India decided to hold elections for 6 Lok Sabha seats in Indian-held Kashmir in three phases soon after the general elections in India. The first round of voting was held in Ladakh and Jammu on 7th May 1996, in Baramula and Anantnag on 23rd May 1996 and in Srinagar and Udhampur on 30th May 1996.
It is reported that during the election campaign, 5 to 6 people died and many were injured in demonstrations and violence in the valley.
India demonstrated her ill motives by holding elections against the wishes of the people of Jammu & Kashmir who are protesting at the illegal occupation of their homeland by India. The exercise showed the extremes to which India went to hold fraudulent elections. It was common to see election candidates campaigning amongst people who were forced to listen with bayonets pointed at them. During the election the people were herded to polling stations to cast their votes at gunpoint.
The news media has reported extensively on this election sham.
Soldiers herd Kashmiris to polls May 23, 1996
BARAMULA, India (CNN) -- Soldiers roused many villagers and townspeople from their homes soon after dawn Thursday to vote in the first elections in seven years in the predominantly Muslim Jammu-Kashmir state.
Many voters complained of being forced to participate in a government they don't support. At stake are six seats in the 545-member parliament in New Delhi. It's the first election since a campaign for independence from Hindu-dominated India turned violent in 1989.
"The army came early in the morning and dragged people from their houses. But we gathered all the men, women, boys and girls to come here. We will not vote," said Mohammed Safi, a pharmaceuticals salesman in Sopore.
"We don't want to be with India. They have destroyed our lives. We want only freedom," he said. "These are fake elections."
The soldiers escorted the Kashmiris to polling stations. Security forces also visited mosques, telling people to vote after morning prayers.
"They said if we do not vote, they will beat us," Gulan Mohidin said.
Police wielding clubs clashed with demonstrators. The officers fired shots in the air, launched tear gas and charged protesters in Baramula, about 35 miles northwest of the Himalayan state's summer capital of Srinagar.
No one was seriously injured. Witnesses said protesters stormed polling booths, prompting police to use force. "We do not want elections, we want freedom," screamed a group of women.
Officials predict a turnout of 25 percent, a dramatic increase from the 5 percent who voted in 1989. Thursday's election will not affect parliament's balance of power.
India portrayed the election as evidence that Kashmiris are weary of war and that the insurrection is waning. Voting officials said security forces were deployed to some 2,000 polling booths to combat the militant threats.
Two blasts rocked Jammu-Kashmir in the two days leading up to the election. Separatist groups claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack, and police suspect separatists also were behind the second bombing.
On Wednesday, a bus explosion killed at least 20 people, including four children. A car bomb on Tuesday ripped through a crowded marketplace, killing more than 17 people.
From: Khalid Sofi, 23 May 96
No voting has been reported in most of the Baramulla and Anantnag districts going for polls today.
Indian forces have forced men and women out in Pulwama and Sopore towns early in the morning to cast their votes. They were threatened with death, if they do not come out, every house in these areas was than occupied by a Indian troop. Any young person between the age of 18-28 has been taken to unidentified place in these areas.
There has been no voting at all in any other area, reports reaching Hurriyat HQ in Srinagar has confirmed that there was no voting in Islamabad, Baramulla, Kupwara and other areas.
A large number of foreign journalists are camping in the valley and they are visiting various areas themselves. There was also an attack on the reporters of Voice of America, who were beaten by forces and their cameras snatched.
By ARTHUR MAX Associated Press Writer, 23 May 1996
BARAMULA, India (AP) -- With a dawn knock on doors, armed Indian troops herded Kashmiris to polling stations Thursday for an election intended to bring democracy back to the rebellious territory after seven years.
Islamic rebels seeking independence for Kashmir see the election as an attempt by the Indian government to legitimate its rule. They urged people to boycott the vote, the final stage of a staggered month-long election for India's parliament.
Authorities reported turnouts of 35 percent and 43 percent in the two districts contested. Ashok Kumar, Kashmir's highest civil administrator, proclaimed it a "mandate of the people for a return of peace and democracy." He denied that the government was intimidating voters, saying: "The armed forces were instructed to stay aloof. There is no question of security forces herding people or forcing people."
But correspondents visiting dozens of villages and townships found few people who said they were voting willingly. Most voters did not know who the candidates were, and some claimed that military officials had threatened to cut off a finger of anyone who did not vote.
"This is a fake election," said Mohammed Safi, a pharmaceuticals salesman in the town of Sopore. Diplomats from the United States, Great Britain and Japan toured polling stations, escorted by local police. One diplomat, who spoke on condition that his country not be identified, said he would report back that the election was a sham.
Villagers said troops waving sticks and carrying rifles slung over their soldiers banged on doors in the morning to bring voters to the polls in groups. "Nobody can take a risk with his life. God has given us just one," said a 42-year-old man who refused to give his name for fear of retaliation. "My wife locked me out of the house. She said, `You must go. I don't want you to be killed.' I don't even know who the candidates are, but I will vote. What choice do I have?"
