Jammu and Kashmir has made headlines in recent days on a range of issues: the Prime Minister meeting the local leaders, the delimitation exercise, the drone attack on Jammu airport, the sacking of some government workers with alleged terror links, cases of forced conversion, a cloudburst and flash floods, and the various development initiatives in progress. CNN-News18 spoke to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha who shed light on the churn happening in the Union Territory, the road towards regaining statehood, the various actions taken by the government, and the challenges ahead.
There has been a clean-up operation going on in the J&K administration. Can you share the details?
I think the provision earlier too was Article 126 from the Jammu and Kashmir constitution. Under the Article, action was being taken against such employees who were in any way involved in secessionism, and/or aiding terrorism, and working as an insider threat to the state. Back in 2016, action was taken against such employees according to the J&K constitution. We were getting constant information on this. Hence, by invoking the provision of Article 3112(c) of the Constitution of India, it was found that all these officers have displayed conduct, character and intent amounting to being an insider threat to the state. It was a serious threat. These people were promoting secessionism and terrorism. Action has been taken against them according to the Constitution and on proper information, and the action is not based on any prejudice.
You must have heard Mehbooba Mufti’s statement where she asked why is it that the sons are being punished for the mistakes of the father…This is regarding Salahuddin’s sons…
I don’t care about who is whose son. What matters to me is who is doing what and how is their behaviour. Taking action according to the Constitution is my duty. This also gives confidence to other employees that working does have some rewards, and there is also penalty for doing wrong. Action has not been taken based on who is whose son. If action is not taken, it will have a negative impact on other employees. This would also prompt youngsters to think that priority was being given to these kinds of people and that would raise questions
But questions are being raised. The argument is that these terminations are baseless. The raids are politically motivated and there is no evidence to back them.
Don’t connect this with raids. I want to assure the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the people of the country that no action will be taken against innocents. No action is based on prejudice. But if the state faces any threat from a person and has proper information to back that up, then action according to the Constitution will be taken against those people who are involved in terror funding, secessionism and terrorism.
Is this the start of the clean-up process or the end of it? Will any further action be taken?
I don’t think these are matters to be discussed on national television. But I want to tell you that as the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, it is my duty to rightfully exercise the powers given to me by the Constitution, and I will definitely do that.
One more process has started in Jammu and Kashmir, which is delimitation. A few people are of the opinion that this cannot be based on the 2011 census. Nirmal Singh ji (BJP leader and former J&K speaker) has said that this will hamper the development process in Jammu and Kashmir because, according to him, basing things on the 2011 census is not right.
I don’t want to comment on what Nirmal Singh ji has said. Everyone needs to understand that delimitation happens based on an Act made by Parliament, and the delimitation commission will act according to that. The Act says that delimitation should be done based on the last census, which is the 2011 census. Population according to the last census, topography, geography, and constituencies — there are many factors. I think the Election Commission is a constitutional authority and it will act according to the Constitution. The delimitation commission came a few days ago in J&K and they held a discussion as well. Delegations from different political parties met the commission. I read the statement of the delimitation commission chief. It was mentioned that action will be taken based on the Act and everyone will get justice.
There is one more important thing. A few days ago, the Prime Minister met leaders from the state. Questions were raised as to why a meeting was organised with the same group of leaders that was opposing the removal of Article 370 provisions. Is there no alternative apart from the Gupkar parties? Or are they not being given the opportunity?
All the legitimate political groups in Jammu and Kashmir were called to the meeting. There are people in the group who are related to the Gupkar Alliance, but there are also people who are not related to it. Starting a political discussion is a good thing and this decision should be welcomed. The issues raised in the discussion have been taken into account. Action on them will be based on the Constitution and the current situation as well.
Since you are very active on the ground and you know the situation very well, are you finding any alternative narrative or alternative leadership on the ground?
