The Man in the Mud­dle

A pop­u­lar gov­er­nor faces a tough task

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - David De­vadas

J&K gov­er­nor NN Vohra faces huge chal­lenges, but his rep­u­ta­tion and the good­will he com­mands will help

Amid a wel­ter of im­ages of blood and war, it is easy to lose sight of how deeply peo­ple crave for good gov­er­nance. The good news from Kash­mir last fort­night was that peo­ple by and large wel­comed gov­er­nor’s rule. “Peo­ple are very happy about gov­er­nor’s rule, es­pe­cially with this gov­er­nor,” youth ac­tivist Touseef raina ob­served a cou­ple of days af­ter the BJP with­drew sup­port to the Pdp-led coali­tion on June 19. In­deed, nn Vohra has earned a re­doubtable rep­u­ta­tion dur­ing the three ear­lier pe­ri­ods in which he has di­rectly gov­erned the state. Peo­ple by and large say that work got done each time, rang­ing from river dredg­ing to garbage dis­posal, and cor­rup­tion was re­duced. There is wide­spread hope that cor­rup­tion will re­duce this time too. “If cor­rup­tion can be stopped,

this will go down as the best ad­min­is­tra­tion,” said na­jmu saqib, who was as­so­ci­ated with the chief min­is­ter’s of­fice when Me­hbooba Mufti was the chief min­is­ter. In that ca­pac­ity, he has closely seen how frus­trated and an­gry peo­ple at large are over cor­rup­tion – and how tough it is to curb it.

The gov­er­nor has made it clear that re­spon­sive gov­er­nance is his ob­jec­tive. “The en­tire ad­min­is­tra­tive ap­pa­ra­tus, from the very top to the bot­tom shall func­tion with ef­fi­ciency, speed and ac­count­abil­ity to serve the peo­ple and re­gain the trust of the com­mon man,” he told the Hin­dus­tan Times in an in­ter­view.

The very day Vohra took charge at the sec­re­tar­iat, sev­eral in­struc­tions were is­sued for com­pli­ance

to be re­ported the next day – such as on pend­ing an­nual prop­erty state­ments and an­nual per­for­mance re­ports. No of­fi­cer or head of depart­ment is to leave sta­tion with­out prior per­mis­sion. all gov­ern­ment of­fices are to im­me­di­ately ac­quire bio­met­ric ma­chines at com­pet­i­tive rates to en­sure that em­ploy­ees clock in and out on time. The pay of em­ploy­ees who do not at­tend of­fice may be docked.

The re­sults were vis­i­ble on the streets: a cou­ple of days later, mar­kets were buzzing with civil ser­vants check­ing the qual­ity of pro­vi­sions and food be­ing sold. Link­ing pay to at­ten­dance could have a damp­en­ing ef­fect on har­tals, which tend to be called rather fre­quently in Kash­mir. It is no­table that the har­tal that was called for the day the gov­er­nor took charge was with­drawn – though a har­tal was called, and ob­served, on the fol­low­ing mon­day to protest the killing of a civil­ian who had been out to protest against an en­counter.

Mil­i­tants in the field

The wor­ry­ing news of course is that the fre­quency of en­coun­ters is bound to in­crease. so will stone-pelt­ing protests against these. a large num­ber of fresh teenagers have been re­cruited into mil­i­tancy over the past few months, in­clud­ing dur­ing the ramzan em­bargo on ini­ti­at­ing op­er­a­tions. Plus, large num­bers of for­eign mil­i­tants from across the Line of con­trol are lurk­ing in var­i­ous parts of the Val­ley, es­pe­cially the north.

many adults were pleased at the pause in op­er­a­tions dur­ing ramzan, see­ing it as an en­cour­ag­ing sig­nal of the gov­ern­ment’s good­will. But teenagers, among whom mil­i­tancy is largely con­cen­trated, have been strongly rad­i­calised by a bar­rage of so­cial me­dia and other mes­sag­ing over the past few years. coun­ter­ing rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion is a much big­ger chal­lenge than coun­ter­ing mil­i­tancy. But var­i­ous arms of the state have not even be­gun to make an

Coun­ter­ing rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion is a much big­ger chal­lenge than coun­ter­ing mil­i­tancy. But var­i­ous arms of the state have not even be­gun to make an im­pact on this, de­spite much talk and huge ex­pen­di­ture.

