J&K governor Satya Pal Malik, who is about to be demoted to the position of lieutenant-governor after the constitutional changes that will alter the status of Kashmir — a move that is expected to encounter judicial challenge — owes it to the people of the jurisdiction of which he is constitutional head, as well as to himself, to walk away from his position.
Mr Malik can redeem himself by following the example of Gen. Colin Powell, the US secretary of state who resigned when it became known that he had unknowingly used manipulated information to make the case in the UN for the military invasion of Iraq on the false premise that the Sadddam Hussein regime was a hair’s breadth away from producing banned weapons of mass destruction, and must be pre-empted.
In the days leading up to August 5, the day on which Union home minister Amit Shah formally moved statutory resolutions and the bill to fundamentally alter J&K’s special status, Mr Malik had strenuously denied in public remarks that the cancellation of the Amarnath Yatra midway, the first time in recorded history, and the induction of tens of thousands of troops, had little to do with any planned uprooting of the existing constitutional provisions that govern J&K, as was being widely speculated in the Valley.
More, the governor assured delegations of prominent political leaders — some of whom have since been arrested by his administration — that the whispered talk in Kashmir about projected constitutional changes was just “rumours”.
There is but one attenuating factor Mr Malik can cite. On one occasion he said, and this was reported in the media, that he had no knowledge if constitutional changes were being contemplated by the Centre.
But there is no getting away from the inference that the governor, knowingly or unknowingly, presented a picture in public that was far removed from the plan that was afoot — in short, false, not unlike the case made in the UN by Colin Powell.
Even if Mr Malik was deliberately kept in the dark by New Delhi, he must choose to go, if he holds self-esteem dear. If he was thus shortchanged by his masters at headquarters, it must be because they did not repose enough confidence in him. That is a good reason to depart.
But the most important reason, by far, is that the governor misled the people of J&K by making assertions that we now know were contrary to the facts. Those appointed to high office are sworn to uphold the truth.
It is now amply clear that the changes made in respect of J&K were surreptitious, under the proverbial cover of darkness. Not only were the people not kept informed through public discussion, they were deceived into believing otherwise. The fog of war — talk of the apprehension of Pakistani manoeuvres on the Line of Control and terrorist activity within — was exploited to fool our own people.