Flood-ravaged Kerala is keeping the national mindspace occupied with all the devastation, ongoing relief, an attendant and largely avoidable controversy over foreign aid, and the question of whether it was partly an avoidable disaster. So much so that a state in the extreme north that usually and unfailingly keeps the nation on its toes has nearly slipped off the radar. But for the appointment of a new Governor, Satya Pal Malik. Billed as Jammu and Kashmir’s first politically inclined governor in three decades, Malik’s shift from the Patna Raj Bhawan to Srinagar cannot be without reason.
And not owing only to the end of N N Vohra’s term after 10 long, eventful years. Because of the nature of the job, the governorship of J&K has either gone to top bureaucrats familiar with the security and intel apparatus or to retired Army brass. That the Centre has thought it fit to appoint a career politician in Vohra’s place is interesting and it must be based on a calibrated plan.
A slight decline in the daily gunbattles between militants and security forces since the Mehbooba Mufti government fell is believed to have prompted the Centre to go for a gamble. But brutal Eid killings— three policemen and one BJP worker— proved it was false respite.
The civil society there is in no position to raise its voice against the mindless cycle of violence. Still Governor Malik holds out hope—he has spent his political career traversing many parties, was part of the V P Singh and Chandra Shekhar governments, and had had a close friendship with the late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. All this rounded experience and capacity for negotiation may come to his aid in restarting a healing process in a state deeply divided on sectarian lines.
No single entity, political or socio-cultural, represents the whole of J&K. Malik could succeed, provided the state is not plunged into another crisis over the special status, and he shows enough flexibility to accommodate all three sides. And violence does not escalate. As far as J&K goes, it has to be a mix of hard strategy and empathy.