New Delhi: Under intense attack and criticism, former Army chief Gen VK Singh on Tuesday made a U-turn on his claim that ministers and MLAs in Jammu and Kashmir are getting payments from the Army, saying no such thing happens.
He sought to wriggle out of the controversy by claiming that he had cited purported comments attributed to former US Ambassador to India David Mulford when he said "certain ministers" of Jammu and Kashmir were being paid by the Army for stability.
"I have never said that they (ministers and MLAs) are paid money under Sadbhavna (civic action schemes undertaken by the Army). I have just said that certain projects are taken up which help in stabilising. This can be a bridge or a transformer," Singh told a news agency in an interview.
The former chief was asked to explain the remarks made by him that the Army was paying money to MLAs and ministers in the trouble-torn state to bring stability and this had been going on since Independence.
When pressed on the issue, he again said, "I have never said that in the book. I have not even said that in the interview."
He was referring to his recently-released book `Courage and Conviction`.
It was pointed out to him that he had said so in an interview some months back. He replied: "I have said that they may have been paid but David Mulford has said that in 2011. You read the WikiLeaks reports in a national business daily. I have repeated what he has said."
Asked whether he wanted to now say that Army does not pay any minister or MLA in Jammu and Kashmir, he replied, "Yes, you can say that."
Singh, who retired as Army Chief in May last year, has been attacked over his claim. He has also earned the wrath of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly which has issued him a show cause notice.
Talking about the notice, he said, "I have already given a reply to the notice issued by the state Assembly. Let them deal with it accordingly."
After the uproar over his claims, he had said the next day that this money was not a bribe and suggested that it was given under Operation Sadbhavna of the force for "winning the hearts and minds" of the people.
He said the Operation Sadbhavna, under which the Army carries out civic actions such as building schools and other projects for local population in Jammu and Kashmir, has been going on in one name or the other for a long time.
"Op Sadbhavna has been there for long. Earlier it was called military civic action, then it was was called civic action and then in 2000 Lt Gen Arjun Ray started calling it Operation Sadbhavna. These are all crafts which a state employs for strife torn areas such as northeast and other areas," the former Army chief said.
Singh has also been under attack over the controversial army intelligence unit Technical Support Division, which was accused of making attempts to destabilise the Jammu and Kashmir government by paying Rs 1.19 crore to a minister in the state.
"This is all laughable...If someone can write in a report that Rs one crore was meant to destabilise the state government, that person does not have any brain," he said.