June 29, 2002


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The Rediff Interview/Girish Chandra Saxena

'We cannot keep democracy on hold'

Girish Chandra 'Garry' Saxena, governor of Jammu and Kashmir, has categorically denied making any offer to quit office on health grounds.

"I have read it in the newspapers too. If you are not aware of any development you can hardly comment on it," he told Senior Special Correspondent Onkar Singh in an exclusive interview at Raj Bhavan in Srinagar.

There have been reports in the media that Jammu and Kashmir will have a new governor shortly. Is that true?

I have read it in newspapers too. If you are not aware of any development you can hardly comment on it. These reports have been surfacing off and on in the media for the last six, seven months. As far as I concerned I am not aware of any such development in this respect, nor am I interested in following it up.

There have been reports that you have offered to quit on health grounds.

I can tell you this is not true. This is not a fact. Though I am 74 years old there is no problem of health or fitness. At least I am not aware of. If someone reads it in my face or eyes then it is a different matter altogether.

Jammu and Kashmir is scheduled to go to the polls in September/October. Do you think the situation is conducive for the assembly election?

As far as the ground level situation is concerned it is very good. I personally feel the conditions are favourable for holding assembly polls in the state. Of course, some elements from across the border would like to create some problems here and there through terrorist strikes, but we should not be unduly worried about such attempts.

The Inter Services Intelligence and some jihadi groups operating from Pakistan would like to sabotage the election and try to intimidate the electorate. There could also be some selective political killings as it happened with Abdul Ghani Lone.

Every day you find some activist or the other getting killed. That is a situation we would have to take into account. But we cannot keep democracy and political process on hold. We are determined to take care of the fear of the gun to a very large extent and do everything we can to instill confidence amongst the people so that they can take part in the political activities and exercise their right to franchise.

Of course, we cannot go much beyond that and pressurise people to come out and vote. It would be the duty of the state government, armed forces, paramilitary forces and the police to try to instill confidence amongst the voters.

Some political parties have demanded that to ensure a free and fair poll the election should be held under governor's rule. Is that feasible?

Yes, this kind of political demand is there. But the provisions regarding central rule or governor's rule are very clear. They have to be interpreted and taken into account. I cannot comment on the political aspect of the demand. The constitutional provisions are very clear to me. And they would be followed accordingly.

Elections can be held under governor's rule -- there is no bar. But there is no provision that elections should be held under governor's rule under certain circumstances. This is the convention.

Is there any provision in the Jammu and Kashmir constitution under which an election to the state assembly could be held after the expiry of the elected government's tenure?

No, there are no clear cut provisions under the J&K constitution on this aspect. There are provisions in the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and in the Constitution of India about the imposition of central rule. But this can be done only when there is complete satisfaction that the elected government cannot run the administration of the state in accordance with the law. It is only then that governor's rule or central rule can be imposed.

Would it be correct to say that the political demand for governor's rule in the state is not being made seriously?

I would not say that because politically it is possible. But constitutionally it cannot be forced.

An attempt is being made to issue voter identity cards before the election. Can this task be completed before the polls?

This is to reassure people who think that they may be stopped or done out of their right of franchise. That they would have no problem if they obtain identity cards on a voluntary basis. The Election Commission has made arrangements for getting voter's ID cards. It is totally voluntary and optional.

The other thing that is being done by the Election Commission is that the voter's slip reaches all those who are enrolled as voters. If you have a voter's slip issued by the Election Commission then s/he would be allowed to vote. These two steps have been taken to take care of any apprehension in the mind of the electorate that they may not be allowed to vote by some vested interests/or that the presiding officer might not allow them to vote.

If there are widespread allegations that a free and fair election is not possible under the elected government, can the governor intervene?

No, the governor has no such powers. The governor has no constitutional role in this matter. Only the Election Commission of India can intervene. The Election Commission is solely responsible for the holding of elections, of course with the help of the central and state governments.

The master of the show is the chief election commissioner and all other agencies play a supportive role.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has promised a free and fair poll, but the political parties fear the election may be rigged.

It depends on the Election Commission and the election machinery to ensure that a free and fair poll is held. If you feel the election has been rigged you could always move the court and challenge the results.

You could also represent to the Election Commission while polling is taking place. You could get the counting stopped or stop the results from being declared. These provisions are there. The supervisory and enforcement machinery is kept on their toes and the implementation is as is required under the law, act or under the Constitution.

I don't see any reason why the poll cannot be free and fair. There could be problems because of the security situation that we are facing. It could be restricted because of the fear of the gun and this would be the main problem to take care of.

I don't recall any election where some allegation about bogus voting has not been made. The important part is that there should be a serious attempt to ensure that the poll is free and fair. We have got to ensure that the verdict of the people comes out truly through the ballot. This time electronic voting machines are going to be used and this would be an additional safeguard.

As chairman of the board responsible for the security of the Amarnath Yatra, what arrangements have you made to ensure that the month-long yatra passes off peacefully?

We have already started sensitising the route of the Amarnath Yatra. The armed forces and paramilitary forces are combing the areas that would be covered under this yatra. We would be watching the heights. We would be ensuring the security of the walking tracks and camp sites. Nobody can say that no incident would take place. No matter how tight and elaborate the security arrangements, there is always a possibility of a slip here and there. We are making tight security measures and there would be some surprises for those who are out to create mischief.

'We have a fight on our hands. And we have to see it through'
'Pakistan doesn't worry whether it has the benefit of deniability'
'At the end of the day the issues have to be decided politically, not militarily'

Terrorism Strikes in Jammu and Kashmir: The complete coverage

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