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A friend of Palestine, Rich Tributes Pour in for Veteran Kashmir Politician Bhim Singh

Anees Zargar |
Singh, who passed away on Tuesday, founded Panther’s Party and was one of the few Indian politicians who had close ties with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Palestinian leader Yaser Arafat.
 Kashmir Politician Bhim Singh

Image Courtesy: Rising Kashmir

Srinagar: A firebrand politician and founder of Jammu and Kashmir National Panther’s Party (JKNPP), Professor Bhim Singh, died after prolonged illness in Jammu on Tuesday at the age of 80. 

Singh, who was also a well-known lawyer, activist and author of several books, was admitted at Government Medical College, Jammu, where he breathed his last on Tuesday morning.

Son of a serviceman, Singh was born in Bhugterian village of Jammu division’s Udhampur district and is survived by his wife Jai Mala and son Ankit Love, a flamboyant British-Kashmiri, who founded his own party in London in 2015 called the One Love Party.

Singh, a Supreme Court lawyer, was affiliated with the Indian National Congress before he founded the JKNPP in 1982, a party he considered was rooted in Dogra pride and Indian nationalism. He was the grandson of General Zorawar Singh, the military general whose campaigns in Ladakh helped Gulab Singh consolidate the Dogra kingdom in Jammu and Kashmir.

Before practising law, Singh did his LL.B from Aligarh Muslim University in 1967 and completed LLM and Bar-at-law with distinction from London University in 1972. He was considered as one of the most prominent authorities on International Law, especially on the politics of West Asia and Palestine.

In 1971, Singh took an arduous journey across Western Sahara travelling from Morocco to Senegal on motorcycle during a peace mission.

Singh was known as one of the few Indian politicians, who had close ties with deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Palestinian leader from Al-Fatah Yaser Arafat. Singh lamented Saddam’s hanging calling it an assault on the Islamic world and extended support to Gaddafi as chairman of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Council. He was also known for his open support to the Palestinian cause and was a vocal critic of the state of Israel. 

He served as the chairman of Indo-Palestine Friendship Society. His demise was widely mourned by political parties in the region, who termed his death as an end of an era.

“A man of many parts. Timeless, Selfless and a crusader. He was my father’s colleague and friend. From riding Sahara on a motor cycle to Palestine to Iraq— Bhim Singh Ji had friends all across. A born adventurer. May he rest in peace,” politician Sajad Lone tweeted.

In Jammu and Kashmir, Singh was known for being a vocal critic of National Conference (NC) founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. He served as Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 1977-88, Member of Parliament in 1988 and Member of Legislative Council (MLC) during 2003-08. He was one of the few old politicians, who fiercely advocated the abrogation of Article 370 arguing that the integration of Kashmir was incomplete due to the “special provisions” guaranteed under the law. 

Expressing shock over his demise, CPI(M) leader Mohamad Yousuf Tarigami said Prof Bhim Singh was a leader “committed to secular values who fought relentlessly for the rights of downtrodden and marginalised sections of the society in and outside the state legislature.”

“At a time when polarisation and divisiveness has dominated the political arena, he stood for communal harmony and fought tooth and nail against the forces, who are hell-bent upon dividing the people and regions on the communal lines,” Tarigami said.

In 2012, Singh nominated his nephew Harsh Dev Singh as his successor in JKNPP, however, the two were not in good terms especially in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370. In November 2020, many party members led by Harsh Dev rebelled against Singh for attending a meeting of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. The rebellion culminated in Harsh Dev and many other party workers joining Aam Aadmi Party earlier in May

Socio-religious group Awami Action Committee (AAC) led by incarcerated Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also expressed “grief” over the demise of the politician.

In a statement, the AAC said Singh had close political ties with former Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq Shah and also had a “cordial relationship” with Mirwaiz Umar.

“Prof Bhim Singh was a moderate and balanced leader of Jammu and Kashmir, who fought for rights of people of jammu and kashmir and was tolerant and supportive of the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue,” the AAC said.

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