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Mystery US survey in Kerala raises brows

New Delhi, Nov. 5: The Kerala government has asked the Centre to “unravel the mystery” behind a US-funded survey being done in a Muslim-dominated area of the state capital.

Conducted by UK-based market research group Taylor Nelson Sofres and funded by Washington’s Princeton Survey Research Associates, the survey has asked several communally sensitive questions, some of them aimed exclusively at Muslims.

Of its 93 questions, over half have sought answers from Muslims on issues such as their opinion of the Barack Obama administration, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, West Asia, Israel and Bangladeshi Muslims

The questionnaire has also sought to know their opinion of the Indian government and its military, where they would prefer to live other than India, if the Sharia should be made the basis of the Indian Constitution and Osama bin Laden. A section meant exclusively for Muslim women has asked questions on the burqa and what life in India is like.

The survey raised eyebrows early this week while it was being conducted in Muslim-dominated Karimadom colony in Thiruvananthapuram. Residents who grew suspicious about its contents later blocked the survey staff, including four girls, from proceeding with their work.

The office of Taylor Nelson Sofres in Kochi has been shut after police registered a complaint against them. Political parties reacted sharply to an alleged “American hand” in the matter, forcing the state to order an inquiry.

The state intelligence report, submitted on Wednesday, is believed to have recommended an inquiry by central intelligence agencies after finding a US agency was behind the survey. It is being carried out in 55 centres in 20 states, except Gujarat.

“The Kerala government has sought the Centre’s assistance as per the suggestions of state intelligence agencies. We want to find out why this happened, for whom it was done and all other details,” Kerala home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said.

He said the survey was done without the permission of either the state or the central government.

Kerala police yesterday briefed junior home minister M. Ramachandran. “The home ministry has asked central intelligence to investigate the survey. The IB director has been asked to submit a report at the earliest,” Ramachandran said.

Taylor Nelson Sofres staff in Delhi have refused comment.

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