‘L-G Manoj Sinha has perhaps realised that claims that Kashmir is heading towards zero-militancy are far-fetched’.
Srinagar: Expectations are high from new Lieutenant-Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha, who has a political background, to sort out the complex problems in Kashmir in a record short time. When he landed at the Srinagar airport, Sinha could sense the responsibilities after briefings about the ground situation from police and intelligence agencies.
Sinha has perhaps realised that all claims that Kashmir is heading towards zero-militancy were far-fetched as on Friday armed terrorists killed two cops and injured another at the Nowgam Byepass on the outskirts of Srinagar city. Similarly, the J&K government got fresh intelligence inputs that there could be an IED fitted vehicle anywhere in Kashmir. The alleged fake encounter of three Rajouri labourers has brought to the surface the ugly face of counter-insurgency operations.
While the new L-G has said that his doors were open for people and politicians, he has so far maintained silence over the alleged fake encounter as he has to tread a tight-rope balance between the security apparatus and expectations of the people and politicians.
There has been an increase in attacks on BJP workers, especially on those panchs and sarpanchs affiliated to the BJP. While Sinha has spent only a few days at Srinagar, two BJP affiliates were killed while one of the panchs house in Tral was attacked by a grenade. Continued detention of the only woman former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and dozens of other leaders from the National Conference is a matter that needs attention from the new L-G. Will he break the glass ceiling set by all-powerful J&K Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, who has been calling the shots about the release of political leaders and many other important matters?
Outgoing L-G G.C. Murmu, during some interviews, had made it clear that he will amend the new media policy rolled out at the instance of the Chief Secretary and will also like to lift the ban on 4G services in Jammu and Kashmir. These were some of the issues on which the L-G office raised objections, but they were overruled. Recently, the Chief Secretary came under a barrage of criticism when he said that J&K was a broken state where the levels of corruption were very high. In such circumstances, the new L-G will have to tread cautiously right from choosing his new advisors if he so wishes, to changes in the administration as there is already “a kitchen cabinet” of senior officers around the Chief Secretary who are calling the shots in all important matters pertaining to Kashmir valley.
In his first interaction with the media in Srinagar, the new L-G said that he will try to provide space to political workers to work without any threat. He also promised that he will provide a more secure environment to local panchs and sarpanchs after the recent killings in Kashmir. He also said he will see to it that people live with dignity and also assured that development will pick up pace. Even the central leadership of the BJP wants him to expedite pending development projects in the Union Territory at the earliest and ensure a conducive environment to initiate political activities. According to some reports in the national media, the Prime Minister will give a huge push to the development of Srinagar and Jammu as modern cities, while preserving their culture and heritage. Similarly, the Centre is keen to complete some mega projects initiated in Jammu as the BJP has a huge base in this region. The winds of change are in the air as bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faisal has said that he is part of the system and wants to serve people within the system. He has already stepped down as president of his own political party JKPM which he floated after resigning as an IAS officer in protest against killings in Kashmir. Will he come as a pure bureaucrat or will he be designated as advisor to the new L-G if he joins services, are questions being debated on social media.
Trade organisations in Srinagar have told the media that they are compiling a report about the losses suffered by them due to the Covid-19 lockdown so far. The handling of the Covid lockdown has come under scrutiny both in the media and in the office of the new L-G. Reports said that the LG has asked the administration to ease restrictions. He has directed the health and medical education wings of his administration to procure ventilators and establish oxygen plants in most of the hospitals following media reports that dozens of people have died for want of oxygen supply in their wards on being hospitalized in Srinagar.
The main stumbling block for the initiation of political dialogue is what could be the starting point for any political process from New Delhi in the changing realities of Kashmir. BJP in Jammu has a lot of pressure from its local leaders that the delimitation exercise should be completed as early as possible so that they get more Assembly segments than Kashmir valley to end the monopoly of Kashmiris over the chief ministership of Jammu and Kashmir.