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May 21, 2000
Militants threaten census in Kashmir: AFP
The first census in Kashmir for two decades ran into trouble on Sunday after Muslim separatists warned state employees of dire consequences if work continued on the project.
The Kashmir government began work on the project, involving more than 22,000 officials, on May 16. The first stage is due for completion on June 5. But the Al Fateh group issued a stern warning to government employees and others involved in the new head count.
"We warn the employees and the officers not to take part in the so-called census as the Indian government is already implementing demographic changes like Israel did in occupied lands," a statement faxed to AFP said on Sunday.
Spokesman Rashid Jamal said non-Kashmiris were being included in the census in order to allow them "to further their ulterior motives."
"The actual population of Kashmir would not be counted by the so-called authorities as thousands of Kashmiris are displaced, dislocated, (have) migrated, (are) jailed or been forcibly taken away by the army."
Jamal warned that "anybody found guilty of ignoring this call will be treated as a traitor. The consequences would be grave in nature."
The last census in the troubled state was conducted in 1981, but no further population counts have been held since the separatist insurgency began. The Indian government ordered a fresh population count in 1991, but separatist militants issued a death threat, forcing state authorities to shelve the head count.
Indian officials said census officials had thus far not encountered any problems. However, census official Farooq Ahmed admitted the latest death threat "is likely to spark panic."
"We will wait and observe," he added.
The 1981 census had put the population of Kashmir at 5.9 million, although officials believe the present figure to be in excess of 10 million.
India this month officially declared a population of one billion, although UN estimates said the mark had been breached last year. A new census is being conducted nationwide and will continue until early next year.
"The census is aimed at ascertaining the actual population of Kashmir," said Feroze Ahmed, director of Kashmir's census department.
The second phase of the census will start on September 11 and continue until October 1, Ahmed said.
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