One month into his job as Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satya Pal Malik is optimistic that the on-going local bodies elections in the state will be a success. He said those involved in the killing of SPOs and the BSF jawan have been identified and will be hunted down soon. Malik will welcome Hurriyat leaders if they wish to meet him. He indicated that Assembly polls may be held in the state along with 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Excerpts of his interview with Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi:
How do you see the present situation in J&K in the wake of the killing of SPOs and a BSF jawan?
They (militants) were under a lot of pressure in the last month. 15 terrorists were killed so there was a lot of frustration among them and they are desperate. We have identified them and we will hunt them down.
What about the call given by a terror organisation to SPOs to resign?
There is a long queue of men wanting to join as SPOs. J&K police are valiantly fighting the terrorists. Army commanders have told me that they are fighting as bravely as the Army. Nobody is demoralised.
Why did the DGP have to be removed recently?
It was decided much earlier. If one is posted, one will also be moved at some point. His relationship with me was excellent. There was no complaint. He was doing a good job. But he had to go as he had been there for a long time. There was no other reason.
Talks with Pakistan were cancelled. What do you have to say?
This is a matter of foreign affairs. Not fair for me to comment.
But it is related to the recent killings.
The killing of SPOs we are facing everyday but the brutality in the killing of the BSF jawan… We have killed 250 terrorists in the district where this jawan was killed. So Pakistan not a concern here. But the real thing is the violation of Geneva Convention in this case- they not only killed our soldier but all gouged out his eyes, beheaded him. You want talks and you are doing this too. Both can’t go together.
Did you give any suggestions on talks to the Centre?
No, I don’t get into these things. I have a limited mandate from the Prime Minister and that is development, outreach, meeting people and making them realise that Governor’s House is open to them. I meet people even at 12 in the night, even those who come without any appointment. I pick up my phone. I entertain even the complaints I receive on WhatsApp.
The two big parties of J&K are not participating in the local bodies elections. Your comments.
Just 15 days back the two parties took part in the elections in Kargil. Then also Article 35(A) was there- the logic on which they are not contesting. This is all posturing for the MLA elections. I have got news from Srinagar that their candidates will contest without the party symbols. There will be proper elections.
But if these two parties do not contest then the legitimacy of the polls will be questioned.
They are contesting. Their people will be identifiable. They are contesting covertly.
What are the preparations from your side for these elections?
In these Panchayat elections we will give Rs 10 Lakh insurance to each candidate, provide security to them and their family. We will provide them homes if they feel unsafe. There will such deployment of forces that there will be nothing to worry.
Usually the polling percentage is very less in the Valley.
There will be adequate polling. I have talked to all SSPs DCs. Each Sarpanch will get Rs 20 Lakh (for development work). If they don’t participate they will not get this. At present the people have to go to officials, then they will go to their brother. Farooq Abdullah said a good thing- though now he has backtracked- that these polls are neither for the Governor nor for Delhi. They are for you- you will get power and respect. People understand this.
What is your target for the first six months?
The target that I have has already been achieved in the first month- to convince the people that Delhi is not your enemy. This is your state- run it and participate in running it. And all development work that had come to a standstill has been restarted. We have taken a bank loan of Rs 8,000 Cr for this.
These political parties and Hurriyat have no credibility. 20 year olds are neither happy with Pakistan, nor with the state nor with the Centre. This has created a nursery (for terrorism). A lot of preaching- even in English- is being done by maulvis financed by Saudi Arabia.
Any plans of talking to Hurriyat as well?
This is Delhi’s job. I do not know Hurriyat. They have not approached me. If they do, I will welcome them, offer them tea and lunch. But I have no interest in going to them.
Governor’s Rule for long does not look good. So, any plans of holding Assembly elections?
Elections will be held as soon as possible but I guarantee two things- that there will be no underhand move to form a government. We will not cause any defection in any party. There is no such direction (from the Centre). When elections will take place here is something the Election Commission will decide.
So are elections likely with Lok Sabha polls or before that?
It can take place with Lok Sabha elections but not before that as there is not enough time.
Has any party approached you for forming a government?
No, none of the parties that came to meet me mentioned this. Even when Sajjad Lone came to meet me he did not say anything. Even if they do, I will not entertain it. My opinion would be no underhand move should be made to form a government.
What are your views on relations with Pakistan as it impacts J&K?
Foreign policy issues are not decided by any individual. It is a consistent policy decided by several people. I am not at all involved anywhere. If my opinion is sought, I will give it.
How much of a role does Pakistan have in terrorism?
They and their army have every role in this whole thing. One good thing is that all the bosses of these elements lost elections (in Pakistan) so there is disappointment here (among terrorists) that they don’t have a future.