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Kashmiris are not with India, says former Army chief

The Kashmir conflict could not be solved owing to a section’s reluctance to stay with India, says former Chief of Army Staff, General Shankar Roychowdhury.

The politically influential Kashmiris of the Valley were never keen to associate with India and thus Delhi should “utilise other channels” to counterbalance the political importance of that section, namely Kashmiri-speaking Sunni Muslims, he said on Monday night, while launching Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years , the memoir of former R&AW chief, A.S. Dulat, at a bookstore here.

“The basic factor is that the people of the Valley do not like the association with India. It is a known [fact],” he said.

“When we say Kashmiri, who are we talking about?” he asked.

“We are not talking about Jammu or Ladakh, we are not considering the non-Kashmiri speaking Sunni Muslims like Gurjars or Bakarwals, not even Shias. We are talking only about Kashmiri-speaking Sunni Muslims, who hold complete political power and this has got to change,” he said.

None of the political parties of the country — including the Bharatiya Janata Party — have tried to change this equation in the J&K and facilitate election of Chief Ministers from communities other than Sunnis.

“Why should the Chief Ministers come from one class alone,” asked Mr. Roychowdhury and underlined the immediate need to engage with other communities to reduce the importance of Sunni Muslims of the Valley.

“It is time for the Indian state to explore these factors, which can influence the political situation in the Valley,” the General said.Realising that the suggestion was controversial — that too coming from a former Chief of Army Staff who was also a Parliamentarian — Mr. Dulat objected to his view, during a tête-à-tête with senior editor Sunanda K. Dutta Ray later.

“While I agree with the General Saab that Kashmir gets more importance than Jammu or Ladakh, to visualise a non-Kashmiri as Chief Minister is very difficult. It is like visualising a non-Sikh or even a non-Jat Sikh as Chief Minister in Punjab,” said Mr. Dulat.

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