‘False narrative being sold to Kashmiri youth joining militancy which they need to recognise and be wary of’
Jammu and Kashmir is heading towards a spell of president’s rule, the Governor Satya Pal Malik said on Thursday, even as he appealed to all political parties to participate in the upcoming panchayat polls beginning November 17.
In an interview with Greater Kashmir, Malik talked about a host of issues including governance under Governor’s rule, fight against corruption, low voter turnout in the recently-held urban local body elections and Kashmiri youth joining militancy.
‘ASSEMBLY WON’T BE DISSOLVED’
The Governor said the Assembly, which is under suspended animation for the past nearly five months, will not be dissolved.
“There is no issue with the Assembly. I don’t want to unnecessarily tinker with it. There is a reason for it. The elected people are still members of legislative assembly. They have been provided with funds to serve the people. So, even though there is not an elected government in place, the political process is going on, as the process includes political activity as well. Keeping this in mind, the Assembly will not be dissolved,” he said, when asked if any decision is being taken vis-à-vis dissolution of the Assembly.
‘J&K HEADING TOWARDS PRESIDENT’S RULE’
To a query whether J&K is heading towards president’s rule after the six-month Governor’s Rule will ends on December 19, Malik said: “Yes, of course. Jammu and Kashmir is heading towards president’s rule. It is a normal legal procedure according to the constitution.”
ON PANCHAYAT POLLS
About upcoming panchayat polls and the recently-held urban local body elections that were boycotted by the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, Malik said: “NC and PDP did boycott, but a lot of their people did contest the elections. Besides, there is no party system in these local elections. People have been contesting even without symbols. Boycotting elections does not help in solving the Article 35-A issue or Article 370 issue. It does not help in solving any other problem of the state either.”
“Only for your own political posturing, you are boycotting them. How did you participate in the Kargil polls only a couple of months ago? The situation was not any different then. I want to appeal to all the political parties once again to participate in the (panchayat) polls,” he said.
About low voter turnout in the ULB polls and whether he expected the turnout to improve in the panchayat elections, Malik said: “I am 100 percent sure it (voter turnout) will improve. The more localised an election, the more intriguing and interesting it is for the people. I am sure that people in large numbers will cast their vote.”
He said: “As far as security is concerned, I guarantee that all arrangements will be put in place and we will keep people safe and secure. We managed to get through ULB polls without any untoward incident. We tried and succeeded in ensuring that there is no poll related violence across the state.”
‘NOT DEFAMING KASHMIRIS’
About accusations by several mainstream parties that he was defaming Kashmiris, Malik said: “I respect every Kashmiri. Kashmiris are very good people. Very sweet people. Very talented. Wherever they have gone, they have made a name for themselves. Kashmir has produced innumerable honest people. But, it is also true that during the past several years, there has been corruption in the political and bureaucratic system.”
“And it has not only happened in Kashmir, but across the country. Here, in J&K, it has happened little more than rest of the country. When I ask the people who invest money, they tell me that in Kashmir, they are asked to give 10 percent, while in rest of the country it is four percent. They tell me that if one wants to open a coffee shop, it will take the government four years to clear the file,” he said.
Malik said there is a “lot of corruption here.”
“But it is not me who is defaming the Kashmiri people. They are being defamed by the people indulging in corruption. Had there been no corruption, Kashmir would have turned into a city of gold,” the Governor said.
About his roadmap to eradicate corruption, Malik said: “I cancelled two big deals, one pertaining to Reliance mediclaim and the other related to river Jhelum. It was confirmed to me that there is some serious corruption and problems in these things. Many big names—including those related to politics, bureaucracy, business, were part of both the deals. Today, no one tries to pick up a fight with someone as big as Reliance. But I did. I just want to appeal to the people of Kashmir to help me eradicate corruption and fight the people indulging in it.”
He said his administration has decided that the Kashmir Administrative Service officers will declare their properties and assets just like the Indian Administrative Service officers.
“You will be pleased to know that more than 95 percent KAS officers declared their assets and properties within a month. All this will be uploaded on the internet soon,” he said.
He said the government has empowered the anti-corruption bureau. “It has been given the powers to arrest corrupt people and attach their properties as well. This has happened for the first time. People can appeal in the court of law against the arrests or the attachments, but the bureau is empowered. This will result in a sense of fear among the wrongdoers,” he said. “Also, our agencies are keeping a check on corrupt people.”
