Kashmir Shuts Down In Poll Protest, Troops Out On Patrol

6 May 2009

Srinagar: Government forces locked down Kashmir's main city Srinagar on Wednesday to thwart planned protests against the fourth phase of general elections on Thursday. Troops patrolled deserted streets in Srinagar, cutting off residential areas after the separatists called for a two-day strike from Wednesday. Shops and businesses also remained closed. The boycott call, which was announced before polling day, is seen as a bid by the separatists to deny New Delhi any credit for holding an election in Kashmir. 'Srinagar is going to polls on May 7, so we have called for a 50-hour shutdown in Kashmir,' said Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the Chairman of the hardline faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). This is not the first time the separatists have given a call for poll boycott in Kashmir. The separatists have had to suffer a major setback after residents defied a boycott call given by the Hurriyat during the State Assembly polls held in November 2008 and came out in large numbers to cast their votes. A prominent Kashmiri separatist leader, Sajjad Lone, who had given a call for poll boycott during the state elections, has decided to contest during these general elections and raise the voices of Kashmiris in Parliament. Besides the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) are also contesting the elections.