Kashmir, clashes in by-elections: eight dead and hundreds injured
The vote took place in three districts to replace a State Assemblyman. Protesters announce a boycott until tomorrow. Internet services suspended until April 12. Voter turnout at 7.14%.
Srinagar (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least eight people are dead and 200 injured in the latest round for clashes between separatists and security forces in Kashmir. The violence took place yesterday, along with an extraordinary election to assign a vacant state Assembly seat. The first consequence of the violence was a very low turnout, with a percentage that stopped at 7.14%. The authorities have also suspended the internet communication services until April 12, while the protesters have decided to continue the boycott until tomorrow.
Residents in the Indian state were called to elect the substitute for Tariq Hameed Karra, from Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who resigned last year in disagreement with the ongoing protests in the country. Fayaz Ahmad, one of the protesters, said: "How can the political parties expect that we go to the polls, when only a few months ago several young men were killed in our village?".
Another added: "The boycott sends a clear message to politicians without ethics. In the last elections, the PDP got votes with the promise to keep away from politics of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), but now they have coalesced. Other parties have made the same mistakes in the past. They want to make fun of ordinary people ".
The separatists took to the streets in the three districts involved in the voting process - Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal - and called on the population to boycott the polls. As a form of protest they threw rocks and other material against the police. The officers responded by opening fire. Shantmanu, election bureau chief of Jammu and Kashmir, reports that there were "more than 200 incidents of violence, especially in the Budgam District. The protesters threw rocks, paper bombs, set vehicles on fire at the polling stations, and tried to set fire even two voting booths. It is not a good day for all of us."
The chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed grief over the fact that most of the victims are teenagers. In recent months, many young people have participated in clashes with police and government forces following the killing of the famous militant separatist Burhan Wani. There have been many calls for peace and peaceful coexistence, especially from the Indian Catholic Church. Kashmir has been disputed by India and Pakistan since their separation in 1947. The toll of the last wave of violence is dramatic: more than 90 deaths and over 12 thousand injured, including many children.