Former army chief VK Singh has rattled the political establishment in Jammu and Kashmir and political circles in New Delhi with his remarks that the army has been paying ministers in the insurgency-hit state since Independence, and that everyone in the system was in the know.
Mainstream parties in Kashmir have been put in a tight spot by VK Singh's revelations because the separatists have always accused them of being the "stooges of New Delhi". The ruling National Conference (NC) has asked the former army chief to name the ministers allegedly paid by the army.
In an interview with Times Now, he said army has been giving money to ministers "to ensure that the people are kept together", which is a euphemism for saying that ministers keep deep-rooted secessionist sentiments in check.
"The army transfers money to all the ministers in Jammu and Kashmir…there are various things to be done. As part of the stabilizing factor in the state, as part of the activities to be organised,' VK Singh told the news channel.
Asked if all the ministers are being paid, he said, "Maybe not all the ministers, but certain ministers and people who are given a certain sum to get a particular thing done. That job involves bringing stability to a particular area."
Asked if chief minister Omar Abdullah knew about these money transfers, VK Singh said, "If as a chief minister you do not know this, you are not running the state."
On Friday, Indian Express reported that a secret army inquiry has recommended a CBI probe into the working of a Technical Support Division founded by VK Singh, which had committed financial irregularities and carried out unauthorised secret operations besides funding a Kashmir-based NGO to file case against current army chief General Bikram Singh to stop his promotion.
The inquiry had also revealed that TSD paid Rs. 1.19 crore to J&K agriculture minister Ghulam Hassan Mir to topple Omar Abdullah government during 2010 uprising in Kashmir. VK Singh had called Mir a 'god', a nationalist and unifying factor in Jammu and Kashmir. On his part, Mir denied the reports of money transfers and said he had very cordial relations with VK Singh.
When Times Now asked VK Singh whether TSD paid Mir from secret funds as alleged by the army probe, he said, "If such a possibility is there, I am sure there must be a reason for particular transaction or number of transactions to this person."
The army's probe had led to differences between the Congress and NC, with the former asking Mir to step down and the latter saying he must be given a chance to defend himself.
"We live in a democratic set-up. Mir has already said that the allegations are baseless, so he should be given a chance to explain," Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Saifuddin Soz had told the media. Mir, who has switched parties several times over the last three decades, is agriculture minister on the Congress quota in Omar Abdullah's coalition government.