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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 00:48 GMT 01:48 UK
Kashmiris speak out for peace
An Indian border patrol guard and a woman in Srinagar
The survey was carried out before the current crisis

People living in Indian-administered Kashmir have voiced overall support for more dialogue and democratic elections.

That is the finding of UK-based polling organisation, Mori, which has published the results of an opinion poll conducted in the state in April.

An Indian security guard checks a man's papers in Srinagar
Security has been stepped up in the region
It was commissioned by a British cross-party group of MPs and the Friends of Kashmir.

Despite differences between Hindu and Muslim majority areas on some issues, results also showed a commitment to a distinct Kashmiri cultural identity - they did not want to see the state divided.

The survey was done before the threat of war loomed so large, but at that point more than a third of those questioned were prepared to countenance a war if it would lead to a permanent solution to the Kashmiri problem.

People living in the Hindu majority area of Jammu were noticeably more willing to accept the idea of a war - in the Kashmir Valley a far bigger majority was against it.

Despite the differences between Hindus and Muslims there was a clear consensus on certain issues: they did not want the state divided along ethnic or religious lines and they wanted any solution to respect the state's unique cultural identity.

End to violence

They thought more economic opportunities would help bring peace, along with more dialogue, both with the Indian Government and between Kashmiris on both sides of the border.

Enlarge image Enlarge map
Even in Srinagar, where there is more sympathy for the militants, most people wanted an end to militant violence and an end to infiltration from Pakistan.

In general, the views of the Hindus in Jammu were predictable.

Virtually 100% mistrusted Pakistan's motives, believed that human rights violations were committed by the militants not the army, and wanted to remain citizens of India.

But the results from the Kashmir Valley were far more varied and unexpected:

  • 25% said human rights violations by the militants were widespread, though not as widespread as those of the army
  • 40% thought the presence of foreign militants had been damaging to the Kashmiri cause

And on the crucial question of nationality 9% of those in and around Srinagar said they would be better off staying Indian, while 13% would opt to become citizens of Pakistan.

But the vast majority around Srinagar, 78%, showed no enthusiasm for being part of either country, saying they did not know.

Perhaps they would have preferred a choice which was not being offered: to be citizens of an independent Kashmir.

In the Hindu-majority areas 99% of people preferred Indian citizenship - which made the overall figure among both Hindus and Muslims 61% for Indian citizenship, 6% for Pakistani, and 33% undecided.

Mori interviewed 850 people of different religions in 55 places within Jammu and Kashmir.

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