Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Friday said that people in Jammu and Kashmir had a “false impression” that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution under which the state’s special status was revoked “had empowered them” in an interview to Hindustan Times. He also said that mainstream political party leaders should enjoy the life that they are leading under house arrest and claimed that their “utterances will spoil the ground situation”.

“Even if she [Mehbooba Mufti] or Omar Abullah march with 20 or 50 people and threaten to burn Raj Bhawan, we will be forced to open fire, won’t we?” Malik said. “She [Mufti] is detained in a beautiful cottage. I wish to stay in that cottage. Netas should learn to live in jail, but they are not even in jail. Omar is staying in Hari Niwas, in a Raja ka mahal [king’s palace]. Look at their locations.”

Speaking about how long the detention of leaders would continue, Malik said that it depended on the Centre and the situation on the ground. He said he was focused on providing smooth supplies of medicine and money at ATMS.

“I do agree that the common man went into a state of shock and that there is anger, but slowly, the anger will melt,” Malik said. “The anger has not spilled over onto the streets. I do understand the feelings of the Kashmiris and assure them that their religion and culture will be protected.” Malik, on the question of locals youth joining militant groups, said that guns had been decimated and that India cannot be challenged with guns.

The communication clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir, imposed since the central government’s August 5 declaration to revoke the state’s special status, has continued. Malik reiterated the authorities’ assurances that restrictions were being eased and that people are “free to move out of their homes”.

The governor said that mobile services were also being restored in Kupwara but he refused to give a date for internet restoration. “The net is a weapon in the hands of Pakistan and the terrorists,” Malik said. “We have all lived without internet and can continue to do so for a while. My son is abroad. I have not been able to talk to him either.”

When asked about accusations of misleading people ahead of the August 5 declaration by saying that nothing would change, Malik said that he could not reveal official secrets and that he said what he thought was right. He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had made Article 370 an election issue and that the government had the mandate to make the change.

Malik said the government will “open up new avenues” for the people in Jammu and Kashmir. “You will see a million people queuing up for these jobs,” Malik was quoted as saying. “Modiji has asked all ministries to let him know what they can do for Kashmir. Not a single life has been lost. The media and some politicians want large protests to break out. You all want dead bodies.”

On the internalisation of the Kashmir matter and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claim of becoming Kashmir’s ambassador, Malik said that Khan had been isolated in his efforts. The governor also said that political dialogue was important and that the administration would engage with members of the civil society in Kashmir.

“There will be no dialogue with the mainstream political parties or the separatists,” Malik said. “The Hurriyat’s line has no meaning in naya [new] Kashmir, in naya Bharat. They can no longer claim Pakistan as a stakeholder. And what kind of legitimacy does Mehbooba have as a politician? She got only 2% votes in her own home town of Bijbehara. I will talk to lawyers, teachers and other sections directly.”

Malik said that Opposition leaders would be allowed to visit the Valley after the situation becomes normal. He also accused former Congress President Rahul Gandhi of lying about “deaths and brute force”. “What brute force? He was served tea and sandwiches and told to go back,” he said.

On August 5, the government decided to end Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and split it into two Union Territories. The Lok Sabha passed the proposals on August 6. Several leaders were also either put under house arrest or detained. The move drew stiff criticism from Opposition leaders, who have also been stopped, on multiple occasions, from visiting the state to assess the ground reality.

While authorities have claimed they are working on restoring communication lines gradually, sporadic protests in the Valley have slowed down the process. Reports suggest that authorities have used excessive force against protestors, with tear-gas shells and pellet guns being fired.

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