I think the youth of Kashmir thinks differently. They think of a new Jammu and Kashmir and they think of development. Some time back, DDC (District Development Council) elections happened in the state. I can tell you with confidence that after a long time elections happened here without any bloodshed. There are places where a large number of voters turned out. The youth and women took part aggressively. Not just the rest of India and the Prime Minister but the people of Jammu and Kashmir have also shown their faith in democracy. I think the people will take part in the assembly elections as well and form a government in the state.
On the one hand, there are talks of peace and development, but on the other hand, attacks also happen. With an increase in attacks, the intensity of Operation All Out has also gone up in the state. How do you see the situation on the ground?
To not let peace prevail in the Valley has been the motive of many people, but things have changed drastically in the past one and a half years. Security forces have got an upper hand and if we consider the data then infiltration has also decreased. Recruitment in terror groups has decreased and incidents of violence have also come down. Incidents of stone-pelting are now history, and the security forces have neutralised quite a few terrorists in the past 15-20 days. The people of Jammu and Kashmir want peace and development, but there are elements that want to stall the process. These people can be either from the state or from outside too. But now the people of this state are giving a befitting reply to them and so are the security forces.
You talked about terror recruitment. Are the youth moving strongly towards the mainstream? Is the leaning towards guns and terrorism slowing down?
The youth are very much leaning towards peace and development. They are looking for opportunities. Things that happened in recent days are creating hope among the youth. But there are still some who are lost. However, I want to tell them that there are a lot of opportunities in the state now. Through Mission Youth, we have created a lot of opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir. I want to invite all the youth to come and be a part of the development and not fall prey to those who are trying to divide the state. They have destroyed so many families.
One of the issues to worry about is the recent drone attack. It is emerging as a new dynamic in the proxy war against us. Have you been looking at it? As you said infiltration has stopped but a new form of infiltration has started with the drones.
Several drones have been spotted recently. The BSF has destroyed them. The Jammu and Kashmir Police have also recovered some ammunition and smuggled material. Our security forces have done an investigation of the attack on Jammu airport. Let me tell you that the matter is being looked into by the top officials and recently we held a meeting on security as well. I want to tell everyone that our forces are capable of fighting any enemy. We have developed technology to fight this challenge as well and I want to assure that no one needs to be in fear. Our forces are very capable of fighting this.
They have been using the drones for a lot of things like dropping ammunition, but recently drones have been recovered smuggling drugs as well. Since the Hawala route stopped, this route of dropping drugs has been adopted, and the menace of drugs is multifaceted…
They have been trying to do this for a very long time. They have been trying to drop ammunition and drugs, and this plays a very big role in the drifting of the youth from their path. A lot of young boys and girls have fallen prey to drugs. We are running several campaigns and we are providing them with help while also trying to give them jobs.
Can you tell us a bit more about this because it has been found that a lot of the recent (terror) recruits are addicts? As you said there are many young boys and girls who are consuming drugs and it’s dangerous…
The dimensions of this are very bad and the UT administration is taking the matter very seriously. We are in touch with many experts and we are trying continuously to get the youth out of this. We also try to give them jobs through Mission Youth that is being conducted by the administration of the UT. On the one hand, the forces are doing their work and on the other, the civil administration is doing its job.
On the issue of every community being represented in the administration…We saw recently the matter of forced conversion of Sikh girls and the Sikh community demanding that something is done about that. Is the administration thinking of bringing in any law, as UP has done? How do you plan to tackle this?
Yes, three incidents happened recently and you will be glad to know that in the first incident the girl was recovered within 14 hours by the police and handed over to the family. The culture of Jammu and Kashmir is of Sufism. People always have respect for other religions and many religious leaders have given statements about this also. It was a very unfortunate incident. Our Constitution and law have provisions to tackle this kind of situation. And things like this will be dealt with strictly. I have assured this to several delegations of the communities as well.
