U.S. condemns election violence in Kashmir
24 April 2004
NEW DELHI: The United States on Saturday condemned rising poll violence in Kashmir and said it was a 'cynical attempt' to scare away voters from the democratic process in the revolttorn region. Militant groups, who have called for a boycott of national elections, have launched grenade attacks, set off mines and fired at offices of political parties, polling stations, and campaign vehicles to disrupt the AprilMay vote. 'We condemn unequivocally the attacks on candidates, on political rallies and other election related events...that are aimed at disrupting the democratic process in Kashmir,' the U.S. embassy said in a statement. 'These attacks are cynical attempts to scare voters away from choosing their political representation, and from exercising their fundamental right of franchise,' it said. The United States 'applauds the courage of Kashmiris' who have braved threats and turned out to vote so far, reflecting their desire for peace, the statement added. India began voting on April 20 to elect a new government in a fivestage election due to end on May 10. Kashmiri militants, fighting against Indian rule since 1989, and political separatists have called for a boycott of the polls saying these are not a substitute for a resolution of the decadesold dispute over the Himalayan territory between India and Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir sends six lawmakers to parliament and elections to these seats are spread over four days to allow troops to move between constituencies and provide security to people who turn up to vote. Baramulla, a violenceprone area in northern Kashmir, recorded a voter turnout of barely 23 percent on April 20 compared to 5055 percent in the rest of the country. Srinagar, which is also at the heart of the antiIndia revolt, has witnessed an increase in separatist violence this week as it heads to the vote on April 26.