Elections were held under the gun in Kashmir: Mirwaiz

November 17th, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Nov 17 (IANS) Accusing the authorities of holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir “under the barrel of the gun”, separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said with the majority of the electorate keeping away from polling booths it was a “victory for the pro-freedom” parties. Despite the poll boycott call by Muslim separatists, large crowds Monday voted in some towns in the Kashmir Valley, braving the winter chill.

The elections to be held in seven phases over a month come after massive pro-separatist demonstrations in the Muslim-dominated valley earlier this year.

In several north Kashmir towns, minor clashes were reported between pro and anti-election people.

Till 2 p.m., in Jammu region, Mundher reported a turnout of 60 percent, Poonch-Haveli 52 and Surankote 42, while in Ladakh region Zanskar reported 45, Kargil 42, Nobra 36 and Leh 32.2.

Gurez in the Kashmir Valley topped with 51 percent followed by Bandipora 29 and Sonawari 28. This is significant given the boycott call of the separatists and the fear of violence in the region.

“First we don’t have an independent mechanism to confirm these official voting figures. And if these are understood to be true then what about the majority of the people who didn’t vote,” said the Mirwaiz.

“Is not that our victory? It’s a vindication for pro-freedom leaders.”

“The elections were held under the barrel of the gun. You can’t have free and fair polling in the presence of hundreds of thousands of armed troopers,” the Mirwaiz, who heads his faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference, told IANS.

The Mirwaiz, under house arrest since Thursday, said the separatist leaders were not allowed to hold anti-election campaigns.

“Whenever we planned to hold anti-poll rallies, curfew was imposed in the valley… and they call it democratic process,” he said, adding the elections were held only to cement India’s hold on Kashmir.

“Even on Monday, people were subjected to hardships in the valley by imposing restrictions because we had planned to hold peaceful anti-election rally.

“Even then some people braving police resistance took out an anti-poll march,” he said.

Separatist leaders, many of them jailed in the run up to the polls, had urged the people to march towards Bandipora and Sonawari — the two constituencies where voting was held Monday — to “counter” the elections.

Asked why Hurriyat didn’t participate in the elections, the Mirwaiz said polling in the state has never been “free and fair”.

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