When New Delhi violated constitutional decorum

Arun Joshi

NN Vohra’s departure from Raj Bhawan as Governor of J&K last month violated all norms of constitutional decorum while he was on an official visit to New Delhi to fix his date of leaving.

No less confounding was the manner in which his successor Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik, a seasoned politician, was made to take over with no prior intimation to Vohra to enable him to pack up his things.

Kashmir was shocked. This made the Valley wonder what the Centre would do to other institutions when it could “humiliate” the Governor who had served the state for over a decade and handled critically sensitive issues deftly.

Sources told The Tribune that Vohra was in New Delhi on August 21 on an official visit with the prior approval of the President to meet the Prime Minister and the Home Minister the next day to fix the date of his departure. The Centre had requested him to stay on to oversee the peaceful conduct of the Amarnath yatra even after his extended term beyond 10 years was over. And Vohra had fixed his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh for August 22 to tell them that he wanted to leave the office by August-end. But little did he know that the announcement of his removal would flash on TV screens within minutes of his landing in the Capital.

Malik was asked to take over immediately. He reached Srinagar on August 22 when Kashmir was celebrating the first day of Eid-ul-Adha. Kashmir celebrates Eid for at least two days. Next day Malik was sworn in as the new Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, while Vohra was still in Delhi.

“Vohra was humiliated,” commented seasoned Kashmir affairs expert Tahir Mohiuddin, who edits Urdu newspaper “Chattan”. “He had served the state for 10 years, what would have happened had the Centre given him 10 days’ time to depart in grace. Kashmiris could not give him a proper farewell. It was an unprecedented impropriety,” Mohiuddin observed.

Vohra had already completed two successive terms of five years each on June 25. He could have been relieved of his charge in June, but that was not done. The Centre wanted him to stay on. He agreed because he did not want to embarrass the Centre. But the same courtesy was not extended to him, observed a senior government functionary.

The Centre needed an experienced hand to tackle all challenges that come with the conduct of the annual Amarnath yatra. Vohra had earned a name for himself when he brought the state back from the brink in 2008 when it was caught in the flames of communal frenzy.

He had defused the situation, conducted the yatra smoothly in the most difficult situation and also conducted the Assembly elections on time.

“That would always be remembered as his greatest achievement,” former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had told The Tribune, the day Governor’s rule was imposed in the state for the fourth time during Vohra’s tenure. “He is an asset to the state, he should be retained till the time things stabilise,” Omar said.

The former Governor’s suggestion that the matter of dealing with the legal challenge to Article 35A of the Indian Constitution that confers special rights and privileges on the permanent residents of the state be left to the elected government has now been aired by his successor publicly. Vohra had also warned against installing any government by splitting parties, something that Malik, too, has promised not to do. The question that Kashmir is asking is what wrong had Vohra committed by upholding his principles of guarding the Constitution.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had observed: “Vohra stood by his principles and he would be remembered for that by us all.” (The Tribune)