Millennium Post

On the question of Guv's rule

There seems to be a growing clamour for the imposition of Governor's rule in the state of Jammu and Kashmir among certain sections of the political class and the media. Last month, National Conference patriarch and former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah advocated Governor's rule moments after he secured a win in the stormy Srinagar Lok Sabha by-bolls, which saw a dismal 7.14% voter turnout and violent clashes between protesters and the security forces. This unfortunate development was soon followed by the Election Commission's decision to call off by-elections for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat because of the "scary" ground situation. Days later, the Valley witnessed the murder of a young army officer from South Kashmir at the hands of militant groups. Ummer Fayaz Parray had come home on a holiday to attend a relative's wedding when he was picked up by gunmen. His body was later found ridden with bullet holes. Is it any surprise that the clamour for Governor's rule has only grown louder? As argued in these columns, the situation in Kashmir has deteriorated to levels not seen in a very long time. Other opposition parties, including the Congress, have also reiterated the demand for Governor's rule. Former officers of the Indian armed forces have warned that unrest in the region is spiralling out of control. "What is worrisome is that it now seems to have become a direct fight between the security forces and the civilian population. This goes against our whole approach to counter-insurgency that people are the centre of gravity of all our actions. What has happened is that the political healing touch is missing. If it carries on any longer, it will end up brutalising both the security forces and the civilians," said Lt Gen DS Hooda (retd), who headed the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command till last November. Evidently, the people of Kashmir Valley have lost patience with mainstream political parties, especially the ruling BJP-PDP alliance.

For the uninitiated, Governor's rule can be imposed for a period up to six months if there is a complete breakdown of the constitutional machinery. During this six months, the State Assembly is either dissolved or left in suspended animation. If the political class is unable to prop up the constitutional machinery within this stipulated period, then one witnesses the imposition of President's rule. Security officials in the Valley have reportedly argued that Governor's rule would bring stability to the security situation in the Valley, and aid the process of containing extremist elements. Officials also believe that the PDP-BJP alliance has grown very unpopular in the Valley, and governor's rule might help calm tempers. In the past fortnight, leaders from both parties have stated that the imposition of Governor's rule is a serious possibility. There is seemingly growing political consensus on the idea. With the capacity of the current State government to tackle the current unrest in serious doubt and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's assertion earlier this month that only Prime Minister Narendra Modi could resolve the ongoing crisis in Kashmir, the political process is only driving in one direction. Admittedly, there was some resentment against the PDP-BJP alliance in many parts of the Valley. The PDP had fought the 2014 Assembly elections on the promise that it would keep the BJP and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh out of the Valley. With the voters in Jammu uniting behind the BJP, and Ladakh split, the state was heading to a hung Assembly when the PDP reneged on its promise and entered into an alliance with the BJP. The PDP's decision to break its promise did leave behind a trail of resentment. However, what has further added to the resentment is the inability of the ruling coalition to engage with the people productively while riding on a military strategy which is useless against alienated masses, post the killing of former militant commander Burhan Wani. This is not a problem relegated to the current ruling dispensation in Kashmir or the Centre, but a legacy of past attitudes. In fact, what we see today is more of the same. The much publicised 'Agenda of Alliance' document, which reportedly contained provisions that would bridge the extreme ideological difference of the PDP and BJP, is on the verge or irrelevance. No piece of paper can apparently bridge the gap between the PDP's 'soft separatist' leanings and the BJP's marked Hindu nationalism. Both parties are unable to see eye to eye on a whole host of issues, including talks with separatists and the phased withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The phased withdrawal of AFSPA, for example, had found a place in the Agenda of Alliance document. However, nothing has come of it. Ideological differences between the two sides have come to the fore on many hot-button issues, leaving the economic development of the state in the lurch. In fact, on Sunday, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav conceded that if the alliance indeed fell apart, governor's rule is a real possibility.

On the ground, there seems to be little opposition to the idea of Governor's rule. For those sections of the Valley involved in the current spate of unrest, there is apparently little difference between an elected state government and an administration run by an appointee of the Centre. With governance in a state marked by gross incompetence and poor communication between alliance partners, Governor's rule begins to look like a desirable alternative for certain sections. Kashmir's experience with Governor's rule remains mixed in the six times it has been imposed since 1977. One some occasions, Governor's rule led to unprecedented state repression, while others were marked by better delivery of welfare services and efficient governance. In the aftermath of former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's death, Governor NN Vohra's rule saw the faster clearance of files, better distribution of funds for flood relief, and the implementation of the food security act, among other initiatives. Which way will the Centre move? Only time will tell, but it is apparent that the current ruling dispensation in the State has shown little signs of revival in the face of unrest that has taken an increasingly communal turn. What is exceedingly worrying is the precedence of a particular ideological bent behind the recent spurt in violence. In a recent video published online earlier this year by a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Kashmiri youth were urged to fight for Islam's supremacy rather than a new nation-state. It is a sentiment more prevalent among the disillusioned youth of the state. This completely disregards the spirit of Kashmiriyat, which speaks for religious harmony and brotherhood. The nature of militancy has indeed changed. Some have called it the "ISIS-isation" or the arrival of a profoundly reactionary strain of Sunni Islam in the Kashmir Valley. The origin of the clamour for "azaadi" (freedom) was indeed secular and trans-religious. However, the movement has seemingly morphed into the desire for an Islamic state. Will Governor's rule turn the tide? In isolation, it seems unlikely, but at least with that, there will be some semblance of the state, which has often gone missing in the past.
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