25 November 2014

Thousands vote in Indian Kashmir amid boycott call

Kashmiris stand in queue to cast their votes outside a polling station during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections at Shadipora, outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Thousands lined up to cast their votes amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.
Thousands of Kashmiris cast votes in state elections Tuesday despite a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups that reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.
Voter turnout was high at 70 percent despite cold temperatures and overcast skies, the Election Commission said. It described the first phase of the elections as "flawless" with no incidents marring the polls.
Paramilitary soldiers and police officers patrolled near polling stations.
Long lines of voters stretched around polling booths in Ganderbal and Bandipora, north of the main city of Srinagar.
The elections for the 87-member state assembly are being held in five phases, a process that allows the government to deploy thousands of troops to prevent violence. The results are to be announced Dec. 23.
An Indian Border Security Force soldier guards as Kashmiris stand in queue to cast their votes outside a polling station during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in Hajan, 35 kilometers (21miles) north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Thousands lined up to cast their votes amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.
Pro-India Kashmiri parties say the elections will boost development and help address civic issues, while separatists say the polls are an illegitimate exercise under military occupation. In recent days, authorities have detained hundreds of separatist leaders and activists who called for an election boycott.
The multistage voting will elect a local government — a chief minister who will serve as the state's top official and a council of ministers — from the pro-India parties participating in the elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has been campaigning heavily, and for the first time is hoping to win a sizeable number of seats in India's only Muslim-majority state.
The Kashmir region is divided between India and Pakistan and both countries claim it in its entirety.
Kashmiris stand in queue to cast their votes outside a polling station during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in Hajan, 35 kilometers (21miles) north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Thousands lined up to cast their votes amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.
Nearly a dozen rebel groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989, seeking independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan. About 68,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
State elections were also being held in the central Indian state of Jharkhand. 
(AP)
A polling officer, right, puts an ink mark on the finger of a voter during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in Khranihama, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) north east of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Thousands lined up to cast their votes amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.
Indian paramilitary soldiers guard a polling both set up for migrant Kashmiri Hindus during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections at Jagti, outskirts of Jammu, India, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Thousands lined up to cast their votes amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.
Kashmiri men line up to cast their votes during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in Khranihama, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) north east of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Thousands lined up to cast their votes amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.
An elderly Kashmiri woman casts her vote at a polling station set up inside a school during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in Ganderbal, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north east of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Thousands lined up to cast their votes amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.
Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard beside a highway during the first phase of voting to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in Ganderbal, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north east of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Thousands lined up to cast their votes amid a boycott call by Muslim separatist groups who reject India's sovereignty over the disputed Himalayan region.

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