On alleged increase in number of Kashmiri youth joining militancy since the Governor’s rule was imposed in J&K, Malik said: “The perception is wrong that a lot of people have joined militancy since I took over. Since I assumed the charge of Governor—three months as on November 23—only 1 or 2 local youth have picked up arms. Besides, stone-pelting has also lessened to a great extent. I have tried to change the narrative of the people.”
“I am the first politician who has said, yes, New Delhi has been at fault as well. It did not happen during Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji’s time. It happened before that. Due to the faults of New Delhi, which included making the winners lose and the losers win in elections, making a party win unethically and under rigged elections, the people felt alienated. I spoke honestly about this, and even the Hurriyat leaders said that the Governor’s statement is 50 percent right.”
Malik said he had tried to “set a narrative that violence will not yield anything. And I am not the only one who has said this. Even Parvez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, had told the Hurriyat leaders and some big local politicians, behind closed doors, during the Agra summit, that India is a superpower. He has said that he would not be able to separate Kashmir from the country and that is why it is better to take whatever concession you get from the Indian government.”
“The worst part is that many local political leaders, after returning from meetings in New Delhi, always sold false dreams to the people. This is what made the situation worse,” he said.
About his message to the Kashmiri youth who have joined militancy, Malik said: “I want to tell them that one day, they must leave their weapons behind and come to the Raj Bhavan to meet me. I guarantee you a safe passage to the Raj Bhavan. Come and have food with me and try to make me understand the logic behind picking up arms and what it will yield. I understand that someone has sold you the idea that you will be a martyr and enter paradise. That is your personal matter. I cannot say anything about whether you will or will not enter the paradise. But what I can say is that you have already been bestowed with paradise, which is Kashmir region.”
“In my native village, there are people who kill themselves, claiming it to be sacrifice for some god/goddess, but in reality they are also just fooled by someone into doing it. Similarly, the Kashmiri youth are being sold a false narrative, which they need to recognise and be wary of. The state has a separate constitution, a separate flag. No one can trouble or touch the local people. You can ask for anything that is permissible under the Indian constitution and I assure you that it will be granted.”
The Governor said that New Delhi was not ruling the people. “We—the central government and me—want the people to know that we are friends. We can help each other out. Let us come to a common platform and hold talks. Talks are the best bet. You will surely get whatever you deserve.”
‘INTERLOCUTOR ON JOB’
Asked if the role of interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma has lessened since he joined as the Governor, Malik said: “No. He met me more than a couple of times in the past few months. He is still visiting places and he is satisfied. But there is one thing, some people meet me. But these are not the people that used to meet him. Political people used to meet him and he still does meet delegations. He is on the job.”
‘RATH’S TRANSFER A ROUTINE THING’
Asked why IPS officer Basant Rath was transferred, he said: “In a government job, transfers are inherent. Transfers are a regular thing. It is not like his transfer happened due to any complaint. He is a good officer. He should utilise his potential. I wish him well.”
“Some officers do have a tendency to be more interested in publicity than work. But they need to remember that you have to come here to serve the people, to ensure discipline, to maintain law and order, and not project yourself. I am saying this to every officer, not only him,” the Governor said.
“Basant Rath’s transfer was a normal transfer. It is not a punishment posting. We will post him somewhere else very soon. No one has any ill-will against him. Neither any officer, nor the department.”
Asked about a strong speculation that Rath was transferred due to his altercation with Srinagar mayor Junaid Mattu on social media, the Governor said: “No. The transfer had nothing to do with the spat. But the spat should never have happened in the first place. Being a good officer, he shouldn’t have called the mayor a cabbage.”
“Basant Rath could have told the mayor that he did not agree with him. If he had only done that, it would have been totally fine. But he went a length too far by calling the mayor a cabbage.”
‘SATISFIED WITH GOVERNANCE’
To a query whether he was satisfied with the present governance of Jammu and Kashmir, he said: “I am satisfied in the sense that I am doing my duty honestly. I do not take orders from anyone, except the President and the Prime Minister, who are my heads as per the constitution. I have two constitutions, one of India and the other of J&K, which I try to follow. This makes me satisfied and it makes me happy that the people across the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir are helping me and showing their love.”
“It will be a fight between me and the political parties after I launch a campaign against corruption. I am ready for that. The support the people have shown and are continuing to show is helping me. I want to appeal to everyone to keep supporting and cooperating with the Governor’s administration,” he said.