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India has to bite the bullet and resolve Kashmir: Karan Singh
‘Kashmir didn’t merge with India, its relation with Indian Union governed by Article 370 | My father acceded for three subjects only—Defence, Communication and Foreign Affairs | Kashmir problem result of certain mistakes from our side also | Uncertainty with regard to exact status of JK and its relation with Indian Union’
Senior Congress leader and former Sadr-e-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir Dr. Karan Singh on Wednesday said Kashmir is a political issue where “India needs to bite the bullet at some point in time and resolve it”, even as he asserted that J&K’s relation with India is “governed by Article 370.”
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha during a discussion on Kashmir turmoil, Singh said: “There is a very broad consensus in this House—cutting across party lines and rising above party politics—that something urgently needs to be done to grapple with the problem in Kashmir Valley. There is also a great deal of sympathy for what is happening there.”
One thing, he said, is clear: “Since we last debated the Kashmir crisis in this House on 18th of July, the situation has deteriorated. We were hoping that within eight or ten days, it would pass off but what has happened is more and more people have died. Death toll is now over 60 while 150 to 200 people are blinded apparently and thousands have been injured.”
He said in the past 32 days of curfew in Kashmir, there has been a complete breakdown of civil administration. “Essential services are broken down, education and medical systems are broken down. There is a massive humanitarian problem,” he said.
But, he said, “I think before we get on to the problem, let’s understand the dimensions of the humanitarian problem in J&K.”
“For the last 25 years, ever since this ill-conceived insurgency came into being in 1989, how many people lost their lives; how many widows are wailing there; how many children have become orphan and how many graveyards are in all villages because of unfortunate resort to militancy and also because of certain mistakes made by this side also,” Karan Singh said.
“Now it is essential that law and order must be restored. You must have proper civil administration there. I understand even Civil Secretariat in Srinagar is not functioning properly. People’s lives are being disrupted and it is the basic responsibility of the State to address this problem. The Government of India can and must help whenever and wherever necessary, but the State has to be more active and more effective in running the administration and that unfortunately has not happened.”
He said in the past one month, the State government has not come up with any initiative or any particular action and the impression is that “Government is virtually disappearing and is not active and that is a very wrong impression to have because once a society starts unravelling, you never know where it is going to stop.”
Today, Karan Singh said, “I want to speak from both my heart and head and place some factors before you which perhaps may not be fully known and may be a little uncomfortable. But whatever I will say is based upon truth.”
“We have to introspect. Why is it that thousands and thousands of young people are embarked on a path that will only bring death and destruction to themselves and their lived ones? Why is this happening? Why is it that this is spread not only to towns where it used to be concentrated, but rural areas as well,” he said. “Why is it that boys barely into their teens are coming out of their houses and facing all this path? What has happened? Why is psyche of Kashmir so deeply hurt and so deeply modified that they are prepared to take this path. We know they are being motivated; we know where they are being motivated from; we know where these Facebook and internet campaigns are going; we know where finances also come to some extent; we know where arms come from…we know all of this…but that has happened for many years. Why the situation has gone sky high this time, I think we have got to introspect very carefully and humanely.”
Karan Singh said the fire is raging now. “Please remember Jammu and Kashmir is an extremely complex and a complicated affair. There is no magic bullet that will solve it overnight. Everybody wants a solution. I have been involved in it ever since, much before the Partition. I know that there is no simple solution. (But) that doesn’t mean we can sit back and say no no this has to go…we have got to put our heads together and see what sort of consensus we can built,” he said.
He said: “First we insist Jammu and Kashmir is an internal affair. Okay, it is an internal affair. But let’s not forget that 50 percent of original state of Jammu and Kashmir is not under our control; the state of J&K for which my father signed the Instrument of Accession was 84000 sq miles. Today we have hardly 42,000 sq miles in our control. The other 42,000 sq miles are not under our control and not only is it in Pakistan, but vast swathes of land are with China too. So when you say we won’t speak to Pakistan, does it mean we have legitimized, that we have accepted it? If we won’t talk, it means you have accepted whatever they (Pakistan and other countries) have grabbed. This is not a mature response to say we will not talk to Pakistan,” he said.
