Why Nobody Wants a Head Count in Jammu And Kashmir
17 September 2000
The Indian Express
Srinagar: The politics of numbers has turned the entire census operations into a farce in Jammu and Kashmir. Gripped by extreme suspicion and fear, a conspiracy to alter the demographic make up of various regions, it has polarised not only the common public but even the enumerators on communal lines. The census operations were stopped after a ban by pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen, suspecting the genuineness of the process. Infact, the second phase is yet to start because the enumerators as well as the people are not ready to take the risk. The apprehensions that the census was being manipulated to change the Muslim character of the state, was strengthened after the Former Union Minister Prof Saifuddin Soz released data showing what he called ''unrealistic difference.'' In the growth rates of Muslim and Hindus, especially in Jammu province. Prof Soz, quoting the 1981 census, said: ''The growth rate of Hindus was given as 47.23% in Doda while it was 11.97% in case of Muslims. The growth rate of Hindus in Udhampur district was 45%, against 6.35% Muslims. In Kathua, the hindu growth rate was 39.31% while that of Muslims was shown as -14.57%. Similarly in Jammu district, the growth rate of Hindus was recorded as 36.14% as against -29.98% for Muslims.'' Prof Soz asked as to how it was possible. ''Did Muslims adopt family planning and scored a march over communities? Did any natural calamity occur during these decades, involving Muslims?'' Director, Census Operations, Jammu and Kashmir, Feroz Ahmad responded. ''It is true that the figures seem unrealistic. But there is absolutely no possibility of any manipulation or maneuvering. All census operations since 1961 have been conducted under the supervision of local officers,'' he told the Indian Express. ''The only reason, however, can be lack of public awareness. People would not cooperate and enumerators would also not take much pains for door to door census,'' he said and appealed Hizbul Mujahideen to give them a chance for smooth conduct of the operations as it was of great help to determine the socio-economic situation of the state. The Hurriyat Conference has been conspicuous in keeping a official silence on this issue. ''We do not accept the authority of India in this sate and believe that they have occupied us. How will we comment on what policies they are employing here,'' said former Hurriyat chairman and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Ail Shah Geelani'' India has adopted a policy to change the Muslim character of the state since 1947 so that they can justify their occupation one day.'' Vice President of the state RSS, Shri Kumar said that there was discrimination against Jammu region. ''We feel the NC Government has politicized the census. RSV wants a clean and credible census to ascertain the actual Hindu and Muslim figures.'' He said though RSS is still studying the trifurcation and reorganization of the state, a movement is gathering momentum in Jammu in this regard. ''A recently launched group J&K National Front, has initiated an agitation and are holding a dharna on October 2.'' Why has the census turned into such an emotive and controversial issue in the state?'' Prof Rekha Choudhary, head, Political Science, Jammu University explains: ''Prevailing situation in the state has turned the census into clear cut politics of demography.'' ''For the mainstream political parties, especially in Jammu, the numbers game is important in electoral politics and the control of powers as well. The more the numbers, the more the representation they will secure in the assembly and Parliament,'' she said. ''But in Kashmir, it is a bigger issue. For Hurriyat Conference and like-minded parties the head count of the people especially Muslims, is essential because it alone can give credence to their demand of plebiscite in United Nations.''