March 2004 News

Rebels urge Kashmiris to boycott Indian election 

1 March 2004

SRINAGAR, India: A frontline rebel group urged people of strifetorn Kashmir on Monday not to take part in India's national elections as fresh violence hit the Himalayan region. Police said 14 people were wounded in a grenade attack in Srinagar, the capital of the Indiancontrolled part of disputed Kashmir. New Delhi announced on Sunday the country would go to polls in four stages from April 20 to May 10 in an election expected to return the ruling Hindu nationalistled coalition to power. 'We appeal to the people of Kashmir to remain away from the elections and show their resentment against Indian rule,' Syed Salahuddin, chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, said in a statement. 'We've not offered sacrifices to elect rulers but for the complete freedom of Jammu and Kashmir from Indian occupation,' he added. Hizbul Mujahideen, which is fighting for Muslimmajority Kashmir's merger with Muslim Pakistan, is one of the biggest guerrilla groups in the troubled region. Earlier, a spokesman of a littleknown militant group, Al Mansurain, called newspaper offices and claimed responsibility for the grenade attack in Srinagar. Police said the grenade was aimed at the security patrol but missed the target and exploded on a crowded road intersection. The attack came after the chief minister of the state promised to stop human rights abuses by security forces following several days of street protests. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Syed, who escaped an assassination attempt by militants last week, said some mistakes had been made and vowed action against soldiers guilty of abuse. Tens of thousands of Indian soldiers are in Kashmir to put down a 15year revolt that has killed more than 40,000 people. A 13yearold boy died last week when police fired at hundreds of demonstrators protesting against what they called rights violations by security forces in northern Kashmir. 'Some bad incidents have taken place...which make us sad. Anybody found responsible for human rights abuses would face action,' Syed said in a statement. Indian authorities deny largescale abuse of human rights in Kashmir and say all complaints are investigated and the guilty punished. India controls about half of Kashmir, Pakistan about one third and China the rest. Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, which opened unprecedented talks with the Indian government in January, has threatened to pull out, saying there has been no respite in violations by security forces.


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