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Held Kashmir waits for vote amid security shutdowns

Updated April 18, 2019

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SRINAGAR: Indian paramilitary personnel stand guard outside a polling station on Wednesday.—AFP
SRINAGAR: Indian paramilitary personnel stand guard outside a polling station on Wednesday.—AFP

SRINAGAR: Security forces shut down roads and stepped up patrols on Wednesday in India-held Kashmir, a day before voters in the disputed region go to the polls.

Tens of thousands of security forces have poured into the region ahead of Thursday’s vote.

Tensions have skyrocketed in the Himalayan region since a February suicide attack that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitaries and led to India and Pakistan exchanging cross-border strikes.

The Indian authorities are evidently taking no chances during voting, deploying tens of thousands of security personnel to join the half a million soldiers already stationed in the region.

“We have made elaborate security arrangements for peaceful polling,” Swayam Prakash Pani, inspector general of the local police force, said.

All civilian vehicles have been banned from Srinagar’s main boulevard, which leads to a poll material distribution centre.

Across the city, police and paramilitary troops in combat fatigues and wielding automatic rifles have been deployed, including along the banks of the Jhelum river that winds through Srinagar.

Barbed wire barricades have been erected and police have issued traffic advisories asking residents to avoid parts of the city.

Many residents have simply opted to stay home, with the traffic in the city dominated by troops and polling staff moving in military vehicles.

A private transport operator said the government had hired more than 3,000 vehicles to ferry polling officials around parts of the state during the vote.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2019