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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2710

Independence from India: Task for Kashmir Governor

By Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal

After terrorizing and killing innocent Kashmiris for decades since 1947 when it tactfully annexed the neighboring Jammu Kashmir, India, amid international criticism of Indian atrocities, seems to have decided to change its course of policy in Kashmir with the appointment of a bureaucrat as its new Governor. Governors, not elected by people, but appointed by central government, play very important role, at times even by controlling the elected assembly. On 11 June, Indian government appointed N N Vohra a bureaucrat with a lot of administrative experience in various capacities as new Governor of Jammu Kashmir.

Arriving from New Delhi, N N Vohra on June 25 took over Srinagar as the new Governor of the Jammu Kashmir state. Vohra, who became the 12th Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, succeeding Lt Gen (Retd) S K Sinha who is involved in the arrangement of secret graveyards in Kashsmir, was administered oath by Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Justice K S Radhakrishnan. Among others Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former tourism minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, CPI (M) State Secretary M Y Tarigami, cabinet ministers, opposition National Conference President Omar Abdullah, High Court judges, legislators, Chief Secretary S S Kapur, Minister for Health and Medical Education, Mangat Ram Sharma, Minister for Higher Education, Gulchain Singh Charak, Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda and senior civil, police and army officers Gulam Nabi Azad is comfortable with were present.

In the morning, Azad bid adieu to the outgoing Governor, S K Sinha, whose term expired on June 4, at the airport. Sinha has criticized the People's Democratic Party (PDP), a coalition in government that insisted on a non-military person as the new incumbent in Governor’s palace, for his bad fortunes in not getting another term.

Soon after the oath ceremony, new governor appealed to the people not to fall prey to anger and urged them to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony. New governor said he would continue to remain in touch with the people in Kashmir as he used to be as the chief interlocutor of the central government. According to him the state has reached this stage of peace after lot of sufferings. "We have to move ahead and strengthen this process. Whatever be the reason for the problem, we have to sit together and find out the solution. If there is need for amendment we will do it. What is the difficulty in holding talks? Every problem has a solution through dialogue. It is unwise to take to streets and resort to violence," the governor said, he has been coming to Kashmir for last five years and he is happy over his appointment as the governor and wants to serve the people of the state.

Kashmir Governor

That the Congress-led UPA government in Delhi at long last decided to opt for a civilian governor after nearly two decades is being seen as a significant departure from the prescribed path, which may presage far reaching changes in policy.

Jammu Kashmir state mostly had a military personnel as JK government who is also anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan and anti-China and obviously anti-Kashmir, because India has been keen to retain JK under its heavy control at any cost. Governor, as an agent of Indian government, controls Kashmiris, to the detriment of the freedom movement of Kashmiris, with iron hand resulting in the genocide of thousands of innocent Kashmiris over decades since its military occupation.

Jammu Kashmir's governor enjoys special status as he, besides enjoying the special privileges as JK incumbent, derives special pleasures in regular genocide and torture of Kashmiris. He dutifully reports the “terrorism and cross-border-terrorism” in JK to Indian media and Central government, while also secretly gives exact pictures of state terrorism and number of Muslim deaths in J.K. to appease the bureaucrats and politicians in the capital.

For this governor is felicitated by Indian government organizations and pro-India outfits in JK. Every military terror act is justified. Indian media dutifully support the Indian state terrorism in JK and slam the defenseless Kashmiris for protesting and reacting to state terrorism at time with arms.

N.N. Vohra has been involved in the politics of India in dealing with foreign countries and with Kashmir. As a person with a fair idea about shifting Indian policies on Kashmir should be knowing every thing about Kashmir’s existence last few years. He should be aware of facts about JK, now a Union state, the sovereign seeking Kashmiris, their torture and genocide up to the recent Discovery of secret graveyards in Kashmir. Hence, Vohra has termed Kashmir problem as "complex" and the task is tremendous. “Kashmir is a complex problem and we have to deal with the legacy of 60 years, which has been left behind, at the administrative level or otherwise," a wire agency quoted Vohra as saying.

Speculation

There has been speculation whether the Governor should be an ex-military person, a former intelligence officer, a politician or a bureaucrat. The appointment of an ex-bureaucrat, it is felt, would be a reflection of the improving security situation in the State. He was short-listed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi and in consideration of international outrage on the recent discovery of secret grave-yards in Kashmir, but the final choice fell on lucky Vohra.

The PDP, a coalition ruling party in Jammu Kashmir, had demanded that a civilian person be appointed as a reflection of the improving security situation in the Valley. JK chief minister and a known pro-India leader in the state, Gulam Nabi Azad, on the other hand, was pushing for an extension for incumbent General Sinha. Vohra not only gives Raj Bhavan a civilian face but also comes with experience handling tricky security related matters. The state's Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, a Congress party strategist, also had lobbied for another term for Gen Sinha or, if not, for the appointment of former army chief Gen S. Padmanabhan.

Who is Mr. Vohra?

