Separatists call for two-day shutdown in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India (AP) - Security forces in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir opened fire Sunday on crowds of people who attacked polling stations where voting for a by-election was taking place, killing five and injuring at least a dozen, officials said.

"The two schools had been designated as polling stations and they suffered partial damage because of the fire", said a senior Jammu and Kashmir police official, requesting anonymity.

Eight civilians were killed during clashes with security forces in various areas of central Kashmir's Budgam district on poll day for bye elections to Srinagar Parliamentary constituency today.

As small queues of voters began lining up outside polling booths in Budgam, slogan shouting mobs attacked polling stations.

The stakes were high for opposition National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and ruling Peoples Democratic Party's Nazir Ahmed Khan who were the main contestants in the constituency.

Police opened fire after tear gas failed to deter protesters throwing stones, reported Reuters. "17 civilians were injured, while over 100 paramilitary and police personnel also sustained injuries", he said.

Army was called in to assist security forces control a rampaging mob which pelted stones and hurled petrol bombs to set a polling booth ablaze in Ganderbal.

Kashmiri protesters clash with Indian security forces near a polling station in Srinagar on April 9, 2017. The voter turnout then was 11.93 per cent, which too is not a great figure.

Only 6.5 percent of voters turned out to cast their ballot, Shantmanu said, 26 percent less than in the last elections held in 2014 and the lowest ever participation recorded in any election in the disputed territory. Shantmanu said Anantnag Lok Sabha seat in south Kashmir, where bypoll is scheduled for April 12, would pose a "bigger challenge".

Internet services in the valley were suspended late on Saturday and security was stepped up after separatists asked people to boycott polls. He took to Twitter to say that the poll panel is "well within its powers to postpone or countermand" the Anantnag byelection, but if it happens, Mehbooba Mufti "must resign" and the "governor should take charge".

Police had also detained hundreds of young people and separatist activists in the run-up to the poll, sources told AFP. They had also sent 20,000 paramilitaries to IoK to reinforce the 500,000 Indian soldiers already deployed there.

  • Leroy Wright