SRINAGAR (Reuters) – Government forces locked down Kashmir’s main city on Wednesday to thwart planned protests against India’s general election, renewing tensions in the disputed region after a short period of relative calm.
Troops patrolled deserted streets and erected barricades in Srinagar, cutting off residential areas after separatists called a two-day strike from Wednesday. Shops and businesses also remained closed. Voting is scheduled on Thursday.
“New Delhi is frustrated by our resistance movement, and not allowing us to carry out peaceful protests against the polls is a shameful act,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the separatists alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference.
The boycott call, which came suddenly after two rounds of voting in rest of India, is seen as a bid by the separatists to deny New Delhi any credit for holding an election in Kashmir.
Analysts say the rebels also want to avoid a repeat of a successful local election last year when Kashmiris voted in large numbers, though many saw it as a vote for better governance rather than acceptance of Indian rule.
Hurriyat’s decision came after Pakistan-based amalgam of 13-militant groups fighting Indian troops in Kashmir, asked it to support their boycott call.(UJC), a
India’s general election began this month, but voting in the Kashmir valley has been split into three phases starting from April 30. The staggered voting is to allow thousands of security forces to move around the troubled region.
Most of the senior separatist leaders including Farooq, hardliner house arrest, police said.and were placed under
The Muslim-majority region last year witnessed some of the biggest pro-independence protests since a separatist revolt against Indian rule erupted 20 years ago. But those protests tapered off and a state election was held peacefully in December.
Aside from Congress, other parties contesting the polls include the main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the regional National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party.
More than 47,000 people have been killed in the region since discontent against New Delhi’s rule turned into a full-blown rebellion in 1989. Separatists put the toll at 100,000.