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Kashmiris boycott local polls in India-held valley

Updated October 17, 2018

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Election staff wait for voters at an almost empty polling station in Srinagar. — AFP
Election staff wait for voters at an almost empty polling station in Srinagar. — AFP

SRINAGAR: Local council elections ended in India-held Kashmir on Tuesday, with most voters staying away from polling stations in the disputed region.

The last phase of the four-phase elections saw less than four per cent of eligible voters go to the polls in Srinagar and the neighbouring Ganderbal town.

Shops and businesses remained closed on a call by leaders opposed to India’s control over Kashmir.

Even pro-India political parties such as the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party boycotted the polls, accusing New Delhi of fiddling with Kashmir’s special status in the Constitution of India.

Indian authorities deployed more than 40,000 additional soldiers to guard the voting as anti-India protests and clashes erupted at some places in Srinagar.

Security forces fired tear gas and shotgun pellets at stone-throwing protesters.

The overall voting percentage for all four phases in the Kashmir valley, the heartland of anti-India dissent, was less than six per cent.

Nearly 1.7 million residents are registered as voters for the urban polls.

India claims the polls are a vital grassroots exercise to boost development and address civic issues.

Political leaders as well as armed groups called for a boycott, saying the polls under military occupation are an illegitimate exercise.

Village council elections will be held separately in November.

According to officials, 244 candidates were elected unopposed while there were no candidates for 178 out of a total of 1,145 council seats.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2018