Kashmir : The Jagmohan Factor

The Jagmohan Factor :

Jag Mohan Malhotra, popularly known as Jagmohan, worked as Governor of J&K State in two spells; once, from 26 April 1984 up to July 1989 when he was succeeded by General KVK Rao, and second time, from 19 January 1990 to 26 May 1990 when he was succeeded by G C Saxena. Prior to this he served as Vice Chairman of  one of the most corrupt organizations, Delhi Development Authority for many years and earned a bad reputation for wholesale demolition of  Muslim houses in Old Delhi during the Emergency under the patronage of autocratic Indira Gandhi and her equally domineering son, Sanjay Gandhi. Later he served as  Lt Governor of Delhi twice during 1980-81 and 1982-84 and Lt Governor of Goa, Daman and Diu during 1981-82. It was during his second term as Lt Governor of Delhi that Maqbool Bhat of JKLF was hastily hanged in Tihar Jail on 11 February 1984.

During his first term Jagmohan tried to bring some changes in the working of J&K State which gullible Kashmiris welcomed. The repairing of roads was handed over to Border Roads Organization which people appreciated but little realized that the employment of local people was reduced in the process. In his open letter to Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India, dated 21 April 1990, he asserts that he had devoted his time to creative and constructive work of Mata Vaishno Devi, which people of Jammu appreciated. However, it has to be left to the judgement of the people whether a Governor of a Secular State should have wholly and solely devoted his attention to the development of a temple belonging to a particular community especially when there were many more pressing circumstances to attend to especially the security of the state. Not only this, in the process he virtually handed over a Hindu temple to nominees of Government while no other shrine worth the name of any other community was touched especially when there were reports of Auqaf of Kashmir being mismanaged by the trustees.

In order to appease Indira Gandhi, Jagmohan, during his first tenure, removed Farooq Abdullah, who had been serving as Chief Minister of the State from 08 September 1982, unceremoniously on 02 July 1984 on flimsy grounds. One of the grounds was that there were anti-India demonstrations held during International Cricket match held between India and West Indies in Amar Singh Club grounds. In fact one should have appreciated the efforts of Farooq Abdullah for organizing the match for the first time since independence in Kashmir valley and such minor incidents were bound to happen. They have even happened during Indo-Pak matches in places like Ahmedabad. Second ground was that during the public lecture of Indira Gandhi in Kashmir a few men, alleged to be National Conference men (not proved by any inquiry) had stripped themselves before her. What Indira Gandhi and Jagmohan did not realize that there was nobody of the caliber of G M Sadiq who could have filled in the vacuüm created by removing Farooq. The cure was much worse than the disease. Farooq Abdullah was replaced by his brother-in-law, Ghulam Mohammad Shah, popularly known as Gula Shah, who indulged in plunder of the exchequer during his less than two-year stint. The  Governor  had engineered defections from the National Conference with promise of Chief Ministership to G M Shah since he had become aware of differences between Sheikh Abdullah and his long time comrades, Mirza Afzal Beg and G M Shah which had cropped up during former’s life time only when it became known that Sheikh Abdullah was trying to groom his son to succeed him. The Governor had not done his home work properly and had not consulted the dossiers of G M Shah from 1947 onwards. It was a known fact that  Mirza Afzal Beg and G M Shah were mainly responsible for pushing Sheikh Abdullah to the other extreme of seeking secession of J&K State in 1953 and G M Shah remained in constant touch with authorities across the border all those years besides being actively on their pay rolls. G M Shah was reported to have been in touch with the Al Fatah organization also during the early 1960’s. Jagmohan himself writes in his book ,’ The Frozen Turbulence'(p140), that after G M Shah was deposed he proclaimed publicly that ,” Every Kashmiri Muslim is a Pakistani, I am also a Pakistani. A great mistake was made by acceding to India.” With this background the prudence of  Jagmohan becomes questionable as regards removal of Farooq Abdullah and replacing him by G M Shah, a self-proclaimed Pakistani. It did not take much time for the Government of India to realize the fallacy and therefore G M Shah had to be removed on 06 March 1986  after having ruled the state for less than two years. This was followed by the Governor’s rule from 6 March 1986 to 17 November 1986 almost for 9 months during which Jagmohan’s authoritative and autocratic streak came to the surface and some development was registered in the State. Here too one has to realize that Jagmohan like P C Alexander was a bureaucrat and not an elected representative and was not answerable to people and the legislature and therefore such progress could be achieved given the will to do so.

Further it has to be noticed that J&K State saw the first communal carnage in Anantnag during 1986 when Kashmiri Pandits were harassed and persecuted while Jagmohan was the Governor. Neither any inquiry into the incidents was ordered nor culprits and their mentors brought to book.