N N Vohra will be the first person without army or intelligence background to occupy the gubernatorial post in the state in the past 18 years. Senior BJP leader Jagmohan was the last civilian to hold the office of governor in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, but he is known for his anti-Kashmir and anti-Pakistan views and had full military support. Every governor so far has only got Kashmir heavily militarized and killed innocent Kashmiris regularly. He was recalled from the state in 1990 to be replaced by former RAW chief Girish Chandra Saxena, who was replaced by Gen (Retd) K V Krishna Rao in 1993. However, Saxena returned to the post in 1998 till Sinha took over in 2003. Vohra was a member of the National Security Advisory Board (1998-2001) and Chairman, National Task Force on Internal Security (2000).He was Co-Chairman of India-EU Round Table (2001).

A seasoned bureaucrat, 72-year-old Vohra is currently New Delhi’s interlocutor for talks with the Kashmiri patriots seeking their sovereignty back. In 2003, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance had appointed the former home secretary as the interlocutor for J&K. Vohra had succeeded in persuading the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat Conference to hold talks with then Home Minister L K Advani. He held several rounds of talks with the pro-Kashmir leaders apart from the series of talks with the pro-India and other political parties and the representatives of various social and trade organizations.

A bureaucratic magnet in New Delhi, Vohra has held several important posts related to national security including home secretary, defence secretary and principal secretary to the Prime Minister and his advice is sought by the government on Kashmir issue. N N Vohra was a member of the Indian Administrative Service from 1959 to 1994. During his bureaucratic tenure from 1954 to 1994, he served as Union Home and Defence Secretaries. He was recalled from retirement to serve as Principal Secretary to the prime minister from 1997 to 1998 and since then he has been associated with government assignments. Vohra was also the chairman of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis from 1999 to 2001 and chairman of Military History Review Committee between 2001 and 2002. He also received the Padma Vibhushan earlier this year in recognition of his “services” to his Indian cause abroad including Kashmir and in India.

Interestingly, Manmohan Singh had rejected the proposal to appoint Vohra as the governor of Jammu and Kashmir in 2004 as India has been keen to brutally suppress the freedom movement in JK with military establishment in gubernatorial office. This time, "Dr Singh thought that the time is ripe for Vohra’s appointment," revealed another senior bureaucrat. “Commentators wonder if the time is now ripe for granting independence back to Kashmiris and if so, the decision would be indeed historic.

Welcome?

Kashmiris seek their sovereignty back from New Delhi and looks forward to the new governor to pursue their case sincerely and honestly. There haven conflicting views about the new incumbent. The People's Democratic Party, part of the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir has welcomed the appointment of N N Vohra as the new Governor of the state. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said that it is a good step by the Centre. Mufti said, "We expect that things will change for the better." The PDP had demanded that a civilian person be appointed as a reflection of the improving security situation in the Valley.

Many pro-India political outfits have welcomed the appointment. But many are cautious about their statements. The CPI (M) also hailed the decision, the State Secretary M Y Tarigami said Vohra's appointment was the need of the hour as it would send a signal that the Kashmir issue has to be addressed politically and military solutions are not viable. "The powers in Delhi as well as in Jammu and Kashmir have to realize that the situation in the state cannot be tackled only militarily. There is a need for a political response to the issue. Both PDP and Tarigami had called for Sinha's replacement accusing him of eroding the credibility of the constitutional office.

Of course, Indian terror has made its tangible results in Kashmir. After terror unleashed by the state by keeping a military personnel, people are expected to feel some relief at the news of a non-military governor for the JK. People seek some solace from military terrorism and any change is welcome to them.

Resistance leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has described Vohra as a reasonable person. "We have had dealings with Vohra," Farooq said. "He came across as a reasonable person in the meetings we had with two Indian governments." Farooq had led round table dialogue with the government of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and more directly with his successor and current prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

Meanwhile the Hurriyat leader Geelani has restated has appealed to Indian government to come forward to reach a negotiated peaceful settlement of Jammu Kashmir, keeping in view the aspirations of Kashmiris.

Indian New Agenda?

The Congress-led UAP government in Delhi, supported by the Communists from outside, decided to opt for a civilian governor after nearly two decades is being seen as a significant departure from the prescribed path, which may presage far reaching changes in policy.

Vohra's appointment by the Centre as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir comes at a time when the Assembly election is to be held later this year. Vohra has been the Centre's mediator since 2003 for talks with various freedom fighting groups in Jammu and Kashmir whom New Delhi and its terror mongering media in India and Jammu as “separatists and terrorists”. A seasoned and veteran bureaucrat, he has occupied a number of high posts in the government, including the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and he could help New Delhi to have complete easy hold over Kashmir fairly easily.

