Deserted streets on Kashmir's final day of voting

2014-05-07 12:05

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Baramulla - Protesters and police clashed but streets were otherwise largely deserted on Wednesday in the final day of voting in Indian Kashmir for the national election, as boycott calls and fears of violence kept many voters away.

Turnout in the previous two days of balloting has been 25.6% and 28%, with many booths in Baramulla and the neighbouring town of Sopore, northwest of the main city of Srinagar, empty in the first few hours of voting.

Police fired tear gas at a crowd calling for a boycott of the election in Baramulla where resentment against Indian rule of the region runs deep, an AFP correspondent said.

A grenade exploded at a polling station outside Baramulla but no one was injured, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Turnout in the Kashmir valley in the 2009 election was 30% and many fear this year could be worse after separatist rebels shot dead several local officials in a warning to residents against voting.

Security issues

India has long struggled to bring Muslim-majority Kashmir into the mainstream election process, and past polls have also been marred by violence and low turnout.

Hindu nationalist hardliner Narendra Modi and his opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which takes a strong stance on national security issues including Kashmir, are set to win the national election after a decade of Congress party rule.

Thousands of extra soldiers and police, along with sniffer dogs to detect explosives, were on patrol in Kashmir.

About a dozen rebel groups have since 1989 been fighting Indian forces either for independence or for merger of the territory with neighbouring Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan soon after the two countries, who both claim the Himalayan region in full, gained independence from Britain in 1947.
Read more on:    india  |  india elections 2014
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