India: Eight killed in clashes during by-election in Kashmir violence — Eight people have been killed and scores injured after police clashed with protesters

BBC News

Kashmiri protestors clash with Indian security forces near a polling station in Srinagar on April 9, 2017
The past year has seen a surge in unrest and violence in Indian-administered Kashmir. AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Eight people have been killed and scores injured after police clashed with protesters during a by-election in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Paramilitary forces fired bullets and shotgun pellets as people protesting against Indian rule stormed polling stations near Srinagar on Sunday.

Separatist leaders had called for a boycott of the vote.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the centre of a decades-old territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting separatist sentiment in Kashmir, but Islamabad denies this. Both countries claim Kashmir in its entirety and control different parts of it.

The region has seen heightened tension and increased unrest since July last year when influential militant Burhan Wani was killed by Indian forces.

Reports said the voter turnout in Sunday’s election was a mere 7% – the lowest in three decades.

Two schools were set on fire by unknown protesters, The Times of India reported.

Security was tightened on Monday across the region – roads were blocked with barricades and some train services were also suspended.

Why were they protesting?

Rebel groups in Indian-administered Kashmir have for decades called for either independence or a union with Pakistan.

These groups have rejected local elections and urged voters to boycott Sunday’s poll, which took place after a politician resigned over what he described as the “anti-people” agenda of the Indian government.

A Kashmiri Muslim woman walks past a paramilitary solider after casting her vote during parliamentary by-elections in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 9 April 2017.
There was tight security at polling stations in Srinagar. EPA photo

The Indian government deployed tight security ahead of the polling, with 20,000 additional troops sent to the area.

Internet services were also shut down in an attempt to hold a peaceful poll.

How did the violence escalate?

On Sunday thousands of protesters charged into polling stations in the Budgam district.

The state’s chief electoral officer Shantmanu told AFP news agency that protesters damaged and snatched voting machines.

Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard at a polling station in Srinagar on 9 April 2017.
About 20,000 extra Indian troops were deployed for the by-election.  AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Clashes erupted when police and troops moved in and used tear gas – and later opened fire – on protesters, who fought back by pelting stones.

Mr Shantmanu told reporters later that there were more than 200 incidents of violence including petrol bomb attacks and a polling station set on fire.

What happened to the by-election?

Polling had to be suspended in some places, while voters generally stayed away.

Another by-election, to fill a separate parliamentary seat, is set to take place in the Anantnag district on 12 April. The results of both polls are expected on 15 April.

National Conference (NC) President and three-time chief minister of Indian Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, who is one of the contesting candidates, arrives at a polling station to cast his vote during parliamentary by-elections in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 9 April 2017.
Mr Abdullah was the former chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir. EPA photo

Farooq Abdullah, a former chief minister for Indian-administered Kashmir and a candidate for the by-election, has condemned the violence.

He told reporters: “Elections should have been peaceful. This government has failed in giving a peaceful atmosphere for people to come and vote.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-39550551

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