J&K: A Haven for Agents?

17 Oct, 2013    ·   4146

Shujaat Bukhari comments on allegations made by former Army chief VK Singh on corruption in the state

Shujaat Bukhari
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor in Chief, Rising Kashmir

A few hours after a suicide bomber hit a Church in Peshawar on Sunday last, a six-The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a resolution on Monday asking Government of India to order a time-bound probe into the “revelations” made by the former Chief of Army Staff General (retd) V K Singh vis-a-vis the mainstream politicians in the state. The resolution was the outcome of a three-hour-long discussion that was slated at the beginning of the ongoing autumn session after all the parties raised a hue and cry.

The ruling National Conference went to the extent of moving a privilege motion against Singh in both the Houses, which in itself created a history in the state legislature. The Legislative Council chairman Amrit Malhotra lost no time in admitting the motion but the Speaker of Assembly, Mubarak Gul, chose to tread a cautious path by reserving his judgment. Agreeing to a long discussion on the issue was in itself very significant. However, much before the discussion could be taken up, the rival parties, in a way had already vindicated though indirectly, what the former Army Chief had said.

There are two parts of this whole controversy. One is that an internal inquiry conducted by the Army headquarters into the “misadventures” of Gen Singh in his capacity as Army Chief had revealed that he was working on a larger plan of destabilization, not only within the Army but also outside. The report submitted by an upright officer of the Army was leaked deliberately at the time Gen Singh shared the stage with BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, otherwise it had been consigned to the archives eight months back.

The report made two startling revelations pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir. One that during his tenure as Army Chief, Gen Singh had paid Rs 1.19 crores to Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir for toppling the Omar Abdullah government that was facing the public wrath in 2010. Second that he had employed an NGO in South Kashmir to file Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to stall current Army Chief General Bikram Singh’s succession. Not only did it end there but also in response to the leakage, Gen Singh himself threw a bomb shell saying that since 1947 all the politicians in Jammu and Kashmir including ministers were being paid by Army and other sources.

Gen Singh’s revelations virtually grounded the mainstream camp as the general impression that has been carried along by generation after generation in the state in general and Kashmir in particular is that all those who come to power are “selected” by Delhi rather than getting elected by the people.

Jammu and Kashmir has a history of getting bad politics from both India and Pakistan. Since 1947, the elections have always ended up with questions, though with a few exceptions. But even in those cases serious questions have been raised but buried behind the smokescreen of “fairness”. Right from the formation of constituent assembly, the way the processes have been mauled are part of the management Delhi has practiced in Kashmir. Even as in some cases, people’s participation has been visible but that also has come under this heavy weight of management.

After 1990, the elections had become a major challenge for India in Kashmir. But for the emergence of pro-Army Ikhwan headed by the counter insurgent Kukka Parray, the space was carved out for holding the elections. But from 1996 onwards, the conduct of elections has not been a free exercise at all. I remember how Army resorted to coercion in May 1996 Parliament elections when New Delhi took it as a challenge to “restore democratic process” in Kashmir. People were literary dragged from their houses and taken to polling booths. This helped them to earn the appreciation from New Delhi to mould the Kashmiris again into the process but not without the active participation of those who stood as candidates and had revived the political parties. NC boycotted the Parliament election demanding that Autonomy should be first restored. But after the elections were conducted, though through sham exercise, NC got nervous and jumped into the fray in Assembly election in September.

This re-opened the closed chapter of pro-India or mainstream politics in Kashmir.
Since then many more elections were held but Kashmiris, despite participation of many (with exception to the majority in towns and Srinagar city) remained skeptical about the genuineness of the representative character of this set up. With each passing day all the parties fought for legitimacy, though a parallel set up of separatists continued to haunt them. Elections in Kashmir have been sold at a very high rate by Delhi to international community, but the way Gen Singh deflated that theory it has proved those right who always saw the exercise as a managed one.
Delhi has always been blaming Pakistan and its Inter Services Intelligence for destablisation in Kashmir and defaming the legitimate institutions. But what Gen Singh did perhaps could not be done by ISI in 15 years, in spite of the fact that India is too scared of it.

Coming back to how the members in the Assembly vindicated Gen Singh, it is important to note that since the day one of the current session, the members of rival parties have been calling each other “agents”. While one party blames the other as creation of BJP, the other turns around saying that it had always been pushed by the vested interests centered around the idea of weakening the democratic structure in the state. At the same time they cried hoarse as to why Gen Singh leveled such allegations thus demolishing the institution of democracy. It is not the case of one Ghulam Hassan Mir, but the way discussion took place in Assembly it was not difficult to understand that how subdued the speakers were in attacking Gen Singh.

Barring one Mustafa Kamal who took on him directly and demanded that he should be brought into Assembly, others chose to go around history and geography and demanding the probe. The fate of probes is well known in Jammu and Kashmir. And on the top of it they passed a resolution asking GoI to order a time-bound probe. As if they did not know the fate of Autonomy Resolution of 2000, they pretended to be concerned about the dent caused to their credibility. They all know how the process about the probes goes. In next five months the elections are due in India; who will bother about their resolution. And if BJP comes to power will they entertain it? But it was a safe route for them to save the face. Otherwise calling him to the Assembly to explain would empower it and also help them to restore it. After the discussion was over, the murmurs in press gallery were that they had been told to deal with it like this. After all, can they confront an institution called Army, which is spread all over, and their return to Assembly depends largely on them.

By arrangement with RIsing Kashmir