Amid a raging row over Article 370 that guarantees special status for Jammu and Kashmir, senior Congress leader Karan Singh today appealed to all concerned to exercise restraint, saying the “extremely sensitive” issue needs to be handled in a mature fashion. Singh, whose father Maharaja Hari Singh had agreed to accede to India by signing the Instrument of Accession in October 1947, expressed distress over the controversy and said any “steam-roller approach” to deal with the issue was not appropriate.
“I have been distressed by the fierce controversy that has broken out in the press and electronic media with regard to Article 370, flowing from an avoidable statement by the MoS in PM’s office. The whole question is extremely sensitive and must be handled coolly and in a mature fashion,” he said in a statement. Jitendra Singh, the MoS in the Prime Minister’s Office, on Tuesday triggered a controversy when he said the new government has started the process for repealing the provision. J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and opposition PDP slammed Singh for his comments while the minister said he has been “misquoted”.
Singh said the kind of statements being issued from both sides will only create “further turmoil and tension” in J&K. “My appeal to all concerned is to kindly tone down the rhetoric and not let the Minister’s statement plunge the new government almost immediately into a complex and difficult situation. “The whole question of Jammu and Kashmir has to be looked at an integral fashion, including the international dimension, the constitutional position, the legal aspects as well as the political aspects. Such an integral review is overdue, but it has to be done in a cooperative rather than a confrontational manner,” he said.
In the statement, Singh mentioned that Maharaja Hari Singh had signed the Instrument of Accession under “unusual circumstances when a full scale war was raging due to the Pakistani-based tribal invasion.”
He said the Instrument was identical to the document signed by all the other former provincial States.
Elaborating further, he said though other States later signed merger agreements, the relationship of J and K with the rest of the country was governed by a special set of circumstances, and hence was given a special position. “The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, which I signed into law in 1957, is still in force,” he said.
“Certainly J&K is an ‘integral part’ of India, but that does not necessarily mean that it has to be treated exactly on par with other States,” he said.
Singh also gave example of Hong Kong and said it is an ‘integral part’ of China but was given a special dispensation.
“There are in fact numerous examples around the world in which, due to special circumstances, certain areas or regions have been given special dispensation. Though all talk of secession is totally unacceptable and uncalled for, the steam-roller approach is also not appropriate. “Let us not forget that 50 per cent of the area of my father’s 84,000 sq miles State is in fact not in our possession. It has been under Pakistan control since the UN’s brokered ceasefire on January 1, 1949, and Pakistan has leased a considerable portion of this land to China,” he said. Singh observed that public opinion differs sharply on the issue in the three regions of the State–Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.