Hours before he submitted his resignation to President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu said the government will continue the review process to look into the release of political leaders in detention. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is one of them, with her detention under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) extended by another three months.
Sources in the Raj Bhawan said Murmu has sent his resignation to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Officials at the President's House and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refused to confirm the development, but government radio broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) tweeted about the development.
Academic Amitabh Matoo on Twitter speculated that Rajiv Mehrishi, the current Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the former home secretary who dealt extensively with Kashmir during his MHA stint, could be the next Kashmir L-G.
In his last interview as L-G, Murmu spoke extensively to News18 on the security challenges over the last year, unemployment, and the continued incarceration of leaders like Mufti.
Reacting to Omar Abdullah's threat to not participate in any elections till statehood is restored, Murmu said he is hopeful that all mainstream parties will join the electoral process as and when it happens.
"There might be some individual opinions, I won't comment, but I don't think political parties will have the same view. I hope that everyone will participate," said Murmu. He added that the general mood among panch, sarpanch and block development council members was that of enthusiasm towards the electoral process.
Abdullah had earlier said that he will fight for an MLA election only when statehood is restored for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
When asked about Mufti's continued incarceration, Murmu said a decision to release a leader was based on the constantly changing security circumstance. "Time to time, the situation is reviewed...many leaders have been released after review....we will continue the process in the future too and those who can be released will be released," he said.
Murmu refused to comment on the allegations by Mufti's daughter Iltaja who claimed that her mother continued to be in detention because she was speaking against the abrogation of Article 370 unlike others who had been released.
"I will not be able to say anything on that but it is circumstantial and due to the situations that decisions are taken," said Murmu.
He also gave hope for 4G internet restoration when he said the decision to continue to suspend 4G connectivity in the Valley was not due to security consideration.
"There is a continuous process of assessment going on. Currently also, Pakistan and other elements have been doing this kind of propaganda. Security forces are good to handle it. So I don't think that is an issue," he said when asked if 4G internet connectivity will be restored soon.
Jammu and Kashmir commemorated the first anniversary of the end of its special status on Wednesday. Most parts of the Valley wore a deserted look with shops downing their shutters. However, Murmu argued this was because of the coronavirus pandemic and not any unofficial or official curfew.
"There is nothing like that (curfew). Because of coronavirus, there are hotspots and red zones and normal restrictions have been imposed in many places," he said. "That is why there are no activities, otherwise activities are always there. The only thing is at certain point of times these things happen. Due to the coronavirus this time, in certain pockets the local administration has taken peripheral control and social distancing and crowd control, etc.," he said.
Murmu also sought to calm down nerves on the issue of domicile policy taking away jobs and changing the demographics of the Valley.
"Some misguided people are talking about domicile being an attempt to alter demographics, but it is nothing but to protect the people of J&K. It empowers them, so that outsiders do not take away employment," he said. "It is only empowering those who have been denied these rights, like the Valmikis, Gorkhas, West Pakistan refugees. We are only treating them at par with other people. So this is nothing, only a misconception...nothing to be afraid of."
"The fears of demographic change are unfounded and baseless. There is no such plan. Each property, agricultural land of people and even employment by virtue of domicile is protected. Everyone cannot come and just apply here... it is the other way round," he said. "Most people do not believe this kind of propaganda."
Murmu signed off by acknowledging that first the lockdown of August last year and now the coronavirus lockdown has completely destroyed the tourism sector and taken away employment from people. He said the government had planned to hold an investors summit in May this year but the pandemic lead to its postponement. Murmu said generating employment in both the state and private sectors is the government's top priority.