Thousands line up to vote in Indian Kashmir

2014-11-25 14:15
Kashmiris stand in queue to cast their votes outside a polling station during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in Lar. (Dar Yasin, AP)

Kashmiris stand in queue to cast their votes outside a polling station during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in Lar. (Dar Yasin, AP)

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Srinagar - Thousands of voters lined up on Tuesday to cast their votes in state elections in Indian Kashmir amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.

Voter turnout was moderate early on Tuesday with the temperatures low and skies overcast. Thousands of paramilitary soldiers and police officers patrolled near polling stations as voting opened in villages and towns.

Polling was brisk in some places and long lines of voters stretched around polling booths north of the main city of Srinagar.

The elections are to be held in five phases through 23 December in a staggered process that allows the government to deploy thousands of troops to prevent any outbreak of violence.

Pro-India Kashmiri parties say the elections will boost development and help address civic issues, while separatists say the polls are an illegitimate exercise under military occupation.

In recent days, authorities have detained hundreds of separatist leaders and activists who called for a boycott of the elections.

The multistage voting will elect a local government, a chief minister who will serve as the state's top official and a council of ministers from the pro-India parties participating in the elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has been campaigning heavily, and for the first time is hoping to win a sizeable number of seats in India's only Muslim-majority state.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both the countries claim it in its entirety.

Nearly a dozen rebel groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989, seeking independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan. About 68 000 people have been killed in the conflict.

State elections were also being held on Tuesday in the central Indian state of Jharkhand.

Read more on:    narendra modi  |  india

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