It may be true that  militancy flared up in 1989 after the episode of Rubaiya Syed but the network spread by the militants throughout the State could not have been achieved in just 6 months time when Jagmohan was not  the Governor of the State. Fact remains that  Jagmohan was holding the office of Governor for 5 years and 4 months  from April 1984 to  July 1989  and again took over charge on 19 January 1990 with an interregnum of just six months only. It is more than clear that during his tenure as Governor the militants had developed a vast terror network in the State, sent young men for training across the border to POK, Pakistan and Afghanistan and had brought in and dumped arms and ammunition in the State not only in the valley but in Rajouri, Poonch and Doda districts of Jammu as well and the intelligence apparatus whatever of both State and the Center had failed completely. No notice whatsoever of these developments was taken by the Governor. Suffice it to say that  Jagmohan, the Governor, was either busy looking after the development of  Mata Vaishno Devi Temple or sending warning signals to his Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi or penning down his memoirs, ‘The Frozen Turbulence’, in the same way as General B M Kaul wrote his memoirs, ‘The Untold Story’ to justify the reverses of Indian troops in 1962 ignoring his own fad of wasting time of soldiers in constructing houses in Ambala instead of getting properly trained.

Notwithstanding what is said above, it cannot be denied that Jagmohan was handed over a sinking Titanic on 19 January 1990. As a result of collusion, sabotage and administrative apathy, the State government had been paralyzed, and naturally therefore, Jagmohan had to start from a scratch and revamp the whole system amid deafening slogans of ‘Azadi, Azadi’, huge serpentine processions, mass breaking of curfews  and showers of bullets on security forces. However, in tackling the situation he over reacted perhaps out of helplessness or a sense of loss. Instead of proving ‘a nursing orderly ‘ to the people of Kashmir as promised by him in his broadcast at the time of take over, he became ‘an incarnate tyrant ‘ with his non-stop curfews, house to house searches and merciless firing upon processions, though as claimed by him no ‘Tiananmen square’ was enacted. It must be mentioned here that he may have carried anti-Muslim syndrome since partition and had tried his hand during emergency in Turkman Gate but failed. His secular stance was later exposed once he was deposed from the Governor’s post where after he chose to join Bhartiya Janta Party and got elected as Member of Parliament. His mindset about Kashmir is also exposed in his article ‘1953-A Kashmir Story’ which appeared in the Deccan Chronicle of 3 October 2012.  While credit may be given to him for having rescued the valley from total disaster yet it cannot be denied that his perception and treatment  of the malady even after he had been able to control it remained coloured and skewed. People in the valley were forced to stay indoors under curfew continuously for 25 days (20 January – 15 February 1990) and afterwards  for nearly two months with just a few hour’s relaxation periodically.

In this context C B Khanduri is of the opinion that “Curfews , if constantly imposed lose their effectiveness and pave the way for anarchy on the one hand and growing militancy in the guerrilla warfare and insurgency on the other.” ‘The Patriot’ , visualizing the situation in Kashmir wrote that , “Mr Jagmohan is of course not a politician. He cannot provide political answers to the valley and to the Anti-India sickness.” It is thus clear that choice of Jagmohan as Governor of J&K State was ill-advised.

Some more failures on the part of Jagmohan in dealing with Kashmir Crisis are mentioned briefly  hereunder :

1) Jagmohan forgot that he was working in a democratic environment and not in an autocratic rule. He should have learned some lessons from his actions in Delhi during the Emergency.

2) As per his own statement, he wanted to flush the valley out of militants before giving “a healing touch” to the Kashmiris. Though he was aware of the fact that the subversion had been planned since 1984 and had taken deep roots in Kashmir and militants had gained sympathy of the masses, yet he chose to root out the subversion from the valley with lightening speed which would mean nothing less than a civil war where security forces representing India would be on one side and Kashmiris on the other. Even after having realized the futility of such action, he insisted upon continuing on the blood stained trail.

3) In his Open letter to Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, Jagmohan claims to have  sent warning signals to Rajiv Gandhi and asked for drastic action in April 1989. Question arises about whether terrorist build up happened only from 1988 onwards or earlier from 1984 as asserted by a number of militant leaders. Why did the Governor not know about the ground situation since 1984 and why did he not send such warning signals from 1984 to 1988? Moreover, if things had come to such a pass in 1988 and his Prime Minister was not listening to him, why did he not resign in the interest of the nation so that the designs of the terrorists could have been preempted. Had he resigned the whole Parliament and the nation would have been agog asking the Prime Minister as to why the Governor had resigned. After all he was not a civil servant who would have lost his pension in so doing. But he, like a true bureaucrat, believed in shooting paper missiles and passing the buck. His assertion that “Since I had general revulsion for the type of politics which our country had by and large come to breed, I declined the offer”( made By Rajiv Gandhi to him to contest for South Delhi LS constituency) was later proved to be untrue by his conduct when he joined BJP, became part of the same political set up and contested for elections to Parliament. In his open letter he also blames Farooq Abdullah, whom he calls as the protegé of Rajiv Gandhi, for having released  70 hardcore and highly motivated terrorists but conveniently forgets that his BJP Government in Delhi released 5 dreaded terrorists and a Minister accompanied them to Kabul to make sure they reach safely while he remained a silent spectator to the whole episode.

