Clashes Mark Final Phase of Kashmir Vote

24 December 2008
Voice of America
VOA News

Washington DC.: Clashes between security forces and anti-election demonstrators have injured at least 20 people in Indian-controlled Kashmir during the seventh and final phase of state elections. A Kashmiri Muslim woman comes out of a poling station after casting her vote as others stand in a queue outside a polling station in Srinagar, India, Wednesday, 24 Dec. 2008 A Kashmiri Muslim woman comes out of a poling station after casting her vote as others stand in a queue outside a polling station in Srinagar, India, Wednesday, 24 Dec. 2008 Government troops fired tear gas and used batons to disperse groups of protesters Wednesday outside of polls in Indian Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar. Security forces patrolled the streets of Srinagar and the Hindu-majority city of Jammu to try to prevent disruption by militants fighting Indian rule. The troops also sealed off roads with steel barricades and razor wire in Srinagar to prevent protesters from gathering. Election authorities say voter turnout was low (about 20 percent) in the Muslim-majority areas of Srinagar, where separatist groups called for an election boycott. Turnout was reported to be higher in other parts of the disputed region, where voting appeared to be largely peaceful. The separatists argued the vote would legitimize India's control over the Himalayan region, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan. Despite the boycott calls, an unprecedented number of people voted in the earlier rounds of the staggered elections. The vote concludes a year that has been marked by some of the biggest protests against Indian rule since a Muslim insurgency began in 1989. Separatists in Kashmir have been fighting for an independent homeland or merger with Pakistan. Thousands of people have been killed in insurgency-related violence.