Satya Pal In The Eye Of Storm

Kashmir Magazine

Shafqat Bukhari
The Governor Satya Pal Malik is in the eye of political storm over the host of controversial decisions he has taken in last two months to bring top mainstream political parties Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference (NC), Congress and BJP on a challenging mode. The governor from a political background was though expected to help Kashmir political mainstream rebuild bonds of political emotions with the people at grass root but the muscular policy pursued by the central government for last three years has spoiled all the good work done by the previous popular governments in Jammu & Kashmir. Muscular policy can curtail the spreading wings of militancy but it can’t change the intensity of the political sentiment without resolving it through a process of political outreach and the process of political outreach can’t be initiated with a process of tinkering with the laws concerning special status of the state and the institutions securing the political and economic interests of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Governor’s non- stop tinkering with the Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) law now denied by him in reply to a letter of Former Chief Minister and National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah and the institutional framework of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank has now angered even Sajad Lone the leader of Peoples’ Conference and an ally of BJP in Kashmir as he in a tweet has asked Governor’s administration to restrict itself to governance and not to touch the Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) law and institutional framework of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank.


The amendment in the Jammu & Kashmir Municipal Act was the beginning of Governor’s attempts to fiddle with laws passed by the assembly and by virtue of this controversial amendment the Governor allowed secret ballot for the election of the heads of municipal bodies in the state only to clear the road for the election of a political defector as Mayor Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). Unfortunately the two largest mainstream political parties National Conference and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) did not object to the unwanted amendment in the Jammu & Kashmir Municipal Act as they were boycotting the civic polls but they should have objected to the amendment for conveying their zero tolerance against attempts to fiddle with the laws passed by the assembly the highest law making body of the state. By saying that he dissolved assembly to shut the doors of horse trading when PDP and Sajad Lone staked claims to form the government the Governor is simply trying to cover up the horse trading witnessed in the election of Mayor Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). Had the Governor been concerned about the horse trading he won’t have invoked an amendment in the Jammu & Kashmir Municipal Act to allow secret ballot for opening up spaces for horse trading in the election of heads of Municipal bodies. Had the horse trading been disallowed in the elections Srinagar Municipal Corporation the elected corporators won’t have sided with the candidate of one political combine for the election of Mayor and supported candidate of the rival political combination for the election of Deputy Mayor. Can Governor tell the people of the state is the prime ministers of this country or chief of any state elected through secret ballot .So Governor’s remark that he dissolved assembly to close doors for horse trading in the formation of a new government won’t find any takers in Jammu and Kashmir where the people saw corporators changing their loyalties in a short span of few hours in the election of Mayor and Deputy Mayor for Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). Keeping in view the fact that BJP too is facing more dissidence than the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) as is obvious now from the legal challenge to the dissolution of the state assembly thrown up by BJP dissident Gagan Baghat supported by another dissident Ex MLA Deena Nath the Governor dissolved the assembly in haste to secure the BJP’s interests for the next assembly elections in the state.


Governor talks of deepening crisis of corruption in Jammu & Kashmir but does not talk about the corruption in Bihar the state where he was governor prior to his appointment as Governor of Jammu & Kashmir. Had Governor been sincere in waging a war against corruption he won’t have retracted from the statement on illegal appointments in Jammu & Kashmir Bank and unfortunately governor could not prove the allegation of fraud in recruitment he leveled against the Jammu & Kashmir Bank. Governor did not find any point to contest the statement of Jammu & Kashmir Bank Chairman that vacancies created by the expansion of the bank branches were filled from the waiting list already kept prepared for the purpose. The selectees of the main list had already joined after formal appointment orders were issues but Governor’s intervention did not prompt the Chairman Bank to terminate their services on charges of frauds in recruitment. Governor’s cries against corruption can’t hold ground when he himself is the man responsible for according sanction to the Mediclaim Health Insurance scheme now probed by State Vigilance Organisation (SVO). Before according sanction to the Mediclaim Health Insurance scheme the Governor should have sought briefs and clarifications from Principal Secretary Finance department and Chief Secretary of the state adopted in awarding the contract for the scheme to the lowest bidder. Governor woke up to announce a probe by State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) only after the state government employees started crying over the implementation of the scheme.


The repeal of the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of ownership to the occupants) Act, 2001, commonly known as the Roshni Act, is a decision which would by all probabilities adversely affect the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities in Jammu province and similarly an amendment of the J&K Protection of Human Rights Act to lay down that the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) could not listen to an abused victim if the incident had happened more than a year ago shows the governor’s intents of encroaching upon the institutional powers of even the top rights body of the government.


Knowing that the state subject law is a sensitive issue and any tinkering with it would increase the intensity of the anger already brewing up against his unwanted controversial decision the governor should have not ordered procedural changes in the state subject law and more so because of its legal connectivity with the article 35-A . Even after clarification from Governor on procedural changes in the Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) law it is the moral, institutional administrative and constitutional responsibility of the government to withdraw the communication sent to Divisional Commissioners of Kashmir and Jammu and Deputy Commissioners of the districts in all the three regions of the state. Interestingly Article 35A empowers the J&K Assembly to define ‘permanent residents’ of the state and only bonafide permanent residents are then eligible for special rights and privileges, which the legislature can provide. What matters the most is that West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs) of 1947 settled in Jammu are declared ineligible for voting in assembly election only due to their ineligibility for the grant of Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs).


The State Subject Law has been tinkered with at a time when the Supreme Court is currently hearing a bunch of petitions seeking abrogation of the legislation, which was added by a Presidential Order in 1954 through Article 370 of the Constitution granting J&K special status. Not only National Conference and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) but Sajad Lone the ally of BJP in Kashmir has in one of his latest tweets asked Governor Satya Pal Malik to restrict itself to basic governance and not to tinker with Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) law and the institutional framework of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank. Former Chief minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti has now warned of a 2008 like public uprising in Kashmir if the orders on Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) law and the Jammu & Kashmir Bank are not immediately withdrawn. Similarly the National Conference President in an open letter to Governor Satya Pal Malik has voiced serious concern over the non-stop exercise of tinkering with the laws governing special status and autonomy of the state. The actions of Governor who now talks even about his transfer from Jammu & Kashmir are bringing even BJP’s ally Sajad Gani Lone very nearer to the stands taken by National Conference (NC) and PDP on Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) law and the Jammu & Kashmir Bank. Generating unwanted controversies won’t bring Delhi closer to the angered populations in Kashmir but surely increase the intensity of alienation of the mainstream political parties at the grass roots.