NEW DELHI: Former Union cabinet minister and lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi Padma Bhushan Jagmohan Malhotra passed away after a period of prolonged illness on Monday night.
He will be remembered for his tenures as Lt Governor of Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. He courted criticism during his second tenure as J&K L-G for the rise in militant activities in Kashmir, and the subsequent exodus of Kashmiri pundits.
He also came under fire for the Gaw Kadal massacre in which many civilians were shot dead by the CRPF. He was eventually removed from the past of L-G in May 1990, just four months into his second stint. Many at that time had gone as far as to claim that it was he who organized and facilitated the exodus to teach the majority Muslim residents of the valley “a lesson”.
Senior Congress leader and former Union minister, Saifuddin Soz, wrote in his book Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle that “There is overwhelming evidence that Jagmohan was squarely responsible for organizing the exodus of Pandits, which some people allegedly described as his effort to organize the safe passage of Pandits to Jammu and elsewhere.”
However, some who witnessed the turbulent events unfold express a difference of opinion. “He is often blamed for the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, for facilitating the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. That’s not true. What is true is that the administration had broken down altogether and Kashmiri Pandits felt entirely unsafe. But that does not amount to actually encouraging people to leave,” said Wajahat Habibullah who was serving at that time as the special commissioner of Anantnag district.
To his admirers, Jagmohan was an able administrator. During his tenure as L-G, Delhi successfully hosted the 1982 Asian Games. His tenure in J&K saw a rapid expansion of road networks there. President Ram Nath Kovind expressed his condolences. Kovind called Jagmohan “a unique town planner, able administrator, and man of letters.” The President further said his “administrative & political career was marked by unparalleled brilliance.”