In an explosive interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Satya Pal Malik, the Modi government’s former Jammu and Kashmir governor, paints a damning picture of the prime minister and his closest advisors.
New Delhi: In an interview that could cause political earthquakes in the Modi government, the Bharatiya Janata Party and in Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik, the last governor of J&K before it was divided and reduced to Union territory status, says “Mein safely keh sakta hoon Prime Minister ko corruption se bahut nafrat nahin hain” (‘I can safely say the PM has no real problem with corruption’).
Malik, who was governor during the Pulwama terrorist attack of February 2019 and the scrapping of Article 370 in August that year, also says the prime minister is “ill-informed” and “ignorant” about Kashmir and told him not to speak about the Union home ministry’s lapses which led to the devastating terrorist attack on soldiers in Pulwama in February 2019.
In a wide-ranging interview, Malik revealed that the attack on the Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama was a result of “incompetence” and “laparvahi” by the Indian system and specifically the CRPF and the home ministry. At the time, Rajnath Singh was home minister. Malik gave extensive details of how the CRPF had asked for aircraft to transport its jawans but was refused by the Union home ministry. He also spoke of how sanitisation of the route was not done effectively.
More importantly, he said all of these lapses were raised by him directly when Modi called him from outside Corbett Park shortly after the Pulwama attack. He said the prime minister told him to keep quiet about this and not tell anyone. Separately, Malik said that NSA Ajit Doval also told him to keep quiet and not talk about it. Malik said he immediately realised that the intention was to put the blame on Pakistan and derive electoral benefit for the government and the BJP.
Malik also said that there was grave intelligence failure in the Pulwama incident because the car carrying 300 kilograms of RDX explosives had come from Pakistan but was travelling around the roads and villages of Jammu and Kashmir for 10-15 days without being detected and without anyone knowing.
Malik discusses in detail why he did not let Mehbooba Mufti form a new government even though she claimed a majority of 56 in the 87 member assembly and why he chose instead to dissolve the assembly in November 2018. At one point, he accuses Mehbooba Mufti of lying. At another point he says the parties whose support she was claiming, such as the National Conference, were separately telling him to dissolve the assembly because they feared horse-trading.
Malik gives details of how, when he was governor of J&K, he was approached by the BJP-RSS leader Ram Madhav to clear a hydro-electric scheme and a Reliance insurance scheme but he refused to do so, saying “Mein ghalat kaam nahin karoonga (I won’t do a wrong thing)”. Madhav came to see him at seven in the morning to try and get him to change his mind. Malik says at the time people were telling him that he could get Rs 300 crores for clearing both schemes.
Malik said the prime minister is “ignorant” and “ill-informed” about Kashmir. He said removing Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood was a mistake and it should be restored immediately. He said the PM “mast hain apne mein – to hell with it!”
Speaking about Modi, Malik said the prime minister is not at all concerned about corruption. He said he was removed as governor of Goa in August 2020 and sent to Meghalaya because he had brought to the prime minister’s attention several instances of corruption which the government chose to ignore rather than tackle. He alleged that the people around the prime minister are indulging in corruption and often use the PMO’s name. Malik said he had brought all of this to Modi’s attention but added that the PM did not seem to care. That’s when he said, “Mein safely keh sakta hoon Prime Minister ko corruption se bahut nafrat nahin hain”.
Malik also said that all the appointments granted by President Droupadi Murmu are, in fact, vetted by the PMO. He said an appointment he had been given by the president when he was still a governor was cancelled at the last moment when he was actually en route to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Among Malik’s other explosive news points:
- He says the prime minister’s handling of the BBC is a terrible mistake.
- He was sharply critical of the PM’s and several minister’s treatment of Muslims.
- He says the Prime Minister has suffered serious damage because of the Adani scandal and adds that this has seeped down to village levels and could seriously damage the BJP in the next elections, particularly if the opposition can field a single candidate against the BJP.
- Malik says refusing Rahul Gandhi permission to speak in parliament was an unprecedented mistake. Rahul Gandhi has raised the right questions on the Adani scandal, he adds, which clearly the prime minister cannot answer.
- Malik accuses the government of appointing ‘third rate people’ as governors.
The interview was conducted bilingually, in both (simple, colloquial) Hindi and English.
The interview ends with Malik confirming that he stands by everything he has said about the prime minister and is not worried or scared of any repercussions. However, he does reveal that he has been given minimal security – a lot less than the official security committee recommended – but adds that does not worry him.
o help readers understand the range of issues brought up and the extent to which Malik was questioned I now list below the 28 questions that were put to him.
1) You became Governor of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2018 when there was President’s rule. Three months later when Mehbooba Mufti desperately tried to contact you to say she had support from Congress and the National Conference and therefore had a majority of 56 in the 87 member assembly you wouldn’t take her call and it was claimed the fax at your residence didn’t receive her letter. Yet minutes later you dissolved the assembly. Why did you do that? Did the Modi government tell you not to let Mehbooba form a government?
2) This is what Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “In today’s age of technology, it’s very strange that the fax machine at HE Governor’s residence didn’t receive our fax but swiftly issued one regarding the assembly dissolution.” She’s clearly suggesting it’s a lie your fax machine didn’t receive her letter.
3) Now look at your explanation. You told a TV news channel: “My office was shut because of Eid so I got no communication from Mehbooba Mufti. On a holiday, no one was sitting next to the fax machine.” Is that really how things are run at the Governor’s house, because this is beginning to sound like a comedy? (Hindustan Times).
