I Know Which Politicians Were Paid During My Tenure; Money Was Given To Them Under Operation Sadbhavna; Troops Also Funded Some NGOs
Srinagar, Sep 24: In a startling revelation that could have far-reaching political ramifications, former Army Chief Gen V K Singh has said that almost all the ministers in Jammu and Kashmir “are on the payrolls of the Army” as they are regularly taking money from the armed forces. Gen Singh said the money was being paid not as bribe but under the overall umbrella of Sadbhavna for undertaking various “nationalistic activities.”
Gen Singh’s latest disclosures have triggered a political storm in J&K, with ministers in the National Conference-Congress coalition government ridiculing his broadside and demanding that the names of the politicians allegedly taking the money from the Army should be made public.
Speaking to a Delhi-based news channel and a newspaper separately, Gen Sigh said; “Army transfers money to all the ministers in J&K. Because there are various things to be done and ministers have to do so many things as part of the stabilizing factor in the state and for organizing various activities.”
Asked if all ministers are paid, Gen Singh said, “maybe not all the ministers but most of the ministers and people who are given a certain sum to get a particular thing done.”
“I have served in Kashmir myself and am aware of it. I know which politicians have been paid during my tenures. It is not unusual,” he said.
Gen Singh was responding to allegations that a Minister in the J&K Ghulam Hassan Mir was paid Rs 1.19 crore by the Technical Support Division (TSD) set up during his tenure to destabilize the Omar Abdullah-led government in the state.
On being asked whether the controversial TSD paid Mir from the secret funds — as alleged by the Army probe — Gen Singh said that “if such a possibility is there I am sure there must be a reason for a particular transaction or number of transactions to this person”.
Admitting money was paid to Mir, Gen Singh said TSD had worked with politicians like Mir and some pro-India NGOs in Kashmir to blunt the “anti-India propaganda” of separatists from 2010. “It was all part of a larger game-plan, and two major achievements of the TSD were the Panchayat elections of 2011 and the sudden end to the stone-throwing agitation in Kashmir in 2010.”
Asked if a minister like Mir takes money and siphons it off, Singh said; “I do not think so. We have a system to ensure its accountability. There are proper receipts and it is ensured that the work given is done.”
“Mir is one of the most nationalistic politicians and unifying force in Kashmir today, whose work has been appreciated by other intelligence agencies too. He has organised youth programmes to direct the young of Kashmir away from militancy,” Gen Singh said.
Asked if Chief Minister Omar Abdullah knew about these money transfers, Singh said, “If as a chief minister you do not know this, you are not running the state”.
Reacting to the reports on destabilizing the Jammu and Kashmir government, the former army chief said money given to politicians was not for personal or political use, but for programmes to engage youth in constructive work.
He said money was given to Kashmiri politicians and voluntary organizations to “do certain activities” like holding blood donation camps, running classes for women, “getting children out of the stone throwing mode”.
Gen Singh went on to add, “This had been going on in J&K since Independence. This is a system to ensure that all the Governments are helped. To ensure things are done. This is nothing new.”
“There are things which happen in J&K which are inimical to the country. We have a job — that is to keep the country together… If we find that we can help, that integrity can be maintained, if we find things can be done, then the Army steps in,” he said. Gen Singh, whose tenure as the Army chief was shrouded in a controversy over his date of birth, argued, “Kashmir is a different issue altogether. A lot of things are done where you do a lot of civic and youth work. For all this, money is needed. A certain amount of money is given for these works. Where is the problem?
Asked to explain reasons, Singh argued, “There are times like – Who funded KPL (Kashmir Premier League)? Did the J&K Government or Omar Abdullah fund it? The Army funded it.”
He also confirmed that the Army’s secret unit Technical Support Division transferred money to an NGO based in Jammu and Kashmir. “TSD worked with politicians and some pro-India NGOs to blunt anti-India propaganda of separatists,” he said.
Pertinently, according to Army inquiry, Youth Empowerment Service (YES), the Anantnag-based NGO that filed a PIL in J&K High Court against Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh alleging his involvement in Janglat Mandi “fake encounter” in 2001, had links with another NGO called Jammu and Kashmir Humanitarian Service Organization, whose founder, Hakikat Singh – a Shopian fruit trader – was given Rs 2.38 crore, allegedly from Gen V K Singh’s secret service funds. The PIL was aimed at changing the succession for the race to appointment of the Army Chief.
The PIL was dismissed by the J&K High Court. YES is not known for anything other than filing this PIL.
“Everyone in Kashmir, the police and other intelligence agencies know about the work of these NGOs and their role in keeping the people away from militant activities by organising social and sports programmes. Some of them were given money to conduct these activities and they were purely nation-building exercises,” Gen Singh said.
‘Money paid to ministers not bribe’
PTI Adds from New Delhi: Meanwhile, drawing flak for his remarks that ministers in JK were paid money by the Army, Gen Singh on Tuesday sought to do damage control by saying it was not a bribe but aimed at creating goodwill among people.
“I did not commit any mistake. When I had said some politicians were given money, it was not meant for their personal purpose or political purpose. It was not for lining their pockets or for bribe. If somebody says that any minister was given a bribe, it is totally wrong. It was meant solely for stability, to win hearts and minds of people, to wean people away from separatist activities under the overall umbrella of Sadbhavna (harmony),” he said addressing a press conference at his residence in Gurgaon Tuesday.
He claimed such activities are carried out by the Army in many areas and are not limited to Jammu and Kashmir. He, however, refused to name anyone.