Narinder Nath Vohra: Jammu and Kashmir's man for all seasons, all parties

Vohra taking salute from Jammu and Kashmir Police 61st Republic Day of India

At 81, most people are well into retirement, ticking off to-do items from their bucket list, but not Narinder Nath Vohra, Jammu and Kashmir's long-time governor who was handed the reins of the troubled state for the fourth time in his 10-year tenure today.

The career bureaucrat, who has been governor of the state since June 25, 2008, finds himself once again at the centre of the swirling storm of heightened militancy, social unrest and political uncertainty that is Jammu and Kashmir, responsible for its day to day administration and policy decisions.

His tenure comes to an end on June 25 but Vohra is expected to continue till further orders.

Recognised as an official who knows the pulse of the state, he has been a trusted man on Kashmir for several prime ministers across the political spectrum -- Atal Behari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi.

The 1959 batch Punjab cadre IAS officer has remained the choice of the Central government, irrespective of which party was in power due to his knowledge, expertise and negotiation skills.

Just as he has seen Jammu and Kashmir through its worst crises, including the Amarnath agitation row in 2008, Vohra has also witnessed the rise and fall of militancy in Punjab.

He was home secretary of Punjab after Operation Blue Star in 1984, when the state was in the thick of a bloody struggle for Khalistan and the Army stormed into the Golden Temple.

The following year, Vohra was instrumental in conducting peaceful elections in Punjab.

The pattern continued later in his career.

In 1993, soon after the serial bombings in Mumbai, Vohra was appointed Union home secretary. From 1990-1993, he was defence secretary.

After his retirement in 1994, he submitted a report of a committee, which studied the problem of the criminalisation in politics and examined the criminal-politician-bureaucrat nexus in India.

The retirement was short-lived.

In 1997, he was pulled back from hibernation to serve as principal secretary to then prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral.

Some years later, following Vajpayee's fervent appeal of "Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat" in Srinagar in 2003, the BJP-led NDA government homed in on Vohra to be its interlocutor in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Manmohan Singh government, which came into power in 2004, continued with him in the job due to his grasp and negotiating talent.

In 2008, he was appointed governor of the state by the UPA government and was reappointed in 2013.

Vohra was a member of the country's first National Security Advisory Board between 1998 and 2001, chairman on National Task Force on Internal Security in 2000 and founder co-chairman of the India European Union Round Table. He also has an avid interest in mountaineering and was president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation between 1999 and 2006.

An editor of over a dozen books on governance and national security, he was awarded the second highest civilian honour Padma Vibushan in 2017.

Vohra continues to be active in other fields as well. He is chairperson of the India International Centre in Delhi as well as the head of the board of trustees running the Chandigarh-based Tribune newspaper.

During his stint in Jammu and Kashmir, Governor's rule was imposed in 2008, 2014, 2016 and now.



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