Violence mars Kashmir poll

Voting in India's parliamentary elections moved at a snail's pace in a restive Kashmir constituency after separatist attacks on polling stations left one dead and 13 wounded, officials said.

    Kashmir has six seats in India's federal parliament

    Suspected rebels on Wednesday fired a grenade from a rifle outside a polling station in Anantnag but missed their target, killing a civilian on the street and injuring three others, a police officer said.

      

    Ten people were hurt in three other grenade or rifle attacks on polling stations in the constituency, 50 km south of Indian-administered Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar.

      

    Separatists have called on Kashmiris to boycott the elections, saying they will not resolve the future of the Himalayan territory, held in part by India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both.

     

    Undaunted

     

    Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, undaunted by the overnight attacks, cast his vote in his hometown Bijbehara in support of his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, who is seeking a seat in the Indian parliament.

     

    Police dispersed anti-poll crowd
    in Bijbehara

    "People are scared (of separatists)," the state leader, surrounded by commandos, told reporters after voting. "But the atmosphere is relaxed and I urge people to come out and vote fearlessly."

      

    However, more than 200 people protested as Sayeed and his daughter left the polling station, yelling "We want freedom" and "We are with the fighters."

      

    Officers fired warning shots, then used tear gas and batons to disperse the group, witnesses said.

     

    Paramilitary forces

      

    Federal paramilitary forces and local police have been deployed around all 1,176 voting centres in the constituency, which has 998,905 registered voters, police said.

     

    "...the atmosphere is relaxed and I urge people to come out and vote fearlessly"

    Mufti Muhammad Sayeed,
    chief minister, Indian-administered Kashmir

    Kashmir has six seats in India's federal parliament, with voting staggered over five rounds ending 10 May. Eighty-two other constituencies across India were being contested on Wednesday, mainly in the Hindi-speaking north.

     

    Attacks on election rallies in Kashmir this past month have claimed at least 20 lives, while some 300 have died in separatist violence across the state since polling dates were announced on 29 February, according to police figures.

      

    At least 40,000 people have died in the Kashmir revolt since 1989, officials say. Separatists claim the death toll is at least 80,000. 


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