Dring the last two months of his term as Governor, friction between the Raj Bhavan and the Centre and Army increased
N.N. Vohra, who was replaced by Satya Pal Malik as the Jammu and Kashmir Governor a few days ago, left Srinagar on Monday without meeting his successor.
Mr. Vohra left in the morning, though Mr. Malik was expected from Patna in the afternoon. The two have not met after Mr. Malik took charge last week; in fact, Mr. Vohra was conspicuous by his absence during the swearing-in of the new Governor last Thursday, fuelling speculation that he may have left the State on an unhappy note.
The last two months of his term witnessed increased friction between his office and the Centre and the Army over a range of issues, ruling out his much-expected extension till December.
Raj Bhavan officials told The Hindu that the differences were triggered by the killing of three civilians, one a teenage girl, in firing by the Army during an area-domination patrol in Kulgam on July 7.
Not on the same page
The following day, a piqued Mr. Vohra sought the presence of Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command of the Army, at a meeting in Srinagar over the killings.
The two, sources said, were not on the same page on how to deal with the growing militancy and street protests in south Kashmir.
Mr. Vohra had directed the Army to “avoid encounters that could lead to possible civilian casualties”, fuelling tension between the Raj Bhavan and the Army.
The relationship soured further on July 12 when the dispensation under Mr. Vohra decided to lodge an FIR under Section 307 (attempt to murder) against the Army over the killing of a civilian, Khalid Gaffar Malik, 22, a shopkeeper, in Kupwara. Malik was hit by a bullet in the throat when the Army fired “in defence against stone throwing”. Sources said the Army, though unhappy with the move, for a while decided against operations in civilian areas in south Kashmir, which indeed helped in halting civilian deaths.
Mr. Vohra also saw himself on the opposite side of the Centre’s Kashmir approach. In the last week of July, Mr. Vohra put his foot down on Article 35A, which defines State subject laws.
On Article 35A
A letter dashed off by him after the BJP alliance’s with the People’s Democratic Party fell apart, asked the Centre to defer the hearing on Article 35A in the Supreme Court until an elected government was in place.
He said “sensitivities and sensibilities on the provision are quite high in J&K”.
He met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh over the matter and warned against it.
During the NDA rule in 1999, Mr. Vohra had guided the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, against scrapping Article 35A after collecting the opinion of the country’s top lawyers.
In the present scenario, the growing differences resulted in the Centre scrapping its plan to extend his tenure till December.
Sources said that Mr. Vohra had expressed his willingness to manage the Amarnath Yatra and ensure the smooth conduct of the panchayat elections by the end of the year.
In fact, he was expecting an extension when he met top BJP leaders in New Delhi on August 21.
Mr. Vohra, who played a crucial role in the formation of the PDP-BJP government in 2016 after the demise of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, had also opposed the move by a section of BJP leaders to form a government by splitting regional parties such as the National Conference and the PDP.