Indian troops deploy for Kashmir vote

Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have seized hundreds of private and public transport vehicles to move troops to the southern Anantnag constituency ahead of upcoming elections.

    Kashmiri no-vote campaign may provoke violent response

    Substantial troop deployments on Sunday are in expectation that anti-Indian guerrillas are preparing to disrupt polls.

    "We were running short of vehicles to transport the security forces for election duty in Anantnag  … we were left with no option but to seize their vehicles for the purpose," a senior police official in summer capital Srinagar said.

    He hastened to add the act was permissible under the Indian election laws.

    Bloody elections

    Anantnag, the third constituency in predominantly Muslim Vale of Kashmir, is scheduled to vote in the third phase of the countrywide elections to the Lok Sabha - the Lower House of Indian Parliament - on 5 May.

    During the first and second phase of the elections held last month, more than 20 people were killed and scores others wounded in the Baramulla and Srinagar constituencies.

    Six lawmakers will be elected to the 545-member Lok Sabha from Indian-administered-Kashmir, three of these from the Muslim majority Kashmir Valley, two from Jammu and one from Ladakh. The latter two regions have sizeable Hindu and Buddhist populations.

    Boycott campaign

    Guerrillas fighting Indian rule have asked residents to boycott the elections, saying these cannot be a substitute for the right of self-determination promised to 13 million Kashmiris.

    They also maintain that New Delhi has always projected participation in elections to the outside world as a vote of confidence in Indian rule and democracy.

    Some villagers say Indian
    troops forced them to vote

    In the first two phases of the elections, Kashmiris largely obeyed the poll boycott, though turn out in rural areas was a little higher.

    But some villagers told Aljazeera.net Indian security forces coerced them to vote, a charge vehemently denied by the officials.

    They assert that in view of the "terrorist threat" the security forces had to move out to certain areas to "encourage" the people to vote.

    Reinforcements

    Official sources in Srinagar said about 20,000 reinforcements were being fanned out in Anantnag to ensure a smooth and violence-free election on Wednesday.

    The deployment will be in addition to the constant presence of thousands of police, paramilitary and army personnel in the area to combat the 15-year-old rebellion.

    Official statistics say more than 40,000 have died during the rebellion. However, local human rights group put the toll at least twice as high.

    Voting for who?

    Anantnag has one million registered voters.

    There are 13 candidates, but the real contest is between ruling People's Democratic Party president, Mahbuba Mufti and opposition National Conference candidate Dr Mahbub Beigh.

    One party not expected to pull in the voters is the Indian ruling BJP candidate, Sufi Muhammad Yusuf.

    On his recent visit to Kulgam town in the Anantnag heartland to address an "election rally", the candidate was shocked to see that not a single person had turned out to hear him.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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