Former army chief, General VK Singh, stirred a hornet's nest when he claimed that ministers in Kashmir were on army's payroll since 1947. The J&K assembly will now summon him to the House for an explanation. Chief minister Omar Abdullah takes on Gen Singh in a hard-hitting interview. Excerpts:
You blame VK Singh and say mainstream politicians are now being viewed with suspicion. But before you blame the General, shouldn't the Centre also be blamed for leaking the report?
The handling of the report is a separate issue. VK Singh's allegations are making us out to be paid agents of the army. We have all become suspects. It is tough enough to be a mainstream politician in Kashmir and now we have to deal with what he has said.
The General says he has only repeated what American ambassador David Mulford said; so why the ruckus now?
What Mulford wrote in a private diplomatic cable was based on innuendo and gossip. If Mulford had said that the CIA paid money through him, there would have been a ruckus. VK Singh is only muddying the waters by dragging Mulford in. If what the General says is true, then the army is damaging democracy. And what does he mean by 1947? Militancy is a product of 1990, so who was the army paying before that and for what? Let VK Singh stand up and categorically say he was wrong and we will accept that. I have asked the Prime Minister for a time-bound inquiry.
The leaked report says one of your ministers, Ghulam Hassan Mir, was paid ` 1.9 crore to topple your government? Why is Mir still a minister and why would an army chief want to topple your government?
Ask VK Singh. You think a government can be toppled for that amount? You think Mir could have bought the Congress party for ` 1.9 crore? I have left Mir's resignation to his conscience as it is a question of morality. The day any illegality is proved, I will sack him.
It is well known that you and Gen Singh had a strained relationship. What were the reasons?
I had no relationship with him. He was not my army chief. I am the chief minister of J&K; why do I need to have an equation with him? And how can I get into Singh's motives - why would he want to topple the government or tap our phones? Senior army officers had told me that my number was being tapped.
Were the relations strained over the issue of partial withdrawal of AFSPA?
We had different points of view, but it's not as if the revocation has begun under the new army chief.
Do you think VK Singh was a good army chief?
It's not for me to rate him. I find it hard to swallow that he took the government to court but that's for the Centre to answer. The government gave him too long a rope. He should have had the service book thrown at him. The Technical Services Division (spook unit) was working without the consent and concurrence of my government.
The assembly has passed a resolution summoning Singh, but has given no date. You are not serious about summoning him?
That's a question for the Speaker. I am on a parallel track as the CM and have written to the Prime Minister.