Karan Singh, the Congress Rajya Sabha member, was 18 years old when he was appointed the regent of Jammu and Kashmir state in 1949 after his father Hari Singh stepped down as the ruler, following the state's accession to India in 1947. He served successively as regent, the first and last Sadr-i-Riyasat, and governor of the state of Jammu and Kashmir from 1965 to 1967. In these excerpts from his speech in Rajya Sabha on August 10, he reminds us that the state's relationship with the rest of India is guided by Article 370 and the State Constitution that he signed into law on 26th January, 1957.
I have been listening with rapt attention to the speeches that have been made, beginning with the effective intervention of the LoP [Leader of Opposition] and all the other leaders.
One thing is very clear. There is a very broad consensus in this House, cutting across party lines, rising above party politics, that something urgently needs to be done to actually grapple with the problem in the Kashmir Valley. There is also a great deal of sympathy for what is happening there.
One thing is quite clear, since we last debated this in the House here on the 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. The death toll is now over 60 – 150 to 200 people have been blinded apparently and thousands have been injured.
Let me start by saying that I agree with my friends here that those pellet guns have got to be banned. Just stop those pellet guns. They have become a symbol of an extremely negative situation. Some alternative must be found. Rajnathji [Home Minister Rajnath Singh], the Committee may take another month before you get the Committee report. But, surely, before that, you can take some initiatives, and just stop those guns because they are really creating terrible, turmoil and young people, particularly, who may not be even actually involved, are also getting caught.
Now what has happened in these 30-32 days of curfew? There has been a breakdown of civil administration. Essential services have broken down, the medical systems have broken down, educational systems have broken down, the schools and colleges are all closed and there is a massive humanitarian problem. I think, before we get onto the politics, let us understand the dimensions of the humanitarian problem that faces us in Jammu & Kashmir; and he is right, it is there not from now but for the last 25 years ever since this ill-conceived insurgency or whatever you want to call it, began in 1989. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives. How many widows are there who are wailing? How many children are there who are orphaned? How many graveyards have come up in village after village? This has happened, because of this unfortunate resort to militancy, and also because of certain mistakes made by this side also.
Now, it is essential that law and order must be restored. You must have a proper civil administration there. I understand even the Secretariats are not functioning properly. People’s lives are being disrupted and this is the basic responsibility of the state government because the law and order is a state subject. The government of India can and must help whenever necessary but, basically, the state government has got to be more active and more effective in running the Administration, and that unfortunately has not happened.
In the last 30 days, the state government has not come out with any particular initiative or any particular action and the impression is going around that the government, virtually, is disappearing or is not active. That is a very wrong impression to have, because once the society starts unravelling, then, you never know where it would stop.
The last time I spoke from the heart – today I want to speak from both my heart and my head. With your permission I want to place before this hon. House some factors, which may not be fully known and may be a little uncomfortable, but whatever I say would be based upon facts.
Time to introspect
The first thing is, we have to introspect.
Why is it that thousands and thousands of young people have embarked on a path that can only bring death and destruction to themselves and their loved ones? Why is this happening? Why is it that this has spread not only to the towns, where it used to be concentrated, but also to the rural areas? Why is it that boys barely into their teens are coming out of their houses and facing these firings? What has happened? Why is the psyche of Kashmir so deeply hurt and deeply mortified that they are prepared to take this path?
We know that they are motivated. We know where they are being motivated from. We know that these Facebook and Internet campaigns are going on. We know to some extent where finances come from. We know where arms come from. We know all of that. But that has been happening for many years. Why has now the situation suddenly blown sky-high?
I think we have got to introspect very carefully and see what it is, because apart from fighting the fire that is raging now, please remember, Jammu & Kashmir is an extremely complex and complicated affair. There is no magic bullet that will solve it overnight. Everybody wants a solution. I have been involved in it ever since it started, even before Partition, and I know that there is no simple solution.
But that does not mean that 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 gather. Now, let me take up two-three things.
