Reuters North American News Service
Oct 23, 2008 02:33 EST
SRINAGAR, India, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Indian police arrested a Kashmiri separatist leader in an overnight raid after he led a rally urging people to boycott forthcoming state elections in the disputed Himalayan region, police said on Thursday.
Multi-stage state elections are due to start on Nov. 17 in Kashmir, where the past two months have witnessed some of the biggest anti-India protests since a separatist revolt against New Delhi’s rule broke out in 1989.
Yasin Malik, chief of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front who started an anti-election campaign in north Kashmir on Wednesday was detained at his house in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital.
Police used tear gas and batons to disperse scores of demonstrators protesting against the arrest.
Kashmir’s main separatist alliance the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, which is demanding an end to Indian rule in the region, has called for a complete boycott of the elections scheduled to be held in seven phases.
There had been pressure to suspend the elections, due this year, after at least 42 people were killed by security forces and more than 1,000 wounded in anti-India protests.
“New Delhi is trying to project the election as an alternative solution to Kashmir, but we will not allow it to happen,” Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told reporters. “We appeal to the people to boycott the elections.”
The government has announced a ban on public meetings of five or more people for one month.
There will be a massive deployment of security forces across the strife-torn region during the poll.
In the past, separatist guerrillas have attacked candidates, polling stations, party workers and rallies during elections, killing scores of candidates and workers.
But early this year, United Jihad Council, a Pakistan-based militant alliance fighting Indian troops in Kashmir, rejected the use of violence to force a boycott of elections.
Violence involving Indian troops and separatist guerrillas has declined significantly since India and Pakistan, which both claim the region, began a slow-moving peace process in 2004. (Reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Alex Richardson) (For the latest Reuters news on India see in.reuters.com, for blogs see blogs.reuters.com/in)Source: Reuters North American News Service