With Central rule formally introduced in J&K on Wednesday after the resignation of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti upon the sudden withdrawal of support by her coalition partner BJP, Governor N.N. Vohra has acted in copybook fashion so far. Mr Vohra has had a reputation for uprightness and constitutional conduct and been even-handed in his 10 years in J&K as the state’s constitutional head. His term expires on June 25. It’s to be hoped that the Centre is able to retain his services after that. There’s a buzz that he may like to move on and another governor appointed.
The present governor’s continuation could calm nerves in a highly-polarised atmosphere as he has a well-earned name for political neutrality. Given the RSS-BJP’s perceived policy of unrestrained use of the military, regardless of its consequences on the civilian population in a theatre of conflict, a man of balance guiding the state is likely to carry political value. The governor began the present round of Central rule well with two significant observations — that the youth in Kashmir are “disappointed”, and that minimum damage should be caused to civilians when the security forces conduct operations. Both are important and touch upon key concerns of J&K as they relate to issues on which the Pakistani jihadist establishment feeds off. Congress leader and former CM Ghulam Nabi Azad, for the past two days, has stressed the need to safeguard civilians as the security forces do their job.
Motivated interests should desist from misinterpreting this, for trivial political gains, to suggest he’s in cahoots with jihadis or foreign quarters. That would be a travesty, and detract from a sense of national solidarity in tackling terrorism. The maximum political consensus is vital now, as indicated by the governor’s move to call an all-party meeting in Srinagar on Friday. National Conference leader and former CM Omar Abdullah has urged the governor to dissolve the state Assembly instead of keeping it in suspended animation. He worries about horse-trading by unscrupulous political elements if the House’s term is not immediately extinguished after the premature end of the elected government, and early elections held.
The NC leader’s anxiety is not without merit. But the immediate dissolution of the House could heighten expectations about Assembly polls in the near future. This can conceivably lead to the further intensifying of extremist and terrorist activity backed by external interests. There’s every need to guard against such an eventuality while being mindful of the need to hold fresh polls as soon as feasible. As the ruling party at the Centre, the BJP, while giving functioning autonomy to the security forces to tackle a difficult situation, must act with restraint on the political front and give no quarter to those raising anti-Kashmiri sentiments. Patriotism lies in remaining balanced.