Governor Satya Pal Malik has once again made right noises about some contentious issues in the state. He has termed the apprehensions in Kashmir about Article 370 and 35A unfounded. Article 370, 35A it is in the manifesto of many political parties. It is being discussed. But there is not anything that you should be worried about, said Malik at a press conference in Srinagar. Similarly, he dismissed the reports about delimitation of assembly constituencies in the state as rumours saying it is not something that can be done overnight “as it is a constitutional matter”.
However, Malik drew line as far as the militancy is concerned. He said India can’t be “bent by violence,” urging militants to drop their guns, come to Raj Bhavan and have lunch with him. He acknowledged that New Delhi had made mistakes in Kashmir, but that the bigger ones had been made by the leadership in Kashmir. And surprisingly Malik said that he respected people in Hurriyat as they had suffered a lot, “though for a wrong cause”.
The statements on the constitutional safeguards and also on delimitation are re-assuring and are certain to calm the nerves in Kashmir and also help build faith in the Governor. Also, the statements have come as a pleasant surprise, considering Maliks appointment has been made by the BJP-led central government whose ideologically rooted stance on the state has made the Valley inherently distrustful of its actions in the state.
It is clear that Malik’s credibility will primarily depend upon how he handles the contentious constitutional issues about the state. Or to put it correctly, how the centre would like him to respond to them. On his part, soon after his appointment, Malik had talked of winning the confidence of the people and addressing imbalances among the three regions of the state. One thing that is viewed positively is that he is the first politician Governor the state has ever got. Malik has earlier been with Congress, Samajwadi Party, Lok Dal and has worked with the former Prime Minister VP Singh. This gives him a vast political experience. People are happy that he has gone public with his reassurance as to the fate of Articles 370, 35A and the delimitation. That said, the Governor’s administration will be judged by its actions. People will watch how it responds as the clamour grows in the rest of India and among the BJP’s ranks for the withdrawal of the state’s constitutional safeguards. One can only hope that the Governor lives up to his assurances. Doing so will be critical to continue to retain the confidence of the people in his administration.