Kashmiris in India election protest
Published 24/04/2014 | 08:37
Indian forces used tear gas and wooden batons to disperse scores of Kashmiri demonstrators who shouted anti-India slogans and threw rocks to protest against voting in national elections in the disputed region today.
The protesters, chanting "Down with India" and "We want freedom", also attacked some polling stations with rocks in two towns, Bijbehara and Pulwama, but there was no disruption in voting in Kashmir, a police officer said.
Voter turnout appeared to be low, with less than 5% of 1.3 million eligible voters casting their ballots in the first two hours in Anantnag district, police said.
The key battle is between Mehboob Baig of Jammu-Kashmir state's governing National Conference party and opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti.
Indian Kashmir elects only six members for the 543-member strong Indian Parliament, but voting there will take place over several days due to security concerns.
Rebels and separatist politicians have urged people to boycott the vote to show that they do not recognise India's sovereignty.
More than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or merger with Pakistan since 1989.
Millions of people were voting today for 117 parliamentary seats in 11 Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, and one federally administered union territory.
With 814 million eligible voters, India is voting in phases over six weeks. Results are expected on May 16.
The main Hindu opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, with strong momentum on promises of a surge in economic growth, appears to be leading the race to end the Congress party's 10 years in power.