March 2004 News

Survey: Tribals Will Vote Despite Threats

30 March 2004
The Hindu

Jammu: Just weeks before the first phase of the Parliamentary elections, a poll survey by the Jammu and Kashmir Tribal research Cultural Foundation - working for the cause of tribals in Jammu and Kashmir - says that the community would vote in large numbers in the Parliamentary elections, despite the threats from terrorists. The report, which was released here, showed that the tribal community of the State would take part in elections even in terrorist-dominated areas. The state has a large tribal population, namely the Gujjar and Bakerwal Muslims. The increasing political consciousness of the community has created more awareness of the political issues of the day. While they constitute a majority in the Rajouri-Poonch belt, they are spread over almost all parts of the State. This is the first time that a scientific effort has been made to assess the mood of the tribals just before the electoral process. The survey was a difficult exercise as the community is scattered over the remote parts of the State near the Line of Control, particularly in Jammu province. The survey was carried out all over the State except Ladakh and forms were made available to individuals over 20 years - 87 per cent male and 13 per cent. The questionnaire, comprising 10 issues was distributed to over 5000 tribals, and the foundation received a good response from the tribals. The month-long survey was done through interviews and field surveys. Unveiling the report, the secretary of the tribal foundation, Javaid Rahi said, 'There are 21 Assembly constituencies in the State where tribals constitute 30 to 50 per cent of the voters. Besides, there are nine Assembly segments where tribals won elections, including Haveli, Surankote, Mendhar, Rajouri, Dharhal, Gool, Arnas, Kangan and Uri. In another 12 segments, the Gujjar vote bank can turn the tables.' The survey showed that even if the tribals were told not to vote, 37 per cent of them would cast their votes despite the threat perception. Fifty- three per cent of the tribals said that they would vote if the candidate met their choice. The main issue for 67 per cent of the tribals in the Parliamentary elections was implementation of Scheduled Tribe status. The second issue was political reservation for the community in the State. A staggering 87 per cent of the tribal population would like to cast its vote through electronic voting machines (EVMs) and 61 per cent of the tribals have a voter identity card issued by the Election Commission, the survey disclosed. The questionnaire was drafted in the Gojri language, the language spoken by the tribals.


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