To talk or not to talk
First of all, we insist Jammu & Kashmir is an internal affair. Okay. I agree, it is an internal affair; obviously, it is. But let us not forget that 50% of the original State of Jammu & Kashmir is not under our control. The State of Jammu & Kashmir, for which my father signed the Instrument of Accession, was 84,000 square miles. Today, we have hardly 42,000 square miles in our control. So, 42,000 square miles are not under our control. And, that is not only in Pakistan; we understand that vast swathes of land have been either leased or, in some way, alienated to China. So, when we say, “We won’t speak to Pakistan”, does it mean that we have legitimised that? Does it mean that we have accepted that?
Here you say, we won’t talk. If you do not talk the meaning that is understood is that you have accepted what they have taken. That is why to say that we will not talk is not a mature response. I quoted, last time, Mao Tse Tung’s dictum: “Ta Ta Tan Tan” – “fight, fight, talk, talk”.
We have got to keep the dialogue going. I agree, it is very frustrating and it will take a long time, but you cannot say, “I will not talk”, because it is in our own interest to talk. If they are showing interest in the people of Kashmir, why are we not interested in the welfare of the people of Gilgit, in the people of Baltistan or in the people of PoJK [Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir]? So, why is it that whatever we have lost, we have lost and there we are on the defensive?
First of all, we say it is an internal matter, but that is an over-simplification. It is not just an internal matter – there is a very major international aspect to this: there is Pakistan and there is China. Therefore, we have to continue with the processes of dialogue. I am not going into the details of what can be done, because that would be much too long, but I am making this point. I think it is a point that needs to be made and needs to be understood, because sometimes we very blithely say, “it is an internal matter”. We must realise what this means.
Then – and I know I just might make some people uncomfortable –we say, Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. Of course, it is. The day my father signed the Instrument of Accession, it became an integral part of India. There is no doubt about it. On 27th of October, I was in the room; I was in the house when the Accession was signed.
However, please remember something more, my father acceded for three subjects: Defence, Communication and Foreign Affairs. He signed the same Instrument of Accession that all the other Princely States signed. All the other States subsequently merged, but Jammu and Kashmir didn’t merge.
Jammu and Kashmir’s relationship with the rest of India is guided by Article 370 and the State Constitution that I signed into law. Yes, it is an integral part of India, but we must realise that from the very beginning Jammu and Kashmir has been given a special position. Whether it was right or wrong, I am not going into the politics, or whether it should have been done or not, that is a different debate for historians. Now that special position; from the original three subjects, there has been a whole series of developments. Some may call them positive developments of integration; other people may say, as Yechuryji said, negative developments of reducing autonomy. That is a question of which way you look at it.
But the fact of the matter is that there was the political Agreement in 1952, Sheikh Abdullah-Jawaharlal Agreement. There was the adoption of the State Constitution in 1957. On 26th January, 1957, I signed that Constitution. Subsequently, there have been a plethora of Presidential Orders which have, gradually and gradually, applied increasingly in Entries from the Union List to the State List. So, this is a process that has been going on for a long time. Then, in 1975, there was another political Agreement between Sheikh Abdullah and Indira Gandhi and subsequently there have been many Commissions.
As the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, Dr Manmohan Singh set up, after the Round Table Conference, Working Groups. Our Chairman has chaired one of those Working Groups. So much was done. There were interlocutors. Where are all those Reports? What has happened to them?
Some action has been taken; I agree. But, politically, we are still up in the air. There is still an uncertainty with regard to the exact status of Jammu and Kashmir and its relationship with Indian history. It is an integral part of India, no doubt about that. But what exactly the relationship will be? In many federal countries, it varies. Even China has one State, two systems. For Hong Kong, they have a different system. So, integral part doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be exactly the same as anything else, and that is not what it is.
So, this is an unresolved matter. The longer we keep it unresolved, the more confusion there will be.
This is something, Rajnathji, which the government of India will have to bite the bullet at some point in time and try to clinch this issue. So, on the one hand, we see it an internal matter – yes, it is, but. It is an integral part of India – of course, it is, but.
But the exact relationship remains.
And also, Jammu and Kashmir is a single state, yes. But, as it is mentioned by Shri Shamsher Singh Manhas and by other people, there are three regions: there is Jammu, there is Kashmir and there is Ladakh. There were five regions actually; two regions are not now in our control, that is, PoJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. There are these regions and they have their own problems and the youth in those regions have their own aspirations which will not necessarily coincide with each other. Therefore, I would submit that the point is well taken that where we have Jamhuriat (Democracy), where we have Insaniyat, (humanity) and where we have Kashmiriyat, let us have two more, Jammu-iyat and Ladakhiyat. They are also parts of the state. They cannot be brushed aside. I agree that the crisis, at present, is in the Kashmir valley.
