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Hurriyat Conference dares New Delhi to conduct plebiscite in Kashmir

New Delhi: Upset over the results of the recent opinion-poll conducted by a British agency, which suggested that 61 per cent Kashmiris want to remain with India, Hurriyat Conference Monday, June 3, dared New Delhi to conduct a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir since the conditions were "favourable" for it. Both India and Pakistan are bound by the UN Security Council resolution of 21 April 1948 to conduct a free plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir to ascertain the wishes of the people of the erstwhile princely state.

"The opinion poll is favourable for the Indian government and it should not shy away from holding the plebiscite," Hurriyat Conference, a 23-party separatist alliance, said in its first reaction to the opinion poll conducted by Mori International.

"The poll is all the more favourable for Indians. Let them hold a plebiscite and legtimise their control over Kashmir," Hurriyat chairman Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat said.

Challenging the opinion poll, he said "800 people cannot decide the fate of 12 million people of the state". On the remarks of Lord Avebury, chief of London-based Kashmir Friends Society that his opinion about Kashmir has changed after the poll, Bhat said "a person who changes opinion so quickly cannot be a friend of Kashmiris". "Who is he? Our people have given supreme sacrifices for achieving the goal of freedom. We do not need anybody's certificate," an angry Bhat said.

Mori International, an independent market research group in the UK, had reported that that 61 percent Kashmiris, mostly Muslims, have a strong liking for India and say that they are politically and economically better off as Indian citizens.

The report released in London on May 31 mentioned that the survey was conducted in three divisions of Jammu, Leh and Kashmir of the troubled Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) between April 22-28.

BBC and other channels and media organisations highlighted the findings of the survey creating a stir in the diplomatic and media circles all over the world. The survey said that a majority of Kashmiris in the Indian-administered Kashmir do not want to be Pakistani citizens. 

According to the survey, given a choice only six percent would opt for Pakistan. State residents have also come out strongly against the division of J&K on religious and ethnic lines. "Over 92 percent are opposed to the division of J&K on the basis of religion and ethnicity," the survey claimed. 

The survey also brought to the fore some startling revelations. People have been shown to harbour extreme dislike for militancy and militants. Of the 86 percent Kashmiris interviewed in the state summer capital Srinagar, 78 percent Muslims wanted that infiltration from across the border should come to an end and the militants too must leave to enable peace to return to the poverty-stricken state. 

In an astonishing disclosure 39 percent Kashmiri Muslims accused Pakistan of fanning militancy. People have also expressed their opinion on the issue of autonomy being granted to the state. Significantly, there has been a split opinion in this regard. Almost 55 percent people support both India and Pakistan to grant as much autonomy as possible to both parts of Kashmir. The majority of those interviewed in Srinagar and Leh supported the idea, while a great number of Jammu residents opposed it.

Strangely, nearly half of the state's population is clearly in favour of the formation of a new political party. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a 23-party separatist conglomerate, does not hold much importance for 78 percent Kashmiris. Similarly, the ruling National Conference has been opposed by 81 percent people of the state.

At a time when India and Pakistan are close to fighting a war, a huge majority of Kashmiris has come out against the two countries going to war on the Kashmir issue. People believe that peace can ultimately be brought through democratic elections, ending the mindless cycle of violence and overall economic development. 

According to the survey, some two-thirds of the people in the state are of the view that Pakistan's involvement in the region during the last decade has not been good. Only an insignificant 15 percent people support Pakistan for what they say it has been doing good for the region. However, 18 percent Kashmiris said that this has made no real difference.

Lord Avebury, who has been actively involved in the J&K affairs in the past and has shown considerable interest from time to time, was behind the commissioning of this important survey. In a statement, Peter Hutton, Mori International managing director, denied that the survey has been drafted under Indian influence.

Meanwhile, symptomatic of the Indian government's confused thinking on the Kashmir issue, Internet services have now been fully restored in the state. The Indian government's move comes close on the heels of the restoration of international and national telephone dialing services which were abruptly suspended earlier this year citing "security reasons." However, it is only humorous that the Indian government has restored these services while India and Pakistan are on the verge of a war and Pakistan has indirectly admitted of infiltration taking place from its side of the borders. 
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