The missing funds and VK Singh's startling revelations

It is like proverbial mosquito entering into snout of an elephant and the aftermath thereof. That is how best one can describe the controversy sparked after The Indian Express in its 20 September 2013 issue carried a report about findings of an army probe into ‘misusing’ of funds by former Army Chief General V. K. Singh. In the long list of startling revelations, three directly concerned Jammu and Kashmir:  One, Rs 19 million given to Ghulam Hassan Mir, presently Agriculture Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, to engineer a change of Government in Jammu and Kashmir. Two, Rs.24 million given to an NGO named "Jammu and Kashmir Humanitarian Service Organisation (JKHSO)," which was linked to "Yes Kashmir.” and third buying off-air interception equipment, to conduct "unauthorized" covert operations. ’ 

Should I say that the report played a devil’s advocate making the former chief to spill the beans? He said many things that otherwise under  burden of the  oath of office would remain embedded  in hinterland of his mind and buried with him – perhaps   in his autobiography also he would not speak so frankly about the role of army in  the state. Instead of assailing, the veracity of the report about ministers and NGOs in the state receiving money from the army he came up with candid details about money paid to most of ministers in the state and NGOs and tasks assigned to them by the army. Describing dispensing huge sums of money to ministers since “Independence”   as a part of “game plan” to “blunt anti-India propaganda of separatists, he very subtly suggested that army has had a role in decision making process of the cabinet and in the electoral process in the state. Stating it was because of working of Technical Support Division (TSD) a unit of Military Intelligence created during his term in office with politicians like Ghulam Hassan Mir that “Panchayat elections of 2011” is today counted as an achievement.  Every line of the statements made by the former army chief for past week is strikingly revealing and suggestive substantial presence of army in public, political and social space of the state.   

Did the unit set up by former army chief  use secret funds to topple the government led by Omar Abdullah in 2010 is poser?  If there is some truth in it – why had scion of Abdullah family become bête noire for the army high command in 2010? Ostensibly, there seems no reason for it. In serving the interests of ‘New Delhi’ in the state, he is not different from other Chief Ministers who have ruled the state now for past 60 years. On the face of it will be difficult to trash the report by the Board of Officer of army about the toppling game but question arises, was the army chief  looking for someone more “ductile”…. In 2010, when Kashmir was making headlines globally and the agitation in the state was internationally described as “second intifada”, change of guard was very much in the grapevine. Along with Mir, names of two other National Conference Ministers were whispered in the corridors of power as likely choices . If these rumors were, just kite flying or spread by the concerned agencies for testing the waters is a question that needs to be looked into in the light of disclosure by the army probe. 

Nevertheless, there is nothing new in army having a role in all the political games in Jammu and Kashmir. The former army chief has only retold the history in stating that army has been at the centre of Kashmir politics since 1947.  Immediately after landing of troops on 27 October 1947, the leadership that bragged of being architects of accession with Indian had to play second fiddle for army. ‘These National Conference leaders had formed a volunteer militia   to provide transport and guides to Indian soldiers. Sent some volunteers them about the situation in various areas. As these volunteers approached these soldiers of the Sikh regiment, they were fired at killing most of them. Army sources describing these killings as “mistaken identity”, had put the figure of dead at seven. Many historians have put the figure of killed as twenty-seven. (Sheikh Abdullah by Ajit Bhattacharjea (preface XI). The story of a woman volunteer of the National Conference sent by Sheikh Abdullah as guide with these soldiers to Shalatang better left unsaid.

 Sheikh Abdullah always thought that it was because of him that Indian soldiers had landed in Kashmir. Many second rung leaders of his party conducted soldiers to remotest areas of Kashmir. Historian Rashid Taseer in his book Tahreeki Hurriyat Kashmir – 1946-1949 Vol III gives details about the role played by NC leaders in making operations of Indian army a success in Kashmir.  Sheikh also believed, they would be taking orders from him. In his book “Slender Was the Thread: Kashmir Confrontation 1947-48”,  L.P. Sen  mentioning an episode tells us how  Sheikh Abdullah was told that army was not there to take advice or orders from him. ‘Sheokh and his lieutenant Bakshi   arrived unannounced in the War Room set up by army at Srinagar- even without customary greetings they were shown the door.

Jawaharlal Nehru used more than once army in Kashmir for political purposes wrote A.G. Noorani in an article some time back, he rightly called Sheikh Abdullah’s deposition in 1953 as “Nehru’s military operation in Kashmir.” ‘Indian army was told about Sheikh Abdullah’s dismissal beforehand’ writing about his role in dismal of Prime Minister of State,   Maj Gen. Hira Lal Atal writes in his book ‘Nehru’s Emissary in Kashmir’, “I left for Srinagar with Skelton staff sometime in July 1953 for assessing  the situation and conducting the ‘exercise.” In his book he gives details, how he personally snooped on Abdullah, after getting information from a brigadier about his political and private activities.  He mentions about Abdullah’s “connection” with a lady staying in Nedou’s Hotel “having Pakistani leanings”- he mentions how he barged in the room of the lady when Sheikh Abdullah was “closeted” with her- later she was externed from the state’ (page 162).  So the statements of Gen V.K. Singh as rightly said by journalist Prem Shanker Jha cannot be brushed aside these provide important leads for understanding role of army in the state but it would need an investigative journalists like Adrian Levy and Cathy Scot Clark of the “Meadows” to tell the whole story