Jagmohan Malhotra

Jagmohan Malhotra
(September 25, 1927 –May 3, 2021)

Jagmohan, the governor meeting people in Rajbhawan Srinagar in 1990.

Jagmohan’s role as J&K governor again in focus after his death writes Zahoor Malik

The passing away of Jagmohan Malhotra recently again brought into focus his role as governor of Jammu and Kashmir. He was the governor of the state twice, from April 26, 1984, to July 11, 1989, and then from January 19, 1990, to May 26, 1990. Both his tenures had a deep impact on Kashmir’s political and security scenario.

Jagmohan tried to make it amply clear that he was a man of strong views and strong actions. At times he also attempted to project himself as an able administrator and an admirer of overall development, an image he had created for himself during his career in Delhi.

Enjoying the full patronage of Congress leader, Sanjay Gandhi in the mid-1970s and later Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, Jagmohan rose from being the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to the governor of Jammu and Kashmir. In Delhi, his efforts for the successful conduct of Asian games in 1982 and non-aligned summit were hailed. But prior to that, his role as Vice Chairman of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in demolishing slums on large scale at Turkamangate came under sharp criticism from various quarters. As the affected people, mostly the voters of Congress demanded their rehabilitation, Jagmohan openly said he does not want to recreate another Pakistan by demolishing one. Even as Congress lost its vote bank in the next general elections in Delhi parts, he continued to be a favourite among the Gandhi family.

1984 Coup

In Jammu and Kashmir, Jagmohan did not hide his disliking for special status. He was for total integration of the state with India. Jagmohan believed that Article 370 was a big hurdle in running the centre’s writ in Jammu and Kashmir.

Indira Gandhi fully utilised his services to engineering a coup against the then Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah to topple his government on July 2, 1984. Indira was upset with Farooq’s proximity with national opposition leaders and his holding of opposition leaders’ conclave here. The revolt against him was led by his brother-in-law G M Shah, who became the chief minister with Congress support.

The cabinet of Ghulam Mohammad Shah on July 2, 1984 with governor Jagmohan at the centre, after 13 NC lawmakers defected and brought down Dr Farooq Abdullah’s government.

While Jagmohan was in full knowledge of the behind the scene developments against the Farooq government, Farooq himself was completely taken unawares. It was a big shock not only for him but for his supporters also. Curfew was imposed for several days as Shah took over as the new Chief Minister.

Later, Jagmohan also dismissed Shah’s government in 1986 following an allegation of communal tension in south Kashmir. In fact, there were serious differences between Congress and Shah over the latter’s style of functioning.

Jagmohan as governor terminated from service three professors including Prof Abdul Gani Bhat for anti-India activities. Bhat became the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference after several decades.

This was for the first time that government employees were terminated from services because of their activities. The process has been revived now. Several employees have already been dismissed and hundreds of others are under the scanner of a newly formed task force formed by the government.

During the governor’s rule, Jagmohan tried to focus on development to some extent and wanted to improve the condition of roads through various beautification drives. In between, Rajiv Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah got closer. Finally, they joined hands and Farooq was again made the chief minister with Congress support on November 7, 1986.

During Jagmohan’s tenure as governor, assembly polls were held in 1987. NC and Congress formed an electoral alliance and regained power amid allegations of large scale rigging. This saw the rise of separatist politics and militancy in a big way. Jagmohan was removed as governor and former army general K V Krishna Rao appointed in his place.

The Second Term

Interestingly, Jagmohan replaced General Rao on January 19, 1990, for a second term that was painfully dramatic. Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah resigned, as he was unhappy with the appointment of Jagmohan as governor. Kashmir witnessed the massive rise of militancy and a subsequent crackdown against it.

As the situation worsened the migration of Kashmiri pandits to Jammu and some other states took place. Critics of Jagmohan said he facilitated mass migration. Some Kashmiri pandit leaders have been saying that by facilitating the migration, the then governor saved the lives of their community members. But others allege that Pandits were forced to leave their homes by the militants and separatist supporters amid killings and threats. The separatists stated that the mass migration was an attempt by Jagmohan to give a communal colour to the situation and also to give a bad name to them.

Jagmohan swears in Farooq Abdullah as CM in 1986. Jagmohan oversaw two spells of Governor’s rule.

Jagmohan came under sharp criticism for the killings at Gawkadal, Handwara, Zakoora, Tengpora and also for security forces firing on the funeral procession of slain religious and political leader Mirwaiz Moulana Mohammad Farooq. The then governor was accused of giving free hand to security forces, which led to a large number of civilian killings.

During that time, militants also abducted and killed a number of government functionaries and leaders of mainstream political parties. They included the then Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University, Prof Mushirul Haq, his secretary Abdul Gani and director Doordarshan Lassa Koul.

The abductions and killings led to long-duration curfew and crackdowns. This threw normal life completely out of gear for days together. With every passing day, more security forces were rushed to Kashmir for deployment and counter militancy operations. In his term, Jagmohan banned Jamate-Islami related educational institutions.

He was finally shifted from Jammu and Kashmir by the centre after the firing on the funeral of Moulana Farooq. G C Saxena replaced him. Moulana Farooq, the government said, was killed by militants.

Post Jagmohan

After Jagmohan, GC Saxena tried to bring the situation under control. Being an ex-chief of an intelligence agency, he focussed on rebuilding the intelligence network, which was badly hit by militants. He also established contact with various sections of society.

After some years, Saxena was replaced by Gen (Rtd) K V Krishna Rao. He too slowly tightened his grip on the situation and the situation improved to a greater extent. It was during Rao’s tenure, that the assembly election was held in 1996, the first time after the eruption of militancy. NC came to power again with Farooq again taking over as the chief minister.

With time, Jagmohan while in Delhi drifted from Congress towards BJP because of his ideology. He contested the Lok Sabha elections and also became a minister in the union cabinet. Jagmohan held several portfolios in the centre from time to time. He also authored several books, one among them on Kashmir, which was widely read.

Central leaders paid rich tributes to Jagmohan after his death. Prime minister Narendra Modi, LG Manoj Joshi remembered his services for the country. However, there was no word from the Kashmir based political leaders. Neither NC nor PDP choose to react to Jagmohan’s death.

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