Former army chief VK Singh’s claim that the army paid ministers in Jammu and Kashmir to “keep people together” has created a political storm, with the National Conference seeking a CBI probe into his statements and home minister Sushilkumar Shinde asking him to name the ministers who received payments.
Singh told a news channel on Monday that everyone in the establishment, including the defence ministry, was aware that ministers in Jammu and Kashmir had been paid since Independence for various tasks. On Tuesday, he reiterated the payments were made to ministers, not as bribes but only for army’s welfare schemes under Operation Goodwill aimed at “winning people’s hearts”.
Indian Express reported on Saturday that an army inquiry has recommended a CBI probe into the working of controversial Technical Services Division (TSD), formed by VK Singh, which allegedly paid Rs. 1.19 crore to Jammu and Kashmir agriculture minister Ghulam Hassan Mir to destabilise the Omar Abdullah government during the 2010 mass protests in the state and spent secret funds to pay off an NGO to try change the line of succession in the Army top brass. But the former general said governments will fall every day if a government can be toppled with R1crore.
“If money is required to get the youth away from stone throwing, if money is required to get them engaged in some useful activity, I am sure you will agree it is required,” he said, amid reports that Jammu and Kashmir government will formally seek a CBI probe into his remarks.
Asked if the money was paid to an NGO to file a case of human rights violation against current army chief General Bikram Singh to scuttle his promotion, he said the money was not given to the organisation named by the Indian Express but to a Kashmiri voluntary organisation to "do certain activities" like holding blood donation camps, running classes for women, "getting children out of the stone throwing mode".
The mainstream politicians in the insurgency-hit state have been put in a tight spot because the separatists have been calling them “stooges of New Delhi” and they fear VK Singh’s remarks will reinforce the impression.
National Conference patron and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah demanded a CBI probe into the general’s claims, while another former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the claim had shocked him and he too “was curious” to know who the beneficiaries of these payments were.
While home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Singh should name the ministers so that the matter can be probed, minister of state for home RPN Singh said the “government will look into it” when asked if an inquiry will be ordered.
Shinde told reporters he has not received any communication from the Jammu and Kashmir government or anyone else demanding a CBI inquiry into Singh's statement on army payments.
"I have not yet received any official communication from the Jammu and Kashmir government or any one else demanding a CBI inquiry into the VK Singh issue. I am yet to get details of the allegations made by VK Singh on payments made to Jammu and Kashmir ministers,” he said. National Conference provincial president Devender Rana asked VK Singh to name the ministers who have taken money.
"If the name of any NC minister figures, he will be sacked by chief minister Omar Abdullah as the NC believes in morality and probity in public life."
"As far as (Ghulam Hassan) Mir is concerned, after the statement of General Singh, it is he who has to address to his conscience," Rana said in Srinagar.
Opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said the central government must restrain the army and intelligence agencies from trying to interfere in democratic institutions.
Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani said the former army chief's statement has only proved what the separatists have been saying for years, while others in the separatist camp contacted by IANS said "the so-called mainstream Kashmiri politicians are responsible for choking the political space in Kashmir".
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh wondered why the former army chief was making such revelations now.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the revelation "does not augur well for the country". "It demoralises the services and it also goes to undermine institutions, in this case military intelligence," she said. The BJP has termed the leak of the army report as personal vendetta against VK Singh because he was seated next to the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a rally in Rewari in Haryana.
Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Atul Anjan demanded a CBI enquiry without further delay into the allegations made by VK Singh, and said the “truth must be revealed to the nation”.
“We cannot believe everything that VK Singh has said. He has always been very controversial since the beginning on various issues. I think its time that the Central government must look into this matter and there should be a CBI enquiry without further delay, and the truth must be brought in front the nation,” he said.