In fact, at a time when both in­fil­tra­tion and shelling on the Line of Con­trol has been ris­ing like a storm over the past few years, the army must free it­self as much as pos­si­ble, and as fast as pos­si­ble, from the in­ter­nal se­cu­rity du­ties that are bog­ging it down in the Val­ley.

im­pact on this, de­spite much talk and huge ex­pen­di­ture.

The irony is that po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion takes place among school and uni­ver­sity stu­dents rather than in madarsas. For longterm suc­cess, the gov­ern­ment must work ur­gently and hard to re­vamp school cur­ric­ula, ped­a­gog­i­cal meth­ods, and teach­ers’ train­ing. Teach­ers train­ing colleges in Kash­mir have func­tioned like short­course de­gree shops.

Worse, many of to­day’s teach­ers were ed­u­cated dur­ing the very dis­turbed pe­riod of the 1990s, when ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions could barely func­tion.

The wise and ex­pe­ri­enced Vohra is well aware of this chal­lenge. He stated soon af­ter tak­ing over that he will reach out to the youth through par­ents, teach­ers, and civil so­ci­ety, and has al­ready sought the back­ing of po­lit­i­cal par­ties for this. He de­nied that gov­er­nor’s rule meant a ‘mus­cu­lar ap­proach’.

Rad­i­cal­ized youth

on the ground, the num­ber of en­coun­ters did in­crease im­me­di­ately af­ter the cen­tre ended its mora­to­rium on ini­ti­at­ing counter-ter­ror op­er­a­tions. Some high-pro­file tar­gets were killed, in­clud­ing da­wood Salafi, the face of Isis-ori­ented mil­i­tancy in the Val­ley. But the gov­ern­ment must do its ut­most to break the spi­ralling cy­cle of vi­o­lence. The fu­ner­als of lo­cal mil­i­tants are a ma­jor mo­ti­va­tor for fresh teenagers to take up arms. In fact, a large num­ber of boys in south Kash­mir are ready for mil­i­tancy, but lack arms.

even while se­cur­ing ar­mouries and am­mu­ni­tion si­los with ex­tra care, and show­ing cut­ting edge ef­fi­ciency in deal­ing with mil­i­tants, the forces are sen­si­tive to the dan­ger that their ac­tions could push more boys to­wards mil­i­tancy. dis­ci­plined ad­her­ence to op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures is cru­cial. Lt gen a K Bhatt, the corps com­man­der in charge of op­er­a­tions in the Val­ley, told me a few days be­fore the ramzan pause that his forces were re­spon­sive to this ob­jec­tive.

In fact, at a time when both in­fil­tra­tion and shelling on the Line of con­trol has been ris­ing like a storm over the past few years, the army must free it­self as much as pos­si­ble, and as fast as pos­si­ble, from the in­ter­nal se­cu­rity du­ties that are bog­ging it down in the Val­ley.

In this re­gard, cor­rup­tion and ha­rass­ment by the po­lice are key is­sues. Po­lice forces tend to be rude and ex­ploita­tive, even ex­tor­tion­ist, in dif­fer­ent

parts of the world but, in Kash­mir, such be­hav­iour bol­sters se­ces­sion­ist nar­ra­tives, and brings re­cruits to mil­i­tancy. The late mil­i­tant com­man­der Burhan Wani, the most com­mon hero among to­day’s Kash­miri teenagers, turned mil­i­tant at the age of 16 af­ter he and his brother were ar­bi­trar­ily abused and slapped by spe­cial op­er­a­tions po­lice­men.

The wide range of meet­ings by di­nesh­war sharma, the cen­tre’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive for talks in Kash­mir, have helped. ground-level ini­tia­tives to soothe the anger of youth have had far more im­pact than the high-spend events that took place last year – such as an ad­nan sami concert for which en­try was re­stricted to ‘VIPS’ of var­i­ous grades, and their fam­i­lies and as­so­ciates. Those events ac­tu­ally alien­ated youth – as if they were be­ing pub­licly taunted – since in­struc­tions were strictly given that stu­dents not in­vited by a ‘VIP’ were not to be al­lowed any­where near the venue.