Please remember that Ghulam Nabi Azad was the first chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir from Jammu in 70 years. After Dogra Rule, for the first time, somebody from Jammu became the Chief Minister there. He knows what happens in Jammu and what happens in Kashmir. You remember that Amarnath Yatra disaster that took place! That disaster in Amarnath Yatra started in Kashmir and then in Jammu. For months and months together, it was going on.
So, it is not as if you can brush aside the other two regions. They have their own problems; they have their own aspirations; and, any overall settlement of Jammu and Kashmir will have to take into consideration the varying political aspirations of the three regions. I am just leaving it at that. I don’t want to spell it out further.
But this is something very important because we set up Gajendragadkar Commission in 1967 for redressing the regional imbalances. He [Pralhad Balacharya Gajendragadkar] was the Chief Justice of India, a brilliant man. In 1977, Sikri Commission, headed by another Chief Justice of India, was set up. So many Commissions were set up. Still, the matter is unresolved. So, I am making all these points not for scoring political points but simply to submit to this hon. House, through you, that these are the many dimensions of the problems in Jammu and Kashmir.
There is the humanitarian dimension. There is the internal-external dimension. There is the dimension of the special position of Jammu and Kashmir. And, there is the dimension of regional imbalances and regional problems in Jammu and Kashmir. So, when we now are determined to address the problem in an integrated fashion, we have to keep in mind these various dimensions. That is really what I wanted to put before the House today because I think, perhaps, I am in a better position than most to be quite clear with regard to these various dimensions.
Not just an economic problem
Yes, economic development is very important. There is no doubt about it. The Prime Minister talks about vikas (development), and as has been mentioned, AIIMS [All India Institute of Medical Sciences] are there, IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology] are there, IIMs [Indian Institutes of Management Sciences] are there, Central Universities are there, and these are very welcome. Employment, tourism, handicraft, horticulture - so much can be done in the Valley, but it is not only an economic problem – it is a political problem also. This has got to be accepted. Please remember that.
If you look upon it only as an economic problem and you just give packages and so many thousand crores of rupees – You can do it. You should do it. We have to do it – that is not going to solve the problem. It is a political problem. It is a complex political problem. And, today, we are facing a situation where there is a widespread alienation among the people of the Valley. Young people, intellectuals and everybody seem to be going through some kind of an inner torture.
So, we have got to put our heads together, we have got to put our hearts together and we have got to do something concrete. An all-party delegation is a good idea, but I would submit, let us not go there in a hurry. You should not go there in a hurry. You have to do some ground work before you go. If you go and come back after meeting only Mehboobaji, her ministers and Chief Secretary, there will be no point to it. You have to do a lot of ground work. When you go, you should be able to meet a wide spectrum of people. That work has to be done.
But, I would suggest to the government that what is now needed is an Empowered Group that can take decisions and not just make recommendations. You can take everybody’s views, but then some decisions have to be taken. During his tenure, Dr Manmohan Singh set up all those excellent Round Table Conferences. There was a whole plethora of excellent advice from there. You have to look not only at development but also at politics. So, it is a political problem, an economic problem and a humanitarian problem.
I would close by saying that this is not only a Kashmiri tragedy; it is a national tragedy. I remember just the day before that event, Srinagar was packed. You could not get a single room. It was full chockablock. The boulevards were packed, the Mughal Gardens were packed. It seemed as if everything was going fine, and then suddenly, this event happened and the whole situation deteriorated. We cannot allow it to deteriorate further. We have got to stop the deterioration. We have got to get together and we must get out of the negative spiral in this entire thing. And, for this, I am sure all of us will be prepared to support the government in any positive step. The LoP has said, and everybody else has also said that we are prepared to co-operate, but then something concrete needs to be done this time, so that we can douse the fire that is devouring the most beautiful Valley in the world.
I will close now. Tripathiji quoted an Urdu couplet. I will close with a Sanskrit verse from the Vedas which exhorts us,
“Let us think together,
Let us work together,
Let us achieve together,
Let there be no hatred between us."