Old habits die hard. You may take over his princely-state, but you can't snatch his princely style.
Dr Karan Singh, the last yuvraj of Jammu and Kashmir, has finally spoken his "heart-and-head" out, right inside Parliament, with all his princely grace; every word weighed before every utterance made.
Dr Singh's widely-admired speech has stirred a new debate in restive Kashmir, on boil since July 8 when militant "commander" Burhan Muzaffar Wani and his two associates were killed.
The former Sadre Riyasat is no more a prince from the family remembered as tyrants by people of Kashmir. But his recent statement has almost made him the king of hearts.
As per the convention, anything unparliamentary gets expunged, but his speech during the debate on Kashmir in the Rajya Sabha on August 10, has emerged as a historic narrative, which throws light on everything relevant from J&K's accession to India, to the need for a lasting solution to the Kashmir dispute.
Singh said: "I want to speak from both my heart and head and place some factors before you which perhaps may not be fully known and may be a little uncomfortable. But whatever I will say is based upon truth."
Elaborating, the senior Congress leader and former Sadre Riyasat said Kashmir is a political issue where "India needs to bite the bullet at some point in time and resolve it", even as he asserted that J&K's relation with India is "governed by Article 370".
Singh said the fire is raging. While over 6,000 pellets have been officially fired on people in the ongoing unrest, he said: "Please remember Jammu and Kashmir is an extremely complex and a complicated affair. There is no magic bullet that will solve it overnight."
He sought humane introspection. "Why is it that thousands and thousands of young people are embarked on a path that will only bring death and destruction to themselves and their loved ones? Why is this happening? I think we have got to introspect very carefully and humanely."
His self-explanatory speech hints at restoration of pre-1953 status. "We say J&K is an integral part of India. Of course it is. The day my father signed the IoA (Instrument of Accession), it became an integral part of India. On October 27, 1947, I was in my room, in my house. However, please remember something more."
"My father acceded for three subjects only, which included defence, communication and foreign affairs. He signed the same with other princely states, but all others states subsequently merged. But J&K did not merge with India."
Pleading that there was "still an uncertainty with regard to the exact status" of J&K and its relation with the Indian Union, Dr Singh said: "Integral part doesn't necessarily mean it will be exactly same as everything else."
Referring to the neighbouring country, he said: "China has one state, two systems… Hong Kong has a different system."The crux of his viewpoint was restoration of autonomy when J&K had its own prime minister and Sadre Riyasat, the twin powers subsequently reduced to the administrative posts of chief minister and governor, respectively.
On the political front, restoration of this autonomy won't cost New Delhi anything beyond rollback of some administrative orders.
But it can give a sense of achievement to the bruised people of Kashmir, who have tangibly achieved nothing in over 25 years of conflict, written in gory tales of massacres, killings, tortures, rapes, custodial disappearances and what not. Use of the pellet gun is just a new chapter.
For that matter, despite resilience, till now, even the mortal remains of Muhammad Afzal Guru couldn't be brought back from Tihar Jail.
The grant of autonomy can prove an achievable milestone, till the final solution to J&K's territory, presently under de-facto control of three nuclear powers: India, Pakistan and China.
From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the separatist leadership, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik, it's high time for every stakeholder to ponder over the viewpoint as put forth by the erstwhile prince whose ancestors ruled Kashmir till October 27, 1947.
Demand of plebiscite at this moment may obviously see non-Muslim areas of Jammu and Ladakh regions go against the popular sentiment in Kashmir, thus triggering a new conspiracy over trifurcation of the state.
The Kashmir dispute has had enough of rhetoric. To douse the flames of the 2016 unrest and to avoid recurrence of such a bloodbath in the future, a tangible beginning needs to be made.
It's high time to speak and set achievable, time-bound milestones.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.