Taking a different stand from his party, veteran Congress leader Karan Singh on Thursday said he does not agree with a blanket condemnation of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government's decision on Jammu and Kashmir and pointed out what he called were its several positives. In a statement the "positive points" Singh counted included the Union Territory status for Ladakh, scrapping of Article 35 A, future delimitation of J-K as a result of the state's bifurcation into UTs of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
However, he did not comment directly on Article 370 and called for releasing the leaders of legitimate political parties in Jammu and Kashmir and initiate a broad-based political dialogue with them. His statement comes two days after the Congress Working Committee deplored the way the government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status by scrapping provisions of Article 370 and bifurcated the state.
"I personally do not agree with a blanket condemnation of these developments. There are several positive points," Singh said in a statement in New Delhi, referring to the government decisions.
"Ladakh's emergence as UT is to be welcomed...The gender discrimination in Article 35 A needed to be addressed as also the long awaited enfranchisement of West Pakistan refugees and reservation for Scheduled Tribes will be welcomed," said Singh, son of a former J-K ruler, late Maharaja Hari Singh.
He also welcomed the fact that the bifurcation of the state meant there will be delimitation in future. "There will be a fresh delimitation which, for the first time, will ensure and fair division of political power between the Jammu and Kashmir regions."
As Karan Singh broadly backed the fresh developments in the state, of which he was the first and the last Sadr-e-Riyasat, he refrained from directly opposing or backing the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, which repealed J-K's special status. He called for a political dialogue in the Valley and said the two main parties - Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference - of Kashmir should not be called "anti-nationals".
The former Rajya Sabha MP acknowledged that the "unusually fast developments in Parliament caught everyone by surprise" but that these moves appear to enjoy overwhelming support across the country.
"The drastic measure appears to enjoy overwhelming support of Parliament as well as around the country including Jammu and Ladakh. I have been pondering deeply over the situation. Personally, I don't agree with a blanket condemnation of these developments," Singh said in a signed statement. He said the creation of Ladakh as UT was something, he suggested way back in 1965 as the Sadr-e-Riyasat.
"With regard to Kashmir, where a broad spectrum of people may be feeling mortified, I feel it is important for the political dialogue to continue. It is unfair to dismiss the two main regional parties as being anti-national. I would urge that leaders of legitimate political parties in Kashmir be released and a broad-based political dialogue initiated with them," the former Congress minister said.
He also said efforts should be made to restore full statehood for Jammu and Kashmir as soon as possible so that "people can at least enjoy political rights available to the rest of the country". Singh recalled his father Hari Singh's decision to sign the Instrument of Accession with India in 1947 and said, "My sole concern is the welfare of all sections of people in the state".