Karan Singh, the last prince of J&K, backs Centre on Article 370

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Congress leader Karan Singh, 88, welcomed Center’s move to accord Union Territory status to Leh and Ladakh. Photo: Twitter.

Congress leader Karan Singh, 88 – son of Maharaja Hari Singh acceded Jammu and Kashmir to India – on Thursday (August 8) welcomed Center’s move to accord Union Territory status to Leh and Ladakh.

In a tweet, the Congress leader said, “There are several positive points in (Center’s move). I don’t agree with a blanket condemnation of these developments.”

The former Indian envoy to the US, however, also said there was a need for political dialogue to continue in Kashmir. “It is unfair to dismiss the two main regional parties (of Kashmir) as being anti-national. Their workers have over the years made heave sacrifices, and besides both of them have been from time to time political allies of national parties and governments at the Centre and in the State,” the former Union minister said.

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With the statement, the former Rajya Sabha member has joined an increasing list of Congress leaders who have gone against the party’s stand on Article 370. Earlier this week, senior Congress leaders Janardan Dwivedi, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Deepender Hooda have gone against the party’s stand.

Earlier, Singh – who is known to be a critical voice within the Congress party – wanted to know from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government the reasons for “spreading fear” in the Valley. He said that he had seen many ups and downs during his 70 years in active politics, “but this is the first time I am witnessing conditions such as these.”

“In fact I had suggested Union Territory status to Leh and Ladakh as far as 1965 when I was Sadar-i-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir, when I had publically proposed reorganisation of the State… The gender discrimination in Article 35A needed to be addressed as also the long-awaited enfranchisement of lakhs of West Pakistan refugees and reservations for Scheduled Tribes will also be welcomed.”

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Meanwhile, the Congress has summoned all its state leaders to the national capital on Friday (August 8) to explain the party’s line on scrapping special status for J&K, a move designed to ensure that party leaders do not speak in different voices.

The party faced some awkward moments over the last few days after several leaders appeared to welcome the government’s effort to push revocation of Article 370 through the Parliament. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said those who supported erasing the constitutional safeguard for J&K were neither familiar with the history of Kashmir, or the Congress.

But the Congress was admittedly caught off guard by the government which pulled out two proposals to scrap special status and split the Himayalan state into two union territories.