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Central & South Asia
Kashmiris protest after leader held
Demonstrators urge the release of Yasin Malik who called for an election boycott.
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2008 16:04 GMT
Malik addresses a crowd during an anti-election rally in north of Srinagar [AFP] 

Protesters angry about the arrest of a separatist leader have clashed with police in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The residents are demanding the release of Yasin Malik, arrested overnight after organising a rally urging people to boycott forthcoming elections.

Multi-stage state elections are due to start on November 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.

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.

Poll pressure

Further calls to suspend the elections were made after at least 42 people were killed by security forces and more than 1,000 were wounded in anti-India protests.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Hurriyat chairman, said: "New Delhi is trying to project the election as an alternative solution to Kashmir, but we will not allow it to happen.

"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 deployment of security forces across the region during the poll.

In the past, separatist fighters have attacked candidates, polling stations, party workers and rallies during elections, killing scores of people.

But early this year, the United Jihad Council, a Pakistan-based alliance fighting Indian troops in Kashmir, rejected the use of violence to force a boycott of elections.

Clashes between Indian troops and Kashmiris has declined significantly since India and Pakistan, which both claim the region, began a slow-moving peace process in 2004.

Source:
Agencies
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