- More people than previously think a solution is possible within the Indian Constitution.
- The dominant feeling that Kashmir should have a separate identity has grown, albeit marginally.
- Peace is in. Promotion of violence as a means to an end may now be counter-productive.
- Though Pakistan is considered central as a "third party" negotiator, it is not considered as being a core part of a final solution.
- And, Kashmiri women have a political voice that is emerging as an independent counterpoise to traditional political thought.
The last time we asked if a solution to the Kashmir problem existed within the Constitution of India, an overwhelming 77 per cent had declared "definitely not". In five years, the number of naysayers has declined. Only 58 per cent now think a solution is not possible within the constitutional framework.
Significantly, 49 per cent of the women polled (as opposed to 36 per cent of men) think a solution is possible within the Indian Constitution.
In September 1995, 72 per cent of those polled declared "independence" as the favoured option. This year, it is the opinion of 74 per cent that a "separate identity" for Jammu and Kashmir holds the key to the solution. However, adherents of the Greater Autonomy formula have experienced more than a five-fold surge in their numbers (at 16 per cent up from 3 per cent in 1995). Those who now think merger with Pakistan is an option stand sharply reduced to a mere 2 per cent, down from 19 per cent in 1995.
It can thus be inferred that some of those who favoured a merger with Pakistan are now coming around to believe in greater autonomy. There is some irony in this as well. As many as 40 per cent of those polled were not aware of the autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.
The clearest indication that Pakistan’s strategy of promoting violence no longer endears it to the Valley comes from the fact that as many as 70 per cent of the people polled want Pakistan to stop supporting militancy.
Even though 74 per cent believe that a separate identity is the way forward, only 54 per cent of those polled think an azad Kashmir would best promote the economic future of Kashmir while 24 per cent (almost one-fourth) believe that India is the best guarantor of this aspect.
The yearning for peace via a negotiated settlement in the Valley is very much in evidence in the fact that 82 per cent support a Hizb-type ceasefire as a prelude to a political dialogue. The Hizb, though, does not seem to be the repository of the Kashmiri’s political confidence. That honour goes to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference with 77 per cent of those polled of the opinion that it is the Hurriyat that represents the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.
A word about Farooq Abdullah: In 1995 when we embarked on the survey, a housewife in the Hazratbal area of Srinagar emphatically declared that "even Bal Thackeray can help in finding a solution, but not Farooq." Only 2 per cent now think that it is worth talking to Farooq for a solution. In numbers, that is only about a dozen of the 581 polled.