Just 2% of people in J&K want to join Pak: Survey
For those who still think a plebiscite will tilt the status of Kashmir and that most Kashmiris yearn to wave the Pakistani green, there are now numbers for the first time to contradict these claims.
A survey carried out across both Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, that its author claims is the first ever of its kind, shows that only 2% of the respondents on the Indian side favour joining Pakistan and most such views were confined to Srinagar and Budgam districts. In six of the districts surveyed late last year by researchers from the London-based thinktank Chatham House, not a single person favoured annexation with Pakistan, a notion that remains the bedrock for the hardline separate campaign in Kashmir.
However, the study by Robert Bradrock, a scholar from London's Kings College, that involved interviewing 3,774 people in both parts of Kashmir in September-October 2009 showed that 44% of people on the Pakistani side favoured independence, compared to 43% in Indian Kashmir.
Bradrock says in the 37-page report on the survey that this would put an end for all times to come to the plebiscite route as a possible way to resolve Kashmir, since the only two options envisaged under the UN resolutions proposing plebiscite in 1948/49 were for the whole of Kashmir to join either India or Pakistan; azadi was not an option. But in the Valley, the mood for azadi still remained strong, with 75%-95% respondents favouring that as a final resolution.
The poll showed no support either for joint sovereignty or for maintaining status quo. However, more than 58% of those surveyed were prepared to accept the Line of Control as a permanent border if it could be liberalized for greater people-to-people contact and trade. Only 8% voted against making the LoC a permanent boundary, with the highest level of opposition in Anantnag district, the report said.
Few people in Kashmir, compared to many more in PoK, believed that violence was likely to resolve the Kashmir issue.
In J&K, only 20% thought that militant violence would help solve the problem, compared to nearly 40% who thought it was coming in the way of a resolution. In PoK, 37% of those surveyed held the view that violence was a possible route to resolution.
That both the state legislative elections in 2008 and the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 had helped bring about a change in mindsets was seen in the increasingly high turnouts that Kashmir has posted in recent years.
The survey too demonstrated that trend, with more than half the respondents saying the elections had improved chances for peace.
"The results aren't surprising at all. I feel they re-emphasize the need to look beyond traditional positions and evaluate the contours of a solution grounded in today's realities," said Sajjad Lone, a former ally of the Hurriyat who unsuccessfully contested the 2009 election.
Peoples Democratic Party chief spokesman Naeem Akhtar said the azadi aspirations must be factored into any solution.
"It can't be wished away and has to be configured into the future strategy on Kashmir. We've always been pleading to provide an alternative to the azadi sentiment."