October 2000 News

J&K militants raid census offices, destroy records

25 October 2000
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Militants raided several offices in Kashmir and destroyed material relating to the first census in two decades in the troubled state, police and witnesses said Thursday. The Hizbul Mujahideen, Kashmir''s main militant group, had warned Muslim employees of dire consequences if they took part in the census, saying the project was aimed at changing the Muslim-majority status of the state. The raids were conducted overnight Wednesday in several areas of Srinagar. ''The gunmen barged into the offices, seized the census material and destroyed the same,'' a police spokesman said. Hizbul said its men carried out the raids and renewed its threat of attacking employees carrying out census duties. The government however has directed the heads of the departments to withhold the salaries of employees, who fail to make themselves available for work relating to the census. The first head count in two decades started on September 11 and was due to end on September 30, but the deadline was extended indefinitely after the Hizbul call badly hampered the census. ''In Jammu and Ladakh regions the enumerators are depositing the records with the census department,'' said Kashmir''s chief census officer, Feroze Ahmed. The pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen had asked the government to call off the census in the state as there was no possibility of a ''fair and credible census'' under the prevailing circumstances. ''The actual population of Kashmir would not be counted by so-called authorities as thousands of Kashmiris are displaced, dislocated, (have) migrated, (are) jailed or (have) been forcibly taken away by the army,'' the Hizbul said. Following the threat, two major state government employee unions in Kashmir asked their members to boycott census work. Similar threats by militant groups forced state authorities to cancel a census in 1991. The majority of employees have not reported for census duty after Hizbul''s threat, even though 22,000 state officials had been assigned collecting fresh data. Work on the first phase of the census, during which house listing took place, was held between May 16 and June 5. It passed off peacefully despite threats by a minor militant group. The 1981 census put the population of the state at 5.9 million, although officials believe the present figure to be in excess of 10 million.


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