61% Kashmiris prefer to be Indian citizens, poll indicates
8 June 2002
The Times of India
S. BALAKRISHNAN TIMES NEWS NETWORK
MUMBAI: A new dimension has been added to the Kashmir situation with the U K - b a s e d Market and Opinion Research Intern a t i o n a l (Mori) presenting the findings of the opinion poll recently conducted by in Jammu and Kashmir. The most significant finding was that as many as 61 per cent of the Kashmiris covered by the survey said that “they would be better off politically and economically as Indian citizens’’. While 33 per cent were undecided on the issue, only a measly six per cent said they wanted to be Pakistani citizens. Times News Network interviewed 59-year-old Prakash Nijhara, managing director of Facts Worldwide, an affiliate of Mori in India, which conducted the survey in Kashmir. Excerpts Who commissioned Mori to conduct the opinion poll? I am sorry I cannot disclose that. I have been asked by Mori to maintain the confidentiality of the client. How many people were interviewed by your staff ? We interviewed 850 persons. Don’t you think that this sample is too small considering the fact that J&K has population of at least six million people as per the 1981 census? Definitely not. This sample is large enough to reflect the true mood of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We interviewed persons in the 16-plus age category and the survey was spread across 55 localities. Of these, 22 were in Jammu, 20 in Srinagar, six in Leh, four in rural areas around Srinagar and three in areas around Jammu. The quotas were set by gender and religion within each locality. The survey covered all the parameters taken into consideration in an exercise of this nature. Any other opinion poll agency would have done the same thing. Let me also point out that Mori is to the UK what Gallup is to the US. It enjoys a high level of credibility. But considering the fact that you are dealing with a sensitive and volatile region involved in a protracted international dispute, should your sample have been bigger? A lot of thought has gone into this survey. This issue raised by you was also debated by us with Mori and the client and it was felt that the sample of 850 would be appropriate. Most clients in India would use a similar sample size to get feedback on the issue on hand. The sample size used by us is fairly large and the margin of error in such an exercise would be plus or minus three. Face-toface interviews were conducted and, on an average, 35 minutes was spent with each member of the sample. When was the survey conducted and are the findings reflective of the current mood in the state? It was done from April 20 to 28 this year, which is a recent enough survey. Because of the tension, we had to complete the survey as expeditiously as possible. We had parallel teams working in Jammu and Srinagar and followed it up to Leh. Twenty people were involved in the exercise. The questionnaire was translated into Urdu and Hindi. In Srinagar, local people were engaged to conduct the interviews. The people were very receptive. The Union home ministry had granted us permission for the survey. But we were not required to use that. If 61 per cent of Kashmiris want to be with India, wouldn’t it be in the interests of India to hold a plebiscite as demanded by Pakistan and solve the problem once for all? This is something for the government of India to decide. All that I can say on the basis of the survey results is that 61 per cent of the people unequivocally stated that they would be better off politically and economically as Indian citizens and only six per cent favoured Pakistani citizenship. J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah and several others have suggested that the line of control (LoC) should be converted into an international border. Why wasn’t this crucial question posed to the people? This question has to answered by Kashmiris on either side of the LoC. Our sample did not include people in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. What is your own assessment of the situation in the Valley? Based on the feedback which I got from there, I feel that there is a need to undertake a confidence-building exercise in the Valley. The government needs to take the people into confidence. Once that is done, it will be easier to tackle the problem. The people there want economic development and free and fair elections. We should do these things instead of being obsessed with Pakistan.