Governor Jagmohan’s rule in J&K of 1990 still haunts the Valley with fear

Mir Farhat | Jun 24, 2018 | 5 min read


Mir Farhat

Srinagar: For 54-year-old Abdul Salam, the recent imposition of Governor’s Rule in Jammu and Kashmir is a grim reminder of turbulent 1990, when Jagmohan ruled the state for five months, leaving the people with wounds which are yet to heal. 

Salam, a resident of Batamaloo locality in Srinagar, remembers Jagmohan’s first press conference at Srinagar airport soon after he landed in the city as Governor of the state.

Mere haathon se aman ke parche khisak nahi jaane chahiye (I don’t want that the cards of peace should slip away from my hands),  were his words, says Salam, who was in his thirties then. "It was a direct threat to militants and people in Kashmir to not support them," he adds.

Period of militancy

In 1990, militancy was at its peak in the state and pro-freedom sentiment among people was overwhelming. The state was then under the rule of National Conference led by chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah.

As militants gained public support in the Valley, New Delhi felt that J&K was slipping away from its control and needed measures to curb the full-blown secessionist movement and public support to it. When the political and security situation turned into extreme turmoil, New Delhi under the stewardship of Prime Minister V P Singh dispatched Jagmohan Malhotra as Governor to the state. Late PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was then the home minister of India.

Chief minister Abdullah, opposing the PM’s decision, resigned from the state Assembly and Governor’s Rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir yet again.

Jagmohan’s first stint in the state was from 1984 to 1989, and largely considered peaceful and administratively efficient. He took over the administration of the state again on January 19, 1990, till May of the same year. He resigned after 127 days of a controversial stint in which he was accused of, among other things, aiding the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits to Jammu and other states of India.

People recall the horror

“The first impression among people of Jagmohan’s arrival to Kashmir in January 1990 was of fear and horror. He was seen in the Valley through Delhi’s 1976 Turkman Gate massacre in which local residents protesting the demolition of a Muslim colony in the city were killed,” says Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Sopore in north Kashmir. Jagmohan was then the vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority and was reported to have told a group of local residents pleading for resettlement that “do you think we are mad to destroy one Pakistan to create another Pakistan?”

In J&K, Jagmohan’s second stint in power is remembered as being synonymous with repression, “hate” and “massacres”.

“He created hatred against himself among the masses and gave a very bad impression of Governor’s Rule in J&K. He gave the security forces a free hand to deal with militants and the people,” Ahmad says.

Another resident, Hamidullah Ahmad of south Kashmir’s Anantnag town, also has bitter memories of that time. “Those were the years of brutality, massacres, lawlessness, prolonged curfews and large pro-freedom processions. Administration and governance were completely overshadowed by the oppression unleashed by Jagmohan,” he recalls.

Two days after Jagmohan took over, the state witnessed the Gaw Kadal massacre in which 50-55 people participating in protests against the Governor and the central government were killed. Days later, on January 25, 1990, 21 civilians were killed by the Border Security Force (BSF) in Handwara.

On March 1, 1990, around 33 people were killed at Zakoora, Tengpora, and on May 21, 1990, at least 50 people were killed when the BSF fired at the funeral procession of Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farooq near Srinagar’s Islamia College. This finally forced New Delhi to call Jagmohan back and he resigned as Governor.

‘Dynamic’, ‘mastermind of all massacres’

National Conference general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar had once called Jagmohan the “mastermind of all massacres” in Kashmir.

“That was the time when deputy commissioners were also feeling scared. The pro-India lobby was not as strong as it is in Kashmir today. Political activists were in hiding either in Delhi or in Jammu as they fled Kashmir due to militant threats,” Abdul Rashid, a 60-year-old National Conference activist of Pulwama district in south Kashmir, points out.

A retired civil administrator, who did not want to be named, said that apart from his “oppressive” tactics, Jagmohan would also be remembered as a “dynamic and strong” administrator.

“Since lawlessness was rampant because of gun violence, the administration was confined to government offices. When Jagmohan arrived, governance and administration got momentum, but conflict and turmoil overshadowed all those good signs,” the bureaucrat says.

G N Monga, who was then a 30-year-old advocate practising in the Srinagar high court as well as a Congress activist, begged to differ, insisting that Jagmohan’s rule was a “black” chapter in the history of Kashmir.

“Immediately after he took over, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandit brethren started taking place. The situation changed dramatically. Innocent people were killed, militants seemed in control,” he says.

A BJP man, Jagmohan is a Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and most recently, a Padma Vibhushan awardee.

Monga points out that though Governor’s Rule in J&K - currently evoked after the fall of the PDP-BJP government - evokes Jagmohan-era memories, present Governor NN Vohra’s administration is entirely different.

“Vohra is a seasoned politician. He has been Governor of Jammu and Kashmir for a decade now. He understands the situation here,” explains Monga, a legislator in the state’s Upper House, adding, “Jagmohan had failed totally and he had experience in some other things which are recorded in Kashmir’s history”.

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