Kashmir prepares for local poll

Other News Materials 17 November 2008 05:54 (UTC +04:00)

Voting is set to begin in elections for a new state government in Indian-administered Kashmir, BBC reported.

The poll, being boycotted by parties campaigning for independence, is a stern test for Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region.

In recent months there have been huge pro-independence demonstrations in Kashmir which were put down by force.

And dozens of separatist leaders have been detained to prevent them leading protests against the poll.

Voting will take place in seven phrases, lasting until 24 December.

On every road, at almost every junction in the Kashmir valley are armed Indian soldiers and policemen.

Half a million troops are providing a massive security blanket for this election for a new state government.

Over the summer hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims staged some of the biggest protests in a generation against Indian-rule.

When police broke up the demonstrations around 40 people were killed, many of them unarmed protestors.

So India is hoping the election will help restore its battered credibility here.

But it has jailed or put under house arrest up to 100 separatist leaders who have called for a boycott of the vote.

They are now asking their supporters to march on polling stations.

It all means that India, the world's largest democracy, is struggling to hold a credible election.

And if large numbers heed the call to shun the poll the legitimacy of India's rule over Kashmir.