Friday, May 28, 2010

‘Just 2% in J&K want to join Pak’

Most Favour Relaxed LoC As Border, Finds First-Ever Poll
For those who still think a plebiscite will tilt the status of Kashmir and that most Kashmiris yearn to wave the Pakistan green, there are now numbers for the first time to contradict them.

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 only 2% of respondents on the Indian side favour joining Pakistan and the view was confined to Srinagar and Budgam districts.
In six of the districts surveyed late last year by researchers from the Londonbased think-tank Chatham House, no one favoured annexation with Pakistan, something that is the bedrock for the hardline separatist campaign.
But the study by Robert Bradnock, a scholar from London’s Kings College, that involved interviewing 3,774 peoplein September-October 2009 showed 44% of people on the Pakistani side favoured independence, compared with 43% in J&K. Bradnock says in the 37-page report on the survey that it would put an end to the plebiscite route as a possible way to resolve Kashmir since the only two options that were envisaged under UN resolutions mooting plebiscite in 1948-49 were for whole of Kashmir to join either India or Pakistan and azadi wasn’t an option. ‘Polls in Kashmir improved chances for peace’
New Delhi: The Kashmir survey showed no support either for joint sovereignty or for maintaining the 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 liberalised for greater people-to-people contact and trade. Only 8% voted a g a i n s t 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 same trend with more than half the respondents saying that 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.
People’s 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.’’

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