kashmir for a frank exchange of views at the BJP national headquarters, nobody expected the end of the uneasy alliance to come so soon. The mood there was one of despondency. Some drastic steps had to be taken to keep up the party’s sagging morale and falling image. Will it lead to a more muscular approach in the Valley? Will it help the BJP consolidate its nationalist base? Is it part of the strategy to win the 2019 general election? The answer to all these questions is yes. The appeasement policy followed by previous regimes in Kashmir in the past had not paid off. The BJP’s own experience in the last four years has proved that the policy of endearing the separatists who are hardened jihadis, motivated by Pakistan and bent on Islamising Kashmir, is futile. Unless their source of sustenance and support is broken and they are made to realize the determination of the Indian state to preserve territorial integrity and secularism in Kashmir, no amount of molly-coddling will ensure a positive response. They are paid to act against India.
Creating a conducive atmosphere for peace and development is possible only if the local political leadership is willing to keep national interest above partisan vote bank biases. It is to help create an atmosphere for an all-out war on terror and separatists that the centre is looking at the new phase of Governor’s rule in the state.
BJP cites deterioration of security for withdrawal
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in Jammu & Kashmir and called for federal control over the disputed Himalayan region, citing deterioration in security that could herald a new crackdown. The Hindu nationalist BJP had entered into an unlikely alliance with a regional party after an inconclusive election in 2014 to govern the Muslim-majority state, which is claimed by neighbouring Pakistan and where Indian forces have struggled to quell a revolt for decades.
“It has become untenable for the BJP to continue in the alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir,” Ram Madhav, party general secretary, told reporters. Madhav said the security situation in the state had worsened and it should be put under “governor’s rule”, or direct rule from New Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a general election earlier in 2014, vowing to end the insurgency in Kashmir but militant violence has worsened in recent months.
Last week, India rejected a UN report that accused it of having used excessive force in Kashmir to kill and wound civilians since 2016. The United Nations also called for an international inquiry into accusations of rights violations.
Direct rule by the central government would give the BJP a free hand to control the state ahead of a general election that must be called within a year.
Meanwhile, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said she had resigned and that her party would not seek the support of other parties to restore a majority. “A muscular policy will not work here,” she told reporters.
The BJP has long favoured a tough approach to quell the revolt, while the PDP had advocated a softer touch to address the grievances in the state where hundreds of people have been killed since the insurgency began in 1989. More than 130 people have died in escalating violence in Kashmir this year. Last week, gunmen shot dead a prominent newspaper editor in the state capital, Srinagar, who had been a strong advocate of peace in the region.
Both India and Pakistan lay claim to Kashmir and have twice gone to war over it since independence from Britain in 1947. India blames Pakistan for fomenting the rebellion in its only Muslim-majority state. However, Pakistan says it only provides moral support to the insurgency.
Any intensification of the insurgency or deterioration of the situation in Kashmir carries the risk of prompting confrontation between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
This month, the federal government ordered a suspension of operations against militants during the holy month of Ramadan, a concession promoted by Chief Minister Mehbooba of the PDP. But militant attacks continued, weakening her hand and the truce was lifted soon after the fasting month ended.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has strongly defended the Modi government’s Kashmir policy, saying the Kashmir issue has been a “very old” one and a major challenge for all governments and will take time to be resolved. He also said the BJP “did its best” and tried everything to bring peace and development to the valley.
Rajnath Singh made these comments in an interview to ‘The Week’ magazine following the BJP’s decision on Tuesday to withdraw its support to the PDP-led government. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had resigned subsequently and the state was on Wednesday brought under the governor’s rule.
With Governor’s rule imposed in Jammu and Kashmir, the Home Ministry has prepared a blue chart to set the state machinery in motion so that the state administration can reach out to people.
The first appointment made by the Cabinet Committee of Appointment was that of 1987 batch IAS Officer BVR Subrahmanyam. He was appointed as the chief secretary of the state. The current chief secretary, BB Vyas, is on the extension period. He had retired in November last year. He, along with retired IPS Vijay Kumar, has been appointed as advisors to the governor. Sources say Subrahmanyam was posted with the Manmohan Singh government at the Prime Minister’s Office. “He is an able officer and has worked in troubled zones so that is why he was shortlisted,” explained a senior official in the PMO. At present, Subrahmanyam is posted as additional chief secretary in the Chhattisgarh government.
“The Governor has appointed advisors. They would now assist him in the functioning of the state administration and security placements,” a senior bureaucrat from the ministry told NDTV. “These advisors are like ministers in a cabinet. Each is given tasks and they help in smooth functioning of the government,” he explained.
National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah has called for immediate dissolution of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and holding of fresh elections in the state.
“The J&K state assembly should be dissolved immediately and fresh elections should take place as soon as appropriate. The former DCM has admitted that the BJP can’t be trusted not to horsetrade for Govt formation,” Omar tweeted.
The former chief minister was reacting to BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta’s reported statement that his party was “working on something”.
“I don’t think a new government will be formed anytime soon. Uncertainties are there, but we are working on something and people will get to know about it,” Gupta had reportedly said.