Dr. Karan Singh is a globally known face of Jammu and Kashmir. He owes it to his being the last prince of the erstwhile “majestic” state now fragmented into so many geographies and demographics that its original map has been consigned to irretrievable archives.
And when he speaks or issues a statement, it is expected that he would outline a forward-looking phenomenon for the people not only in this part of J&K, Ladakh included, but also for the areas of the state that now lie across the Line of Control and Line of Actual Control. He has often called himself as “Vishv Manu” or global citizen, which adds to his responsibility to put things in larger context and that too well in time. He is supposed to lead.
His October 13, 2021, statement calling for the restoration of statehood to the UT of J&K, raised two questions: why was he so late in raising this demand, and what prompted him to do so now? To any student of history, these are important questions because Karan Singh is not part of history, he signifies history in every sense of the word.
All this gains more importance as Dr. Karan Singh belongs to the dynasty that created the state of Jammu and Kashmir and ruled over it for more than a century. Now, that state is divided into so many parts and demographics, on both sides of the Line of Control and Line of Actual Control that the original map of the state has been consigned to the irretrievable archives . The worse is that there is a clear hesitancy in talking about the state that existed in 1947.
Before elaborating anything on his October 13, 2021 statement, I want to say it emphatically that he is very late in making the demand. It should have come long ago and he should have been unambiguous in defining the state. I am not setting August 5, 2019 , as the cut off date, when Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 was scrapped and the erstwhile state divided into two union territories. The Union government has advanced its own reasons for what it did.
Dr Karan Singh’s statement has come very late. It is pertinent to mention that the newest political party in Jammu and Kashmir, better known as Apni Party, founded on March 8, 2020, was the first to seek statehood for J&K. It has led the campaign since. Thereafter, almost all other parties rallied around to this demand, be it National Conference, Congress, or People’s Conference. The only exception is People’s Democratic Party, which is insisting on the restoration of the pre-August 5 status of J&K. BJP, of course, has its own political reasons not to speak much on the issue, except to repeat what Union Home Minister Amit Shah has stated , “the statehood would be restored to J&K at an appropriate time”.
Amit Shah is a man of few words and whenever he speaks he speaks profoundly. That is what he meant when he said the appropriate time. It is hoped that he would determine appropriateness of the timing for delivering on his promise.
My first question to Dr Karan Singh is, why is he so late in making this demand, which the leader in Altaf Bukhari made in March 2020. The statehood, to the people of J&K, and the generations born in post 1947 era, meant Lakhanpur to Leh, Kathua to Kupwara. But, for Dr. Singh, it must have meant much more because he was born in a state, the boundaries of which touched Tibet. Immediately after August 5, 2019 constitutional changes, he had described “ J&K as a majestic state.” In the same vein, he said that making of Ladakh as UT was vindication of his longstanding stand. About a fortnight ago, he had told an interviewer that “Dogra identity has received recognition with J&K becoming the UT.” So if that is correct, then why the statehood? Or is he privy that what the political contours of the state would be post Delimitation Commission.
His statement has come at a time when Home Minister Amit Shah is going to visit J&K as part of his ministry’s outreach programme that brought dozens of ministers to the UT, all of whom appreciated the work done by the administration under the leadership of Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha. And also, it came within 48 hours of former Provincial President of National Conference Devender Singh Rana joined BJP, the party which is expanding under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Devender has emerged as a strong voice for Jammu’s core identity transcending ethnic and geographical divisions which were thrust upon the region by various forces over the decades .
The statement and its timing cannot be read in isolation of these developments If these developments were not in consideration, then there is no other explanation for his delay in making this statement, which would be judged by history in due course of time. But, at the time, it can be said that Dr Karan Singh could have made a better and much forward looking
Dr Karan Singh, I think, could have made a better and much forward-looking statement. He has missed the opportunity.