Interview | Tread cautiously: Karan Singh

Interview | Tread cautiously: Karan Singh
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Senior Congress leader and former Sadr-e- Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir Dr Karan Singh on Saturday advised the Government of India to tread a cautious path on Articles 35A and 370.  

In an interview to IANS Karan Singh—88-year-old son ofMaharaja Hari Singh the last ruler of J& K who acceded to the Union ofIndia— said, "Let me start by saying that the accession is final andirrevocable, nowhere am I questioning its wajood (existence). This accessionhas been confirmed and validated by the J&K Constituent Assembly which liesdissolved, so there can be no questions asked about its veracity. Legally,morally and constitutionally, the state is part of the Indian sovereign.However, on Article 370 and 35A, I would advise extreme caution: treadcarefully for there are legal, political, constitutional and emotional factorsinvolved which should be thoroughly assessed, I think that is fairwarning."

On being pressed further, he argued that, "Pleaseunderstand there are four critical dimensions to this problem, for startersthere is an international dimension with 45 per cent of the original state'sarea and 30 per cent of its population (as of October 26, 1947) having beensliced away over the years. Remember that both Pakistan and China are sittingon our territory. We may live in denial and every once in a while talk ofPakistan administered Kashmir, but there is also Gilgit, Baltistan and theNorthern Territories, the largely inhabited Aksai Chin and Shaksgam and YarkandRiver Valleys which run adjacent to the Trans Karakoram Tract which have beenlopped off.

"In fact, till 1963, the last part was considered partof J&K by Pakistan. It is easy to say 'Kashmir hamarahai', but for 50 yearsI have stayed in Delhi and not once have I seen the 'dard' of this hapless andstar-crossed state in Delhi and India. Only lip service has been offeredinstead."

The second dimension, according to Karan Singh, is thenature of the relationship between the Centre and state, and this is wherevarious sensitivities come into the equation.

As Karan Singh recounts, "When the Instrument ofAccession was signed by Bapuji (Maharaja Hari Singh) in Jammu, he signed off onmerely three issues. Under this instrument of accession, Jammu and Kashmirsurrendered only three subjects, which was defence, external affairs andcommunications to the Indian state and earned an assurance from India that thepeople of Jammu and Kashmir through their own constituent Assembly would drafttheir own constitution. Which happened."

"I summoned the Constituent Assembly based on the DelhiAgreement between Pandit Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. The J&K Constitutionmade by the State Constituent Assembly became law on January 26, 1957 with mysignature. Remember, Sheikh Saheb had already been arrested in 1953. BothArticle 370 and Article 35A came into existence and they cannot be changedwithout approval of the J&K Constituent Assembly which has since beendissolved. A catalogue of items from the Union List were subsequently broughtin. While the accession remains undisputed, the relationship between the Centreand state has never been settled. The Centre has its own views, the state'spolity holds diverse views and now new hawkish elements profess a different setof views. The whole thing is up in the air."

The most important point of the instrument of accession wasthat its ruler and formal head Hari Singh decided and declared that the stateof Jammu and Kashmir accede to the 'Dominion of India' with a clear result thatfrom here on "governor-general of India, the dominion legislature, thefederal court and any other dominion authority established for the purposes ofthe dominion" would be legally authorised to carry out any function inrespect to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, as vested in them by or under theGovernment of India Act, 1935.

However, to retain its special status it added two importantclauses which stated: "The terms of this my Instrument of Accession shallnot be varied by any amendment of the Act or of the Indian Independence Act, 1947,unless such amendment is accepted by me by an Instrument supplementary to thisInstrument."

Sheikh Abdullah writing to Nehru on July 4, 1953 prior tohis arrest later that year showed the disturbed mind space he was in "whenArticle 370 was devised, we felt assured by the statement from Sardar Patelthat the Instrument of Accession would be the final basis of India-Kashmirrelationship. Subsequently, when the Delhi Agreement came up before the Councilof State on August 5, 1952, GopalaswamiAyyangar stated that Article 370 was nota permanent feature of the Indian Constitution and 'when the time was ripe',this provision could be removed from the Constitution."

Moreover Article 35A was inserted through PresidentialDecree and hence can be changed by a fresh one (it was inserted through theConstitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, which was issuedby President Rajendra Prasad under Article 370, on the advice of the Nehru-ledUnion Government).

Further Karan Singh reckons that the dimension of regionalaspirations cannot be ignored for the state of J &K now has three clearlinguistic and geographical divisions – Jammu, Kashmir Valley and Ladakh andthese remain un-integrated despite 72 years having passed. He avers: "Fromthe foothills of Jammu right up to the heights of Gilgit, Ladakh, Kargil, theinhospitable terrain of Siachen and Saltoro Ridge right down to the wastelandof Aksai China, it was part of a Dogra Empire ruled by a dynasty for 100 years.It is the might of the Dogra soldiers under Gen. Zorawar Singh and Baaz Singhwho took it to those heights. Our neighbours were Soviet Union and China and wemaintained border and territorial integrity with both.

"It was a remarkable state, unique in India and weshould always be thankful to the Sikhs and Dogras for keeping a unified Jammuand Kashmir which incidentally was larger than France at the time of accession.It is only after the UN ceasefire and endless hostilities that Mirpur,MuzzafarabadGilgit Agency et al came into being as PaK. The three units leftwith us – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – have always had a rocky and uneasyrelationship with each other since there has never been a fair division ofpower. I believe the Dogras have been rubbished by history and the balance ofpower in the state needs to be restored with both Jammu and Ladakh being giventheir rightful place. I am happy to note that Kargil and Leh have now beenrecognised as hill councils but the way forward has to be empowered and electedregional councils for better interface and functioning."

Finally, Karan Singh spoke about the fourth dimension whichzeroes in on the humanitarian aspect — all over the Valley there are'kabristans' with thousands of human lives lost, Kashmiri Pandits have beenchased away from home and hearth, many still live in camps in Jammu andUdhampur, the Dogras have never been given the respect they deserve and ofcourse all the people who reside in border villages live a life of daily hellwhen the unabated shelling continues. "Who is responsible for this universal suffering, where is the aidfor the harassed people of the state? The state is not merely Kashmir butJ&K. What does a resolution mean, what are its contours, does it includethese four dimensions? I have been ignored by history after being Regent andSadar e Riyasat, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh went innumerable times to thestate during the decadal UPA rule but not once was I taken by them. The reportof the interlocutors was neglected and the situation in the state has gone intoa tailspin."

For some reason, Karan Singh believes that the state has amaligned destiny and its people are jinxed for in 1964 Sheikh had been sent toPakistan with a formal proposal for a solution, but while he was there, PMNehru died and nobody knows what the true contents of that settlement were? Heactually went carrying Nehru's missive. Similarly, the Musharraf-Manmohan fourpoint formula pretty much resolved this imbroglio but that too fell throughbecause of various reasons.

The action plan comprised demilitarisation or phasedwithdrawal of troops, that there will be no change of borders of Kashmir, butpeople of Jammu & Kashmir would be allowed to move freely across the Lineof Control (LoC), self-governance without independence and a joint supervisionmechanism in Jammu and Kashmir involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir werewithin the grasp of both governments but it is reported that the IndianCabinet, L.K. Advani and separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani at differentpoints proved to be impediments. In fact, even late PM AtalBihari Vajpayee wassaid to be somewhat suspicious of Musharraf given that Kargil scars were freshin everyone's minds.

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