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Fifth column

July 27, 2019

Governor Raj

Opinion

July 27, 2019

The governor’s rule that was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir last year after the fall of the coalition government headed by crafty Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is about to complete one year.

As governor, Satya Pal Malik has strictly followed the widely endorse and articulated policy of ‘muscular approach’ that saw the BJP-led central government advocating harsh punishments for dissenters including those youth who protest on the streets fighting the paramilitary or military forces using stones or shouting slogans of dissent and azadi.

In a sea of anti-Kashmiri hostility – both official and unofficial – Malik has tried many a time to offer a different flavour by often speaking his mind against violence and even regretting the loss of civilian killings in state-enacted brutal actions. However, as governor he has little room for manoeuvre to digress from the brief and the whims of the central leadership that has turned Kashmir into a battleground of hot rhetoric fuelled by otherworldly ideologies and visions.

Soon after assuming office last August, Malik tried to tone down the toxic and militaristic rhetoric of the officials but was unsuccessful. His attempts to offer talks and counsel the Kashmiri youth against violence was side-lined by harsher statements from high-ranking politicians and officials. One of the now-famous statement came from the Indian army chief, General Bipin Rawat, who likened the protesting stone-pelting youth to terrorists and warned them of getting same treatment as the ‘terrorists’.

Soon after, true to this public statement, the army did tackle several protests as if it was dealing with armed militants, causing several civilian deaths that in turn fuelled more protests and violence. It is, therefore, not surprising that the violence has continued to spiral upwards causing uncontrollable deaths and destruction that has provoked more youth to join the ranks of resistance fighters that is all but symbolic apart from the deaths they receive as a sure and settled punishment for their defiance against the state and its brutal architecture of violence.

A few days back, the governor caused a major controversy after he asked the resistance fighters not to target poor innocent security personnel, and advised them to kill corrupt people instead. While inaugurating a tourism festival in Kargil, he said: “The boys with guns are unnecessarily killing unarmed people. They are killing PSOs [Personal Security Officers] and SPOs [Special Police Officers]. Why are you killing them? Kill those who have looted the wealth of your country and your Kashmir. Have you killed any of them so far?”

Apparently, Governor Malik said this in reaction to the murder of Constable Farooq Ahmed Rishi, a PSO with Sajad Mufti, a PDP leader who is also first cousin of former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti. In essence, Malik was regretting the death of poor PSO Rishi and wished that the militants had targeted and killed Sajad Mufti whom he likened to a plunderer. During the PDP rule, the Muftis and their cohorts have been accused of mass corruption siphoning crores from developmental budgets and sneaking in thousands – relatives, workers and others – into various government jobs raking in millions from bribes that were collected in the process.

The governor’s counsel to the resistance militants has run the pro-India National Conference and PDP officials to the ground as they have started to not only feel abandoned by the government but their corruption is also being publicly challenged by the governor. Since the past two weeks, the governor raj administration has initiated actions that have seen former ministers and legislators being questioned by the police over their alleged misuse of office.

One senior PDP minister, Nayeem Akhtar, has been summoned twice by the crime branch of the police for allegedly embezzling funds worth crores. Earlier, the governor administration sacked the chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank (JKB), Parvez Ahmed Nengroo, “on charges of corruption, financial irregularities and nepotism”. This was followed by raids on the JKB headquarters and seizure of records. Nengroo, who was hand-picked for the role by Mehbooba Mufti, had little relevant experience but loads of enthusiasm to act as Mufti’s crony. As a result he wreaked havoc – making more than 1200 “illegal appointments”, including several relatives of Mufti.

Following strong protests from pro-India politicians, who accused him of preparing the ground for their murder, the governor has been forced to issue a clarification. “Whatever I said was in a fit of anger and frustration due to rampant corruption. As a governor, I should not have said this. But if I was not holding this post, I would have said the same and would have been ready to bear the consequences.”

However, he reiterated that many pro-India political leaders and big bureaucrats were steeped in corruption and they owned huge properties in Delhi, Dubai, London and elsewhere. Terming corruption as “the biggest problem in Jammu and Kashmir”, he said “there was no limit to the wealth of the big families who ruled the [Jammu and Kashmir] state”. In a further blow to pro-India Kashmiri politicians, he promised: “I guarantee you that in the next two-three months, you will see two-three big fish, who have been ministers, seeking bail. And then, I will ask you to applaud.”

Malik has earned some applause for his determination to fight against corruption. The recent summoning of Nayeem Akhtar and other PDP legislators is seen as an attempt to clean the rotten system that hides behind such banners as fighting ‘terrorism’.

But there may be another deeper and more political side to this campaign. The Indian government has already demobilised the Hurriyat leadership by initiating a probe into their wealth and assets. Before the state assembly elections that may be held towards the end of the year, the government is trying to restrict unionist parties like the PDP and National Conference through similar probes so the BJP could won virtually uncontested. Sadly, the leaders from varying groups are carrying a lot of baggage to mount a meaningful rebuttal.

Twitter: @murtaza_shibli

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