“You got to keep dialogue going. I know it is very frustrating. It will take time. But you can’t say you won’t. It is not in our interest. If they are showing interest in people of J&K, why we are not showing interest in people of Baltistan and Pakistan Administered Kashmir. So it (Kashmir) is not only an internal matter; there is a major international aspect to it. There is Pakistan. There is China. So we have to go for dialogue. It needs to be understood. We bluntly say it is an internal matter. We have to realize what it means,” he said.
Secondly, Singh said, “We say J&K is an integral part of India. Of course it is. The day my father signed the IOA, it became integral part of India. On 27th October 1947, I was in my room, in my house. However please remember something more. My father acceded for three subjects only which included defence, communication and foreign affairs. He signed the same with other princely states, but all others states subsequently merged. But J&K did not merge with India,” he said. He said J&K’s relation with rest of India is guided by Article 370 and the State Constitution “which I signed into a law.”
“So yes it is an integral part of India, but we must realize that J&K—rightly or wrongly; whether it should have been done or not—has been given the special position as a matter of fact. Now that special position has been a whole series of developments—some may say positive developments of integration while others may say negative developments of reducing autonomy. But fact is there was a political agreement in 1952 between Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru; there was adoption of State Constitution in 1957 which I signed; subsequently there have been plethora of presidential orders which gradually applied increasing number of entries into it,” he said, adding: “So this is a process that has been going on for long. In 1975, there was another agreement, the Indra-Sheikh Accord and subsequently there have been many committees constituted on Kashmir. Many roundtables held. There were Working Groups announced. So much was done. There were interlocutors appointed. Where are those reports? Some action has been taken, but politically we are still up in the air. There is still an uncertainty with regard to exact status of J&K and its relation with the Indian Union.”
Karan Singh said: “It is an integral part, but what exactly the relation will be…in many federal countries it varies…even China has one state, two systems…Hong Kong has a different system. So integral part doesn’t necessarily mean it will be exactly same as everything else. So this is an unresolved matter. The longer we keep it so, the more confusion there will be.” He said: “This is something Rajnath ji (Home Minister), the Govt of India will have to bite the bullet at some point in time and resolve this issue…it is an internal matter but the exact relationship remains a question.”
“J&K is a single state, yes. But as mentioned by Shamsher Singh Manhas (BJP MP) and other people, there are regions—Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. There were five regions including Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. There are these things…They have their own problems which may not coincide. I would submit that when we have Jhamuriyat, we have Insaniyat, we have Kashmiryat, we must add two more, Jammuiyat and Ladakhi… they are also part of the state. They cannot be brushed aside,” he said.
“In 2008, Amarnath yatra disaster (row) took place. It started in Kashmir, then took to Jammu; so it is not you can brush aside the other two regions. They have their own problems and aspirations. So any overall settlement will have to take into consideration the political aspirations of these three regions,” he said. He called for addressing the problem in an “integrated fashion.”
“So many Committees were set up but still the matter is lingering. There are many dimensions of J&K—humanitarian, internal-external dimension; dimension of special status of J&K and dimension of regional imbalances and aspirations,” he said.
He said economic development of the state is important. “There is lot that can be done on this front, but it is not only an economic problem. It is a political problem which has to be accepted. It’s not only about giving packages. You can do it. You have to do. But that is not everything it is,” he said.
He said “we have to keep our heads together, our hearts together and do something concrete. An all-party delegation is a good idea but let’s not go there in a hurry. We must do some ground work first. If we go there and meet Mehbooba Mufti, it won’t serve any purpose. You should have wide spectrum of people (to talk to). Alongside, I would suggest constitution of an empowered committee which would go to ground and take decisions, not only make recommendations,” he said.
ON PELLET GUNS
Singh called for complete ban on pellet guns. “I agree that pellet guns have got to be banned. Just stop them. They have become a symbol of extreme negativity. Some alternative must be found. The Home Minister’s committee (on the matter) may take another month before you get its report. Before that, you can take some initiative. They are creating terrible turmoil and young people, who may not be involved in the protests, are also getting caught,” he said.