Troops lock down Kashmir

April 29, 2009 12:00 am

, SRINAGAR, Apr 29 – Indian police and paramilitary forces locked down Kashmir’s summer capital to prevent anti-election demonstrations after protests flared overnight.

Troops patrolled the deserted streets of Srinagar, the urban hub of a nearly two-decade-old revolt against New Delhi’s rule of the Muslim-majority state.

"We’ve imposed restrictions on civilian movement to maintain law and order," police officer Pervez Ahmed said as policemen raised barricades and stopped residents leaving their homes.

The clampdown came a day after 20 people were hurt in anti-election protests in the city.

The demonstrations came as the region prepared for voting on Thursday in the third of five nationwide general election phases.

Two earlier stages in Hindu-dominated Jammu division of the state passed off peacefully.

The elections now move to the sensitive Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, scene last year of major pro-independence demonstrations.

Separatists oppose elections in Kashmir, arguing that voting legitimises Delhi’s rule of the disputed territory, which is held in part by India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both.

The boycott call has been backed by a stark warning from the most powerful militant group active in Indian Kashmir, Hizbul Mujahedeen which has said anyone who casts a ballot will be considered a "traitor".

Separatist passions run deep in Kashmir, where the anti-India insurgency has left more than 47,000 people dead by official count.


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