The exact reason for India in choosing a non-military person could be guessed, but the hidden agenda behind getting an adviser on military affairs is not explicitly known, but many in JK believe that the appointment has set the right tone for allowing independence for Kashmir. The government has asked Vohra to hold talks with all the political parties and prepare a comprehensive report on the steps that need to be taken to improve the situation in the state. "The tasks before us are tremendous. Kashmir is a complex problem and we have to deal with the legacy of 60 years, which has been left behind, at the administrative level or otherwise," Vohra said in an interview. Vohra has acknowledged that Kashmir was a complex problem. He is likely to assume the charge in a few days. Reports say Sinha is likely to vacate the state Raj Bhavan in a few days.

During a recent meeting with the union home minister, Shivraj Patil, Vohra is reported to have discussed the stalled talks between the government of India and the freedom fighting conglomerate, Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. "We are committed to carry forward the peace process initiated by the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee," he said, adding discussions were going on at various levels about it and that the dates for the talks were to be fixed now.

As the chairman of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis from 1999 to 2001 (currently this institution is located in the Old JNU campus, New Delhi) and chairman of Military History Review Committee between 2001 and 2002, Vohra has definitely helped Indian government shape its policy in Kashmir leading to heavy militarization and rampant genocide and as such he is a also responsible for the secret grave yards discovered in Kashmir recently. However, Kashmiris should patiently wait to see what the new incumbent in gubernatorial bungalow is going to do for freedom issue.

Though with the appointment of a bureaucrat not known for his pro-Kashmir approach to resolve the crisis and surrender sovereignty back to Kashmiris, India has not clearly showed its willingness to see reason and vacate Kashmir for good, it is still not a negative step, bur even could be considered to be a positive one, considering the long time Indian policies.

The new governor has refused to directly comment on the ongoing controversy regarding the transfer of forest land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), or the role of Raj Bhawan.

Will India Change?

This is indeed a billion dollar question. Since 1947 India has always espoused self-righteous attitude and pretended to be knowing every thing from democracy and secularism to modernity and rejected all good advice even from its best friends to let Kashmiris live peacefully by vacating Kashmir and treat Indian Muslims as a legitimate entity and not as enemy of India. India continued to militarize Jammu Kashmir and it wanted to finish off the Kashmiris stock and barrel through military means.

Gulam Nabi Azad, the present CM of JK deputed by New Delhi high command to lead the government in JK, has supervised all acts of state terrorism on innocent Kashmiris seeking sovereign back, clearly wanted to use the military power further to kill the innocent Kashmiris by seeking the central government to either to reappoint Sinha or appoint another military personnel, has lost his moral right to rule Kashmir any more, though he continued to be an elected member of JK Assembly.

Indian strategist N.N. Vohra, the new incumbent in Governor's lodge, should ask himself a vital question: “Will I keep silent if my neighbors invade and occupy by force my own property with the help of criminals and anti-social elements with the support of law and order authorities while the judiciary being silent and media calling him and his affected people as terrorists or cross-border-terrorists. Obviously his answer will certainly be: “Never, I will kill those dirty guys!". And he poses the same question to Indian president, premier or any other dignitary in New Delhi or Srinagar, the reply will not be entirely different.

The new Indian strategist in Srinagar should now realize how noble the cause of the patriotic Kashmiris whose sovereignty their neighbor India had stolen by force and continues to occupy Kashmir and kill innocent Kashmiris.

A Word: A free, independent Kashmir

Enough is really enough! Freedom-cum-independence is birth right of every nation, including Jammu Kashmir. India should grant, rather surrender, the Kashmiris their sovereignty. He has admitted Kashmiris have suffered a lot and India has managed to raise a huge pile of Kashmiri dead bodies. New Governor Vohra should be sincere and should avoid playing red-tapism and double-speak in dealing with Kashmiris. He must, once for all, realize that Kashmiris are entitled to sovereignty and, therefore, seek full and complete independence and freedom from occupying India to mange their own affairs peacefully, meaningfully, and fearlessly.

India must seize the opportunity of prevailing peaceful atmosphere to negotiate with freedom fighting groups and, in stead of trying to split them further as it always dies, governor must chart out modalities for transfer of power to the Kashmiris. And any fresh attempts, however, under any new disguise, from Indian government, to maintain control over Kashmir will be resisted by Kashmiris, the patriotic Kashmiris, as before. Yatra tactics will only harm any purposeful dialog with Kashmiris, even if the intention is to delay independence to them. “Terrorism” and “cross-border-terrorism” strategies won’t work for ever.

World , obviously, expects a basic shift in Indian approach to Kashmir issue with the latest move, looking like a positive one, and let Kashmiris have their sovereignty back at least now after all this genocide and destruction in that nation. Freedom-cum-independence is the birth right of Kashmiris as much as of any other nation. India must fulfill their legitimate aspirations at the earliest. Vohra should, without losing any further time, should initiate steps in that direction.

Demilitarization and force withdrawal should begin now. The Kashmiris shall still be grateful to India for so kindly granting their independence now at least. Independent Kashmir would maintain good neighborly relations with both India and Pakistan. Of course, Kashmiris can run their own affairs independently. India should let Kashsmris save the remaining lives peacefully.

- Asian Tribune -

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