Like many people who wanted to say good bye to you after your decade long association with the state I had to stay content with the lifeless press statement from the Raj Bhavan explaining what is so obviously written on yet another page of Kashmir history. The Rajatarangini simply refuses to change its essential character of deviousness even in the simplest of all changes in our federal system; change of a governor. It really amazes as to how simple, ordinary and mundane processes in Kashmir are made to look not just different but creepy and at times sinister.
The many occasions that I got to work with you, speak with you and savor your rich experiences had led me, like many others, to feel an emotional bonding with you. The fact of your multicultural background from Lahore and your extra ordinary ability to build a narrative of peace rather than confrontation even after having suffered the trauma of partition and dislocation is something that endears you to any person who still nurtures a dream of an inclusive, tolerant India of a cosmopolitan tehzeeb. Living in Kashmir and still holding on to that dream is something only a dwindling tribe of outstanding people like you continue to make sound somewhat credible. With your leaving the state I feel we have seen the last Urdu knowing governor who is the product of a different culture and a survivor of the transformation we are undergoing which is taking a heavy toll on established systems and the Indianness that we have held dear.
Normally it isn’t a matter of public concern in Kashmir as to who occupies the picturesque house next to Dara Shikoh’s fairytale legacy the Pari Mahal. For at the social level it continues to be an out of bounds area for even any local employee beyond perhaps the level of gardeners (a practice even you couldn’t change), but your wide network of contacts at almost all levels, your keen interest in all aspects of the state from politics to development and social challenges made you different. I believe there is no other person in the mainland India who knows as many people in the state personally as you do. Your arrival in the state ten years back acted as a balm on the scars created by your unworthy predecessor who left the state literally in flames. You made the various regions harmonize themselves to at least a working relationship at social, administrative and business levels when it had looked like a lost case.
There are a few things that are quite special to your departure from Kashmir. It is perhaps for the first time in history that an appointee of the government of India is missed in Kashmir. It has gripped the place with a fear of the unknown. I am sure your successor who has been projected in public for his political abilities more than what is your forte, administrative abilities, will do everything to assuage the feeling of apprehension. It has always been a grouse in Kashmir that the state has been viewed essentially as a security enterprise or at best an administrative challenge and that no mainland politician from Lalu Yadav to Karunanidhi, Naveen Patnaik to Mulayam Singh has ever been associated with our problems so they could view these at a human level and set a political discourse in the country. May be Mr. Malik is able to start that much needed process at the national level more than his assigned task of holding local elections and we are freed at least from the uni-focal prime time shelling by hate anchors, obsolete loudmouths, out of job minions or arms dealers and middlemen to create a new and refreshing narrative about the place and its people. Hope to see you at least in some discussions soon.
Even as the debate on the state subject law is now touching almost paranoid levels here, with everyone on the edge especially with your departure, it looks the manner of your going has already bestowed on you the citizenship of the state. For you almost went the way Yusuf Shah Chak, our last sovereign was treated four centuries back by the Mughal e Azam Akbar. The tradition was kept by our last Maharaja, Hari Singh too who ironically is now the latest flavor of Kashmir for his 1927 Act and scores head and heal above his nemesis the Sher e Kashmir. Sadly sir, in our view you go into the same box which is reserved by New Delhi for anyone Kashmir likes or votes for, from Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to Mehbooba Mufti. And that in a way explains a major factor in the making of Kashmir tragedy: mainstreaming insult. My respectful regards to you and the very kind Mrs Usha Vohra.
(The writer is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Views expressed here are his personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)