4) The result was you dissolved an assembly that could still form a viable government with a majority. That’s clearly unconstitutional and the wrong thing for you to do as Governor. Are you proud of what you did? Or do you regret it?
5) Three months later in February 2019 Pulwama happened. Let’s talk about that. There were adverse intelligence reports right through January and up to the middle of February and yet 1,000 CRPF jawans were taken by road in a convoy which was a sitting target. You were Governor at the time, how do you explain this?
6) In an interview you have given on YouTube you have said the route was not properly sanitised and security was not proper. Can you give me details of the lapses you are talking about?
7) In that interview you said this was “incompetence” and “laparvahi”. Kisski incompetence and kisski laparvahi?
8) Subsequently there were reports that a senior police officer called Davinder Singh had some sort of conspiratorial role to play. You have said you know him personally. Who was this man and what was the role he played? Will we ever know the full truth about what happened at Pulwama?
9) Now on the 5th of August Article 370 was abruptly abrogated. Two days earlier you gave a public assurance nothing like this would happen. It seems you were deliberately misleading people. Were you asked by Delhi to do so?
[“Only rumour-mongering is going on … till today I have no inclination, no information, I have talked to everybody in Delhi and nobody has given me any hint that they will do this or that. Somebody says there will be trifurcation. Somebody says Article 35, Article 370. Nobody has discussed these things with me either Prime Minister or Home Minister.” – Satya Pal Malik to ANI, August 3, 2019.]
10) The BJP has a long commitment to abrogating Article 370, but why was the state divided into two and demoted to union territory status? Many people thought that was a deliberate attempt to humiliate Kashmiris.
11) After the abrogation of Article 370 it seems your administration unleashed a reign of terror against journalists. This is what Anuradha Bhasin, the Executive Editor of the Kashmir Times, has written in The New York Times: “Journalists were routinely summoned by the police, interrogated and threatened with charges such as income tax violations or terrorism or separatism. Several prominent journalists were detained … at least 20 were placed on no fly lists to prevent them from leaving the country.” Why did you do this? What was the need for it?
– “Modi’s repressive media policies are destroying Kashmiri journalism (and) intimidating media outlets into serving as government mouthpieces”.
12) Now in your YouTube interview you spoke about an attempt by Reliance Insurance to start an insurance scheme in Kashmir. In this connection, Ram Madhav came to see you at 7 a.m. one morning – before you had even had your bath – to get you to agree but you said “mein galat kaam nahin karoonga”. What was the galat kaam you were being asked to do?
13) So Ram Madhav was clearly asking you to do the wrong thing?
14) In that interview you say you were offered Rs 300 crore to clear this scheme. Who made the offer?
15) You said in that interview that when the CBI questioned you you replied, “Pradhan Mantri ke log hain”. Does that mean Mr. Modi was involved in this?
16) Now just 14 months after you arrived in Srinagar you were transferred to Goa. Why was that done? Was it connected to this Reliance Insurance matter and your claim “Pradhan Mantri ke log hain“?
17) I believe you are writing a book about the 14 months you spent as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Will this be an honest book where you will reveal everything, including the subjects you have talked about today?
18) Let’s widen our discussion. In January last year at a function in Dadri in Haryana you spoke about a meeting with the Prime Minister during the farmers’ agitation. You said: “Meri panch minute main ladai ho gayi unse … who bahut ghamand main the”. (Indian Express, January 3, 2022). You also met Amit Shah who said of Modi “Satya Pal iski akal maar rakhi hai logon ne”. (Indian Express, January 4, 2022). So let me ask you what do you think of Narendra Modi today?
19) Modi doesn’t stop ministers and even chief ministers who publicly taunt muslims. They call them “Babar ki aulad, abba jaan and Go to Pakistan.” Modi himself has said “kapde se pahchan lo” and “kabristan aur shamshan ghat”. Is it right for the Prime Minister of India to speak this way and let his ministers speak this way about Indian citizens who are Muslims?
20) What about the Prime Minister’s handling of the BBC documentary which he forced social media to take down? And what about the tax raids on the BBC after that? Was this the right way for the Prime Minister of a democracy to handle criticism from the media?
21) The Adani scandal is one of the most serious to have affected India in recent times. Again the Prime Minister is completely silent and many people think this is because he is defending Adani. Has the Prime Minister handled this properly?
22) In 1989 V. P. Singh, who you were close to, made Bofors an election issue and defeated Rajiv Gandhi. Does the Adani issue have the same potential and power in 2024?
23) Finally, there’s the treatment of Rahul Gandhi. He wanted to speak in parliament because four BJP ministers had been allowed to speak about him. He wanted to reply. The Speaker did not allow it. Was that correct?
24) What about the disqualification? 24 hours after his conviction he was disqualified. But in the 2016 case of Naranbhai Kachhadia, a BJP MP, he was not immediately disqualified but given 16 days to get a stay. Isn’t this double standards?
25) Finally, in that YouTube interview you said that the vice chancellors appointed by BJP Governors are RSS people who should never have been appointed. Are you saying they lack the academic qualifications to be vice chancellors?
26) You have also said Governors should be appointed after consulting the opposition and you have suggested it should be similar to the way the Supreme Court wants election commissioners appointed. So you want a Collegium to make the appointment not the Prime Minister on his own?
27) Should people who have just retired from politics be appointed Governors? Should governorships be treated as retiring grounds for people the Prime Minister no longer wants in his cabinet?
28) Finally, if the opposition can unite and put up one-to-one fights against the BJP can Modi be defeated in 2024?