Protests against election erupt in Kashmir

Indian forces used tear gas and wooden batons to disperse crowds throwing stones at polling stations in protest against Indian rule.

An Indian policeman checks voter cards of Kashmiri women before they cast their ballots at a polling station in Bijbehara, south of Srinagar on April 24.  AFP PHOTO / Tauseef MUSTAFA
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SRINAGAR, India // Hundreds of Kashmiri protesters hurled rocks at polling stations in the disputed Himalayan territory on Thursday on a major day of voting in the country’s general election.

Indian forces used tear gas and wooden batons to disperse the protesters, but there was no disruption in the voting, a police officer in the area said.

With 814 million eligible voters, India is voting in phases over six weeks, with results expected on May 16. The protests in Kashmir came as millions of people turned out in 11 states on Thursday for the second-biggest day of voting in the election.

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.

Thursday’s protests spread to nearly two dozen towns and villages in the region.

Aqib Ahmed, a young voter, said he couldn’t remain blind to Indian abuses on Kashmiris. “So I am not voting,” he said.

However, Abdul Ahad, 50, said the people were facing multiple issues in the region. “I am voting in the hope that the issue of development for progress is taken care of,” he said.

*Associated Press