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Kashmir tense after clashes mar by-election | News

Indian police have imposed curfew-like curbs on movement of people across several parts of Indian-administered Kashmir, a day after clashes with protesters during a by-election killed eight people and injured more than 200.

Separatist factions in Kashmir have called for a two-day strike in protest on Monday.

Their calls to boycott the poll in Srinagar, and the ensuing violence, resulted in voter turnout of a mere seven percent on Sunday and forced 70 polling stations to shut down.

During clashes in Budgam district, police initially used tear gas against protesters who were throwing stones, but then opened fire, killing seven people, a senior police officer told Reuters news agency.

One protester was killed in a separate incident.

READ MORE: Police kill civilians in Kashmir by-election clashes

“This is a reaction to what is happening in Kashmir, because people are getting killed mercilessly,” a young protester in Srinagar, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisal, told Al Jazeera.

“The youth are coming out to express our anger and dissent in every way possible.”

Waheed Para, spokesman for Jammu and Kashmir state’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), told Al Jazeera: “We regret these killings. It will take some time to bring back a conducive environment in the state.”

Shantmanu, chief electoral officer of Jammu and Kashmir, said “more than 200 incidents of violence” were reported on Sunday, including stone-pelting, petrol bomb attacks and setting ablaze of a polling station.

Sensitive area

The by-election was held in the key city of Srinagar to fill a vacant seat in India’s lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha.

A second by-election in the state is set to take place on April 12 in Anantnag.

“We are worried about Anantnag polls because it is a more sensitive area,” the police official said.

Security was beefed up on Monday across Kashmir, with police blocking roads with barricades and restricting movement of vehicles.

Some train services were also suspended in the region, a railway official said.



Security was beefed up on Monday, with police restricting movement of vehicles [Danish Ismail/Reuters]

Kashmir, part of India’s only Muslim-majority state, witnessed deadly protests after a well-known separatist commander was killed last year.

The violence has killed 84 civilians and wounded more than 12,000 civilians and security force personnel.

In a separate incident on Monday, Rajesh Kalia, Indian defence official, said four suspected fighters were killed after they tried to infiltrate along the frontier with Pakistan near an area known as the Keran sector.

“We noticed movement of militants early in the morning and killed them during an ambush,” Kalia said.

REAd MORE: Mirza Waheed: ‘Violence will not end Kashmir conflict’

Details of the incident could not immediately be independently verified.

India and Pakista claim divided Kashmir in full, but governs separate parts. Two of the three wars they have fought since independence from Britain in 1947 have been over Kashmir.

Last September, tension escalated as armed men killed 19 Indian soldiers at an army camp in Kashmir, an attack India blamed on Pakistan-based fighters.

India accuses Pakistan of backing separatist fighters in the Himalayan region, a charge Pakistan denies.



 

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