Following months of violent protests that claimed more than 100 lives this summer the constitutional reform questions for Kashmir were run again to find out if a combination of increased instability in the State and neighbouring Pakistan had fuelled radical opinion or moved the people towards a pragmatic solution to their problem. The results published in the influential 'Sunday Indian' on September 12th 2010 clearly showed the desire for peace and an end to conflict was creating an opportunity for compromise that did not entail succession. Accordingly an all-party delegation of Indian Parliamentarians were dispatched to Kashmir and met with regional leaders on September 20th to discuss all other options.
Download the results of this latest peace poll here - Kashmir: People want to move on -and see below for results from Pakistan administered Kashmir in 2009 and from Indian administered Kashmir in 2008.
In the summer of 2008 Kashmir witnessed the worst outbreak of communal riots and killings in over a decade and it seemed as if Kashmir might once again become the crucible of regional violence. But Benazir Bhutto had been brutally assassinated only 6 months earlier in Rawalpindi in December 2007 and in November 2008, six months after the Kashmir riots international terrorists with Pakistan connections were held responsible for the Mumbai massacre. Following the attempt to abduct the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore and increased activity of militants throughout the country commentators were suggesting Pakistan might soon become the next failed state. The Pakistan army have now entered the Swat valley in force to confront the Taliban but force alone will not solve all these problems.
In this context a subset of the questions asked in Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) last year were repeated in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) this year in the hope of discovering any possibilities at all for a diplomatic intervention that just might help to contribute to a resolution of this crisis and that might also enjoy wide popular support.
Download: the report Pak v Iak: Getting beyond a referendum with all the statistics, analysis and questions from Pakistan administered Kashmir. See below for full results from Indian administered Kashmir.
Shops and businesses are closed, streets are emptied of traffic, students lead marches, politicians are placed under house arrest, more than a hundred protestors and policemen are injured, three are dead and the Kashmir Valley is threatened with a blockade. Kashmir, it would seem, has been thrown back a decade into the bad old days of the 90s. Is this what the people of Kashmir really want, street politics and communal division? Not according to the most extensive public opinion poll run in Indian administered Kashmir just weeks before this new wave of violence erupted.
Using methods perfected in Northern Ireland, the Balkans and Sri Lanka the Team CVoter Foundation of Delhi and Dr. Colin Irwin from Liverpool University (in collaboration with The Week) asked over 2000 people more than 200 questions on all aspects of the conflict in Indian administered Kashmir. Here are the key results:
From a list of 37 different problems tested in the poll the top five were 'corrupt administration' 1st at 59% 'very significant' followed by 'high levels of unemployment' 2nd at 56%, 'India and Pakistan talking for 20 or 30 years with no result' 3rd at 54% and then 'Pakistan and India are using the Kashmiri people for their own interests' and 'the vested interests of all the groups involved in keeping the conflict going' joint 4th and 5th at 45% 'very significant'. If the poll were run again today perhaps those two items would come out on top. The people of Kashmir understand their politicians very well and the political games they play. It is time for this to stop and that is exactly what the people of Kashmir want.
From a list of 20 options for negotiations the top three were 'resolve the conflict through negotiation' at 81% 'essential or desirable' followed by 'Kashmiri people must be part of any talks and settlement of the Kashmir issue' 2nd at 76% and 'All parties should enter into discussions without delay and express their true opinion' 3rd at 72% 'essential or desirable'. And with regards to security 'The violence should stop from all sides' was first on this list of 24 options at 87% 'essential or desirable' and at the very bottom of this list was 'resolve the conflict through armed struggle' with 70% of Muslims saying this was 'totally unacceptable'.
So the people of Kashmir want negotiations to replace violence, this result is very welcome but is there something more they can agree to? Definitely 'yes'. The top priority for human rights was 'majorities and minorities should be treated the same' at 85% 'essential or desirable'. For refugees the number one solution was 'all Kashmiries should be allowed to live together again as they did in the past' at 83% and the top two general peace building priorities were 'we must learn from the past' at 84% 'essential or desirable' and 'give Kashmir real hope that a solution is coming' at 82%. But it does not end here, these high aspirations were also backed up with some more practical solutions. At the top of the education list came 'improve the education for all disadvantaged people of J and K' at 83% 'essential or desirable' and first on the economic list was 'effective independent Commission to deal with corruption' at a high of 89% 'essential or desirable'.
Remarkably, when it came to the critical issues of the constitution the top priority (from a list of 29) was 'J and K should be a secular state' at 68% 'essential or desirable'. And although it will come as no surprise that 63% of Muslims in the Kashmir Valley reject the constitutional status quo of remaining with India as 'totally unacceptable' 69% of that same population also considered a merger with Pakistan to be 'totally unacceptable'. So a UN plebiscite that is limited to these two options (a priority for Muslims at 71% 'essential or desirable') can not solve the problem of Kashmir. The only way forward is negotiation and that is what the people want. Not the corrupt street politics of sectarian division and communal strife.
Additional information: CVoter
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