Jammu & Kashmir Governor N N Vohra said here on Saturday that the “growing divisiveness” along caste and religious lines was straining community relations across the country, and the erosion in tolerance for different views and beliefs was a “cause for considerable anxiety”.
Vohra was speaking at the first B K Nehru Memorial Lecture at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development. The theme of his speech was “governance”.
Vohra called on the “political leadership” to “accept their responsibility, assume leadership and play a visibly pro-active role in promoting productive governance” to get rid of corruption, misgovernance and maladministration, saying “it would no longer do to attribute all our failures on various fronts merely to the deficiencies of the bureaucracy”.
The “most daunting” challenge of governance, Vohra said, was to reduce social and economic inequalities “without losing any more time”, as these inequities had the potential to “unleash confrontations and conflicts which could trigger chaos and disorder” across the country.
“For this reason alone, it is of vital importance to ensure that the administrative system, all over the country, functions in a manner which ensures against any injustice being done to our people, particularly to those who belong to the disadvantaged segments of our society and are already suffering,” he said.
Vohra has served as the union home secretary, defence secretary, and principal secretary to Prime Minister I K Gujral, and has been governor of J&K since 2008.
“Already in several parts of the country, community relations are being disturbed and disrupted by growing caste and religious divisiveness. This,” Vohra said, “is resulting in time honoured socio-cultural traditions and practices being questioned with unjustifiable aggressivity, leading to inter-community clashes and violence”.
While India was “rightly proud of our civilisational past and repeatedly keep reminding the world that the people of India are multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual, it is cause for considerable anxiety that our tolerance levels and traditional sensitivity to differing views and beliefs are witnessing erosion”, he said.
Vohra said it would be “beneficial” for the Centre and state governments to take “sustained initiatives for promoting an environment which imbues our people with values founded in equality and secularism and respect for the diversity of our numerous and far spread communities”.
There was “a need”, he said, “to make conscious efforts to learn, understand and appreciate the diversities of our various communities in regard to their views, beliefs, cultural practices, customs and habits”.
Vohra praised Jawaharlal Nehru — the first Prime Minister of India and an uncle of B K Nehru — as a leader whose idea of Independence was not just liberation from foreign rule, but “to change the whole structure of Indian society for bettering the lot of the vast masses of India”.
His only reference to Jammu & Kashmir was in recalling B K Nehru’s term as governor of the state from 1981 to 1984, and the differences he had with the Centre over the dismissal of the Farooq Abdullah government, the break-up of the National Conference, and the appointment of G M Shah, who led a faction of the NC, as the chief minister with support from the Congress.
Vohra called attention to the “serious challenges” facing national security, and pointed out that even after the Mumbai terror attacks, and more recently, the Pathankot attack, there was no countrywide apparatus that could safeguard the nation.