New Delhi: The greatest misnomer in journalism is that more often one starts regarding the stories and happenings around you as something of their own. A journalist is never a hero. The same yardstick would apply to some people in constitutional positions, they would play their roles as the situation of the time demands and move ahead.
Born on September 25, 1927, Jagmohan would be best remembered as a former Governor of militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir. But he was also a Lt. Governor of Delhi and once a blue-eyed babu of Indira Gandhi. He courted controversies during Emergency and was known for having moved close to Sanjay Gandhi. Of course, he later became a BJP man and a Minister in the Vajpayee government.
A prolific writer and a sincere reader, Late Jagmohan had an eye for details. But the biggest catch was, he was very candid. He did not mind criticising “George (Sahab) Fernandes”, though they were friends and members of the same cabinet.
When it came to stint as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir during V P Singh government, he said there was “disinformation deluge” emanating from people like Rajiv Gandhi.
In his book, ‘My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir’, Jagmohan had lambasted the “unimaginable ignorance about the fundamental reality of Kashmir” among many leaders and experts.
On disinformation, he wrote: “The principal source of the deluge was Rajiv Gandhi and his coterie. Later on, another source – George Fernandes and his associates – made their contribution”.
In the 1980s, Indira Gandhi had picked him to be Governor of Jammu and Kashmir — perhaps in preference to Punjab; – and Jagmohan had stoutly defended the controversial dismissal of Farooq Abdullah in July 1984 and the installation of G M Syed as the chief minister.
Many have debated that even before deputing him to Kashmir, Indira Gandhi had decided to topple Farooq. Was it the beginning of an erroneous policy in the state ?
In the 1990s during V P Singh’s tenure, it is said the assassination of Maulvi Farooq spoiled the game for India. Apparently, Mufti Mohammed Syed, the then Union Home Minister, had advised for adequate security and even ‘protective custody’ of Maulvi Farooq; but Jagmohan-led administration did not act.
Maulvi was chairman of the All Jammu and Kashmir Awami Action Committee, a coalition of disparate political parties in Jammu and Kashmir that sought resolution of the Kashmir conflict. He was assassinated on May 21, 1990.
Later his differences with George Fernandes had only added to the complexities and put the VP Singh government on the dock.
However, Jagmohan would never run short of admirers as well. He is also known as one of the ‘most vilified’ protagonists in the entire tragedy or canvas called ‘Kashmir dispute’.
But he was firm and assertive. His letter to Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 on Article 370 remains a testimony for posterity.
“Article 370 is nothing but a breeding ground for the parasites at the heart of paradise. It skins the poor. It deceives them with its mirage. It lines the pockets of the “power elites.” It fans the ego of the new sultans. In essence, it creates a land without justice, a land full of crudities and contradictions. It props up politics of deception, duplicity and demagogy.”
And in September 2019 after the controversial Article was abrogated, it must be a momentous occasion for him when Home Minister Amit Shah and other BJP leaders called on the 91-year-old ailing Jagmohan.
As the Urban Development Minister he played a key role in ensuring Delhi Metro in the capital when this move generated protest over issues of land encroachment and other related matters.
So much was his farsightedness that he could predict in 2000: “…..both physical and mental pollution would increase (in Delhi), productivity and peace would suffer a further decline and the future of Delhi would be sealed”.
He once told this journalist that he liked headlines in certain English newspapers; or he did appreciate a piece by an Editor of ‘The Statesman’ Ravindra Kumar on the issue of ‘breach of privilege’ raised in Parliament from time to time.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his condolence message said, “Jagmohan Ji’s demise is a monumental loss for our nation. He was an exemplary administrator and a renowned scholar. He always worked towards the betterment of India. His ministerial tenure was marked by innovative policy making”.
Ravinder Pandita, head Sharda committee Kashmir, said – “We have lost a true saviour in Jagmohan Malhotra ji. His stint twice in the state will be remembered for overall development, infrastructure & discipline”.
Expressing condolences, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said, “….The Doyen has left”.