Should India Let Kashmir Go? 68% Say No

23 August 2008
The Times of India

New Delhi: Are the people of India sick and tired of the 'Kashmir problem'? Do they believe the country would be better rid of it? Even if the subject is being discussed today from different perspectives by a few commentators, young professionals in the big Indian cities are not at all convinced that India (and Kashmir) would be better off without each other. A clear majority - 59% - of all respondents to a survey conducted this week across nine cities said India should hold on to Kashmir despite the human and economic cost of doing so, while 11% said they couldn't tell this or that way. Interestingly, a sizeable 30% said if the economic and human costs were this high, it wasn't worth holding on to Kashmir. The survey, done exclusively for TOI by leading market research agency Synovate India, also found that more than two-thirds of the respondents said Kashmir should not be allowed to secede from the Indian Union even if the people there wish to do so. This finding did not quite square up with the other finding that said 30% were willing to let Kashmir go if the costs were frightfully high. What does this mean? At one level, it indicates that what was simply not thinkable until now - whether Kashmir could secede from the Indian Union or not - has possibly become a matter of debate, even if it is within a small section of our urban society. It also indicates the thinking on Kashmir is anything but clear - perhaps the reason why the responses to two similar questions don't quite tally. At another level, the divergent responses possibly indicate urban India is not driven by the feeling that Kashmir has a right to self-determination but by other factors, perhaps growing fatigue over an issue that has remained unsettled for decades and cost many lives on both sides of the divide. The feeling that India should hold on to Kashmir seems to be based both on hope and fear, as responses to two other questions appear to bear out. '41% feel Kashmir has been neglected by government' To deal with hope, first. More than three-fourths of those surveyed felt Kashmir could still be integrated into the Indian mainstream. As for fear, a clear half said India would become a less safe place if Kashmir were allowed to secede. In other words, the terror threat to the country would only increase if the northern border were to come closer to the country's heartland. Only 19% felt allowing Kashmir to go would make the country safer, while 31% said it would make no difference to the security situation. Significantly, a clear majority of young urban Indians do not feel Kashmir has been pampered by the Centre. On the contrary, 41% said it has been neglected, 30% said it had been treated fairly and only 29% expressed the view that it had been pampered. The survey was done among men and women of the age groups 18 to 35 in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Jammu. All those surveyed were from the socio-economic categories (SEC) A and B1. The responses from Jammu were particularly interesting given the political context in which the survey was done and in many cases not at all what you would expect.