Mubashir Bukhari | Jun 25, 2018 | 7 min read
Series of unfortunate Governor's Rule in J&K
Srinagar: The BJP shocked its alliance partner People’s Democratic Party (PDP) by pulling out of the coalition government in J&K last week, ending their second stint, which began in April 2016.
Amid increased militancy in the state, many anticipate Governor’s Rule to bring about change. However, the history of the rule in the state hasn't been smooth sailing --- while NN Vohra is credited with improving efficiency of the government during previous stints of Governor’s Rule under him, Jagmohan is still remembered and reviled for being at the helm of the government when militancy and human rights violations were at their peak.
Vohra, who is about to complete his second term in a few days, has emerged as the man of the moment in J&K yet again. He will continue till the Amarnath Yatra concludes on August 26, making this the fourth time Governor's Rule has been implemented during his time. With violence escalating to new heights, especially during the Ramzaan ceasefire, the Centre and governor have to ensure peace in the Valley.
Longest Governor's Rule for six bloody years
Governor’s Rule is not new to this conflict-ridden state. In the past, it has come directly under Centre's rule due to the fall of governments. Kashmir-based political commentator Irshad Ahmad says, “So far, we have never been satisfied with the Popular Government when it comes to deliverance. There is nepotism and a pick-and-choose policy. But the governor goes by merit.” Ahmad, explaining the difference between Governor’s Rule and Popular Government, says, “With Governor’s Rule, bureaucrats and other officials feel like they are in safe hands. So that way, 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 time. The state came under direct control of the Centre, when the Congress, headed by Mufti Sayeed, withdrew support to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s National Conference. Governor's Rule, then, lasted for 105 days.
The second time, Governor’s Rule was imposed in March 1986 after the Congress withdrew support from the Ghulam Mohammad Shah government. Again, Sayeed was heading the Congress. Shah became the chief minister after he led a rebellion with National Conference against his brother-in-law and then-incumbent chief minister Farooq Abdullah, in 1984. This 246-day ordeal ended after Abdullah entered into an accord of his own with then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Governor’s Rule was imposed again in 1990, and lasted six years and 264 days - 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 on, as militancy had greatly affected the state. Fresh assembly polls were 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 it was his second stint that left Kashmiris wounded. In his tenure, Kashmir went through the worst phase of militancy. January 19, 1990, was the date he was appointed governor, without consent from the state government.
The day Jagmohan was appointed, Kashmiri Pandits left the Valley in large numbers. Many believe that he facilitated their migration. Jagmohan sought 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 youth. This same operation led to the Gaw Kadal massacre on January 21, 1990, when troops of the Central Reserve Police Force opened fire on a group of Kashmiri protesters, in which 51 people were killed.
The five months of Jagmohan’s second tenure 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 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 has served in various positions from 1977 to 2012. Khan explains how Governor’s Rule in the past brought significant changes where the elected government failed. “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 a year would have taken the elected government years,” he says, adding, “For a short term, Governor’s Rule works, 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,” he says, admitting that “yes there is no political pressure on bureaucracy during Governor's Rule. Secondly, work gets easy as we do not have to go through long procedures. Otherwise deliverance remains the same”.
Dhar 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 spoke about finding little difference in the working of Governor's Rule or an elected government.
Hooda did point to the fact that “in J&K, in the last few years, the Army does not have any fixed strategy as the situation keeps changing”, while Khoda said "I have worked under both administrations and it all comes to performance. If you perform, change in guard does not matter".
In 2002, J&K again came under Governors’ Rule with Girish Chandra Saxena in charge. His rule lasted 15 days only, as the PDP and Congress formed the government on November 2.
The fifth time was in 2008 under SK Sinha. The 174-day rule came to force after PDP withdrew support to the Congress-PDP coalition. This was followed by widespread protests during the Amarnath land row agitation. Many criticised Sinha for his role in the row and he was soon replaced by Vohra.
Central rule came to an end on January 5, 2009, after Omar Abdullah was sworn in as CM. The sixth time was when the state elections resulted in a hung assembly on December 23, 2014, with Abdullah asking to be relieved of his duties on January 7, 2015.
The rule ended after the PDP and BJP stitched an alliance, paving the way for the return of Sayeed as CM on March 1, 2015. Governor's Rule was imposed for the seventh time in 2016 after his death.
On the current Governor's Rule, Kashmir-based journalist Zafar Meraj says, “This time, more focus will be put on law and order. In this kind of set-up, the buffer between people and the government ends. People can’t directly go to officers and ask for help, unlike with a Popular Government where the local leader has to listen to grievances.”
What does Governor’s Rule mean to the people?
For Ghulam Muhammad Khan, a Srinagar resident, a governor or elected government in power changes nothing. "We are tired of successive regimes. These politicians pile up their assets rather than thinking about the welfare of the state,” he mulls, adding, "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."
"We still have uncertainty, but the fear of the 1990s never goes away. Both the Centre and state governments are responsible for our condition,” he says.
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