Karan Singh breaks his silence
by Hari Om on 16 Jun 2013 14 Comments

Congress veteran and former Sadar-e-Riyasat of Jammu & Kashmir, Dr Karan Singh, generally speaks on social, cultural and spiritual issues. Only rarely does he speak on political issues, especially those concerning the militant and separatist-infested State. He intervenes only if he feels that situation has gone out of control or is likely to assume alarming proportions. In the last five years, he intervened only thrice as far as the State of Jammu & Kashmir was concerned. 


In August 2008, he disapproved of the opposition of communalists in Kashmir to the decision of the State Government to transfer a small piece of land at Baltal to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) for creating additional facilities for Amarnath pilgrims and the reaction to that senseless opposition in Jammu as a struggle between ‘nationalists and separatists’. “I have never seen this sort of uprising in Jammu which cuts across all barriers of caste, creed and religion. The situation in Jammu is worsening and the conflict is between the nationalist and anti-national forces. It is the moral duty of the nation to protect the nationalist people,” he said.


In 2010 – the year that stone throwers emerged in Kashmir and umpteen police-crowd clashes resulted in more than 110 deaths – Dr Singh urged the authorities to take all required steps to restore peace and normality in the Valley. He shared the grief of the bereaved families and at the same time expressed himself against violent methods. He urged the people to seek solutions to their problems through discussion and dialogue. He also accused the authorities of mishandling the situation.


Dr Singh again intervened on June 6, 2013 and did some plain-speaking in the summer capital of the State, Srinagar. He expressed himself against the protagonists of greater autonomy and self-rule and critics of the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). He also took on those who seek to make New Delhi believe that Kashmir means the State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and suggest that meeting the aspirations of Kashmiri Muslim leadership is the same as fulfilling the urges, needs and compulsions of the entire population of the State.  


“Jammu & Kashmir was never a State but it was during the Dogra rule that five regions (Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Pakistan-occupied-Jammu & Kashmir (POJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan) were joined together and the shape of a State was given to Jammu and Kashmir… Kashmir has its own history, culture and tradition while the Dogras left no stone unturned in enriching it during their 101 years of reign… (Father and founder of National Conference) Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was intensely anti-Dogra, but he gave Kashmiri people a space and relieved them of their miseries. Autonomy or self-rule (semi-independence) will be applicable only if these formulae satisfy the interests of people from all the three regions,” Karan Singh said.


What Dr Singh said in Srinagar could be construed as a major intervention in the sense that he made it manifestly clear that the solution to the so-called Kashmir problem cannot be Valley-centric and that it would be suicidal to strike a truce with the Kashmiri leadership over the heads of the people of Jammu and Ladakh. People of these two distinct regions constitute more than half of the State’s population and occupy over 88 per cent of the State’s land area.


Significantly, Singh intervened on the day news reports emanating from the Prime Minister’s Office suggested that Dr Manmohan Singh would pay a two-day visit to Srinagar, starting June 25, and make some important announcements. “The PMO has begun working on the ‘mission’ and seek a thorough feedback on issues facing Kashmir, including its economic reconstruction, and dialogue with stakeholders to find a viable solution to the vexed issue. Top officials of the PMO, including his advisor TKA Nair, one of the trusted confidants of the Prime Minister, has been asked to work out the modalities of getting a fresh feedback on Kashmir… The PMO has adopted a two-pronged strategy on Kashmir: economic reconstruction on fast track and revival of constructive dialogue process with all stakeholders, including separatists,” one news report said.


Another report said that the PMO would work with “experts” and Politicians”, including National Conference working president and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, People’s Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Chairman National Minority Commission Wajahat Habibullah, former interlocutor MM Ansari, former RAW chief A S Dulat, former diplomat S Lamba, journalist Prem Shankar Jha and Jammu & Kashmir Pradesh Congress chief Saif-ud-Din Soz, to find ways and means of resolving the Kashmir issue.


It would not be out of place to mention here that while Omar Abdullah stands for greater autonomy and Mufti Sayeed for self-rule, Saif-ud-Din Soz vouches for a “new dispensation for Kashmir”. As for Messrs Habibullah, Jha, Dulat and Ansari, they are well-known votaries of limited accession of the State with India. All of them actually believe that one of the fundamental causes responsible for the alienation in Kashmir is the failure of New Delhi to respect its solemn commitment that it will not bring Kashmir under the ambit of Central laws and institutions.


Habibullah, who maintains very good relations with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, even wants New Delhi to divide this part of Jammu & Kashmir into five zones on communal lines: Plain areas of Jammu, hilly and mountainous areas of Jammu, Shiite-dominated Kargil, Buddhist-majority Leh and Kashmir. He doesn’t want New Delhi to touch Kashmir because it is almost hundred per cent one-community dominated region.


Besides, everyone knows that Messrs Abdullah, Sayeed, Soz, Habibullah, Jha, Dulat and Ansari stand for the State’s demilitarisation and revocation of AFSPA. But more than that, all these experts and politicians long for a solution that accommodates the Pakistani view on this part of the State. They consider POJK and Gilgit-Baltistan an integral part of Pakistan for all practical purposes.


Karan Singh’s intervention has to be viewed in this context. It was in fact a warning to New Delhi that any failure on its part to adopt a holistic approach towards the issues facing different people inhabiting different regions of the State would create more problems than resolving the existing ones. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his advisors would do well to appreciate the sane counsel from Karan Singh who knows more about the State than anyone else. The Prime Minister must remember that both Jammu and Ladakh are sitting on a volcano of discontent.

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