In fact, ef­fi­cient and fair gov­er­nance, which reaches out re­spon­sively to those be­yond the charmed cir­cles of power and in­flu­ence, could do far more to as­suage tem­pers than any num­ber of hoopla events.

Wide re­spect

Those who are now in charge of the state gov­ern­ment cer­tainly in­spire con­fi­dence. Vohra uniquely com­mands re­spect in both Jammu and the Kash­mir Val­ley. He has learnt a lot about the state in the ten years he has been gov­er­nor, and dur­ing the time when he was the cen­tre’s in­ter­locu­tor to­wards the end of Va­j­payee’s ten­ure. In that ca­pac­ity, he brought about meet­ings of Hur­riyat lead­ers with the prime min­is­ter and home min­is­ter. He also brings to his work his rich ex­pe­ri­ence as home sec­re­tary, de­fence sec­re­tary, and prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary to the prime min­is­ter. not just that, he han­dled in­tel­li­gence-re­lated work at the be­gin­ning of his ca­reer (af­ter the china war) and as an air force trainee of­fi­cer when he was a teenager.

The two ad­vi­sors to the gov­er­nor too are well suited – one to take charge of counter-in­sur­gency, the other to run the ad­min­is­tra­tion. BB Vyas held si­mul­ta­ne­ous charge of sev­eral de­part­ments in the state gov­ern­ment be­fore he be­came the chief sec­re­tary last year. and K Vi­jay Ku­mar, who was spe­cial sec­re­tary in the home min­istry un­til may, is held in awe by the CRPF and po­lice of­fi­cers in gen­eral, par­tic­u­larly for his field role to counter the dreaded san­dal­wood smug­gler, Veer­ap­pan.

The team’s im­me­di­ate chal­lenge is to se­cure the amar­nath Ya­tra, which be­gan on June 28 and will con­tinue till au­gust 26. se­cu­rity ar­range­ments for the Ya­tra and for In­de­pen­dence day will be their top pri­or­ity. The Ya­tra has been a lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge for the past two decades. at­tacks on it are more likely this year, in light of the in­creased ex­clu­sivist rad­i­cal­ism among many Kash­miri youth.

The im­pend­ing gen­eral elec­tions will give se­cu­rity con­cerns an added edge. The po­lit­i­cal fall­out of pos­si­ble vi­o­lence dur­ing elec­tions makes it highly un­likely that the cen­tre would risk con­duct­ing state elec­tions be­fore the na­tional gen­eral elec­tions. so gov­er­nor’s rule may con­tinue for a sec­ond six-month term, un­til af­ter the na­tional gen­eral elec­tions. If the next two months of ex­traor­di­nary se­cu­rity threats pass off, this team should con­tinue to lead the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

That would ex­plain the dy­namism with which Vohra has be­gun this pe­riod of gov­er­nor’s rule. dur­ing his pre­vi­ous stints of di­rect power, he seemed to view him­self as a care­taker. even so, in the three months be­tween mufti say­eed’s death and me­hbooba mufti tak­ing power (Jan­uary to april 2016), he had pre­pared the ground for ma­jor steps, in­clud­ing pan­chayat elec­tions and the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of dis­placed per­sons. This time, he seems set to achieve a great deal.

Se­cu­rity ar­range­ments for the Ya­tra and for In­de­pen­dence Day will be their top pri­or­ity. The Ya­tra has been a lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge for the past two decades. At­tacks on it are more likely this year, in light of the in­creased ex­clu­sivist rad­i­cal­ism among many Kash­miri youth.

PM Modi with ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj

Javeed shah

A busy mar­ket in Srinagar

Di­nesh­war Sharma, the cen­tre’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive for talks in Kash­mir

For­mer chief min­is­ter Me­hbooba Mufti

The ad­vi­sors to the gov­er­nor: BB Vyas, IAS (L), and K Vi­jay Ku­mar, IPS

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