4) In his Open letter to Rajiv Gandhi, Jagmohan also mentions about his reservations about article 370 as he wanted the article to be abrogated in 1986. He writes that ” My stand was that poor people of Kashmir had been exploited under the protective wall of Article 370.” As a Governor you are required to uphold the Constitution as it is irrespective of your personal opinions. It is also not know how he became self-styled representative of Kashmiris to know what they wanted. Had he been given such authority by people of Kashmir? Was he an elected representative of J&K State? Or else, had he conducted a referendum in the State to know what people of J&K State want? As regards corruption and callous oligarchy, Jagmohan conveniently forgot the scale of corruption in the entire country and also the oligarchy of Nehru-Gandhi Family of which he was a devout adherent during the Emergency days. Wish he read books on Emergency written by different authors!

5) While tackling the militancy, efforts should have been made to segregate militants from the common masses. The latter, even if sympathetic to militants at that point of time, would switch over sides as soon as they would be convinced that Government had regained an upper hand.

6) No effort was made to protect Kashmiri Pandit community in the Kashmir Valley itself by providing additional security in such areas. Instead exodus of Kashmiri Pandits was expedited if not abetted. May be there would have been manifold deaths due to militancy but by allowing the community to leave the valley the aim of the militants to achieve homogeneity in the valley was indirectly helped. I would not agree with the propaganda unleashed by the militants that it was under the instructions of Jagmohan that Kashmiri Pandits left the valley for there is not an iota of evidence in support of such a theory. It has to be noted that Kashmiri Pandits do not have a herd habit and do not yield to “firmans” and ‘futwas’ from any one howsoever big he may be. They do not have a leader or a Moulana to give them instructions. In such a scenario how did Jagmohan reach each and every Kashmiri Pandit to ask him to leave the valley even though temporarily. The only thing which can be said is that Jagmohan did not take any action to stop the exodus. A larger number of Kashmiri Pandits died immediately after migration due to unbearable heat than what would have died in the valley and a whole generation was lost after the migration.

7) The Kashmiris, both Muslims or Pandits, who had a first hand knowledge of the conditions, were not trusted upon and incorporated as advisers to the Governor or in the think tank. Instead non-Kashmiris unfamiliar with the mazes of Kashmir valley were put in command who had a colonial mindset. Admits Ved Marwah in his article,’ Three Years in Kashmir’,”The appointment of an officer from outside the state cadre had created divisions in the senior hierarchy of the police and distrust in the minds
of the people in the valley………….Extensively touring the state made me realize how diverse the state is.”

8) Not only Jagmohan but the whole administration knew very much in advance that the militants were planning to attack, kill and kidnap the Central Government Officers. The best way out would have been to convene a meeting of all the Officers and apprise  them of terrorist plans so that they could become conscious of their own and subordinate staff’s vulnerability and would not fall easy prey to the militants. Killings of Officers like Lassa Kaul, Musheer ul Haq, Mr Kheda and kidnappings of Officers like Doraiswamy could have been avoided. Surprisingly no arrangements were made for medical attention of officers and officials working in the valley. The three hospitals in Srinagar were under the siege of militants while SKIIMS was their hub. To give an instance, the Postmaster General had to carry a Kashmiri Pandit official to a doctor near Karan Nagar and as soon as the doctor came to know his designation he quickly asked him to leave his premises fearing any attack by militants.

9) Radio and TV Stations , which were known to be under siege, could have been insulated from terrorist attacks by providing more security and sensitive staff provided with proper stay arrangements much in advance so that they were not exposed to militants in down town. In worst scenario the relay centers could have been shifted to Cantonment area in OB vans where security would pose no problem.

Last but not the least, I had an occasion to call on Gen S K Sinha once in his Office who casually mentioned about the rumours afloat in the valley that Jagmohan was blamed to have been behind the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. When I put forth my views  he merely nodded his head in disbelief and said that , “Yes , you have a Point there”. It is unfortunate that our country is now under the sway of sycophants who have eaten into the very fabric of our nation.


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