People have been talking about issues like the situation of Kashmiri Hindus, the lagging government recruitment process…
Whatever the Kashmiri people are saying, they are right because due to some reason their appointments have been delayed. Recruitment has been affected by many reasons like educational qualifications, etc. I am happy to tell you that more than 3,000 people have been given jobs and the remaining will be recruited in the next three to four months. Not just for Kashmiri Pandits but also for the youth of Kashmir, more than 20,000 vacancies have been announced. The recruitment process has been transparent and the youth have been given jobs based on merit. Forthcoming recruitments will also be based on merit and no bribe will be taken from them.
I want to ask you how much time will it take for Jammu and Kashmir to get back statehood? What are the situations that will ensure a return to statehood? Although this has to be ratified by Parliament, I know that the burden of charting the course falls more on your shoulders.
I don’t want to comment on Parliament proceedings. But I know that the home minister while standing in Parliament assured the people of the country that statehood will be given at the right time. From time to time, the Prime Minister and the home minister have made the stand on the statehood issue very clear. People should have faith in the words of the Prime Minister and home minister.
I am not talking about Parliament. I am referring to the ground situation. What are the things that need to be done so that Parliament itself says that now we must give statehood to Jammu and Kashmir?
The UT administration is working on the peace process for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the youth getting jobs, and creating opportunities …we are heading in that direction.
On August 5, it will be two years since the abrogation of Article 370. And it will be one year since the Bhumi Pujan at Ram Janmabhoomi. Terrorist organisations are planning something big. A crackdown has happened in UP and there was a parcel blast in Bihar. Have you reviewed the situation in the state so that nothing happens in Jammu and Kashmir?
I presided over a security grade meeting on the 8th of July. I have said earlier that our security forces, police personnel, they are all ready to tackle this kind of situation. And we are ready to face any situation.
What have you been able to achieve in the last three months since we previously spoke? What are your targets for the next 3 to 6 months?
For the first time, a three-tier Panchayati Raj system is in place in the state. Funds, functions, and functionaries, all three things have been transferred. The budget of the districts has been disbursed after consultation. The funds have been doubled this time to more than Rs 12,600 crore. This also shows the faith of the Prime Minister in democracy. The Banihal tunnel has also been opened. Oxygen generation capacity has been increased to 60,000 LPM (litres per minute) from 15,000 LPM, and it will be 90,000 LPM by the end of July. In every panchayat, there is a functional Covid-care facility. More than 75% of the districts have fully vaccinated the population above 45. In two days, every person in the UT will be fully vaccinated. We have done double the vaccination in the 18 to 44 age group as compared to the national average. Be it Covid-19 management or development, we are doing every work properly. In the coming days, we will be focusing on taking sports to the villages. Making the youth skilled for jobs. Also, the response of industry to our industrial policy has been very big. I think in the coming two years, more than Rs 50,000 crore worth of investment will be done in J&K. It will create more jobs. We want our Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of the growth story as well. We are working on a big thing. The plan is to have a big, coordinated development project of the Dal Lake, Jhelum and Wular. The Metro rail project in Jammu and Srinagar is expected to get sanctioned by the government in the coming three to four months so that the people of Jammu and Kashmir get this facility. We are working in this direction. For Smart City, the command centres have already been completed. Earlier, we used to come from Srinagar to Jammu with more than 200 trucks for carrying government files. But this time around no trucks have taken any files from Jammu to Srinagar. Everything has been digitised and we have taken a big step towards e-governance and transparency. Now every work and everyone’s work is being monitored by the top authorities. I have a dashboard where I can monitor the progress and status of various works.
The last question is related to Jammu and Kashmir, and the rest of the country. Does India need a population control policy? Many states are formulating a policy, but do you think the time has come for us to think about it as a nation?
It’s true that increasing population does give us problems. But what can be the solutions? Many people have different opinions and they are thinking accordingly. I think the country really needs to look at the question of controlling the population. Without doing any politics, keeping the country first, everyone needs to work together.