The reports of forced voting cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election that India had hoped would testify to a growing discontent with the independence struggle and demonstrate Kashmiris' desire for a normal life.
It was the first election since separatist militants began an armed insurrection in 1989 demanding independence for the only Muslim-majority state in Hindu-dominated India. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
In Baramula, police used tear gas and fired into the air to scatter a protest march of nearly 1,000 people. In nearby Sopore, two explosions echoed across the town as hundreds of people shouted independence slogans in a square, defying orders to vote.
Police reported other scattered clashes, but tight security prevented them from becoming violent. The only reported injury was a teen-ager wounded by a hand grenade.
Nearly 1.5 million people were entitled to vote for two seats in the 545-member lower house of parliament in New Delhi. The rest of India completed voting two weeks ago, resulting in the installation of a Hindu-nationalist government. Srinagar, the capital of Jammu-Kashmir state, votes on May 30.
With Kashmiri civil servants on strike, the government brought 10,000 government employees from elsewhere in the country to act as polling officials. All were given bulletproof vests.
Legal voting procedures were frequently violated. Some people voted in full view of the election officers.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The "Democratic Voting" in Indian Kashmir was a farce. By Erhard Haubold
Srinagar, 23 May. The soldiers came at five in the morning, fetched the people out of their houses, kicked in doors and announced over the loudspeakers of the mosques, that there are "free elections today, but he who doesn't attend will have to bear the consequences". Consequences? The ink stain on the index finger, which only washes off after one week, is unmistakable evidence. He who cannot produce this at a traffic check or at one of the many house searches, is threatened with a thrashing, with torture or something even worse. Even before the election day, the soldiers threatened, "We'll chop off their hands, or their heads as well". It was also said,"if you don't vote, we'll burn your house down".
The picture was the same in all the villages. Long queues in front of the polling stations, the men standing or squatting, the women separate, and everyone being kept watch over by soldiers and police with guns and long batons. When those uniformed briefly looked away, the "compelled" or "threatened" people would run up to us. They used every opportunity for protest or for a barrage of whistles.
Throughout the whole of the election day, we only found one man who had gone to the polling station of his own free will.
India cannot claim legitimacy for the Kashmir farce. It took place at gunpoint. The results did not matter to the central government in New Delhi, only the rate of election participation. Most of the voters did not know the candidates nor the parties for whom they voted.
The Washington Times,May 24
"Kashmiris forcibly taken to polls in India. Soldiers act to thwart separatist boycott" by Arthur Max.
"Armed troops herded Kashmiris to the polls yesterday (May23) for the rebellious state's first elections in seven years. Combating a boycott called by separatist leaders, soldiers roused villagers and towns people from their homes soon after dawn and escorted them to polling stations to elect members to the Parliament in New Delhi".
"But in dozens of towns and villages, few people said they were voting voluntarily. Most did not know who the candidates were, and many said they deliberately spoiled their ballot by marking more than one name".
"Wearing camouflage helmets, the soldiers blew whistles and waved sticks to keep the men moving. Fifty thousand extra paramilitary forces moved into position to protect polling stations. India normally stations upto a half-million soldiers in the separatist State".
The Washington Post, May 24
"Troops Force Kashmiris to vote" by Kenneth J. Cooper.
"Besides providing valuable intelligence to security forces, the former insurgents have continued violent activities here with impunity because of government sponsorship". "The central government has a long history of manipulating elections and hand-picking leaders in Kashmir, where democracy has been the least realized in India. Journalists who observed today's voting in the two Kashmir Valley districts saw widespread evidence of security officers forcing residents to the polls and, in some cases, pressing them to vote for former Muslim militants. Some villagers said security forces began making threats more than a weak ago".
Dogens Nyheter , Swedish newspaper of 24 May reports
"Last Thursday (May 23) people went to the polling booths in Kashmir, but the election to the Indian parliament was followed by protests and there were also accusations that Indian soldiers had forced reluctant people from Kashmir to vote. In several towns in Kashmir, where the Muslim insurrection has been going on for the last seven years, Indian soldiers were, according to the police, using truncheons, tear gas and warning shots to end all the protests against the election".
The Guardian- Soldiers force Kashmir to polls
Beaten and herded like cattle, Kashmiris were driven from their homes at daybreak yesterday to cast their votes for the first time in seven years, in an exercise stripped of any pretence of choice or freedom. In village after village in Anantnag and Baramula, where voting for two of four parliamentary seats took place yesterday, the Indian army made little attempt to conceal its coercive campaign to ensure a high turnout.
About the turnout claims, the correspondents say that the figures reveal little of the misery that was inflicted on the average voter. New Delhi has intensified its operations against Kashmiri activists, inflicting heavy casualties. Tens of thousands of paramilitary forces have poured into the valley, along with hundreds of civil servants, press-ganged into duty as presiding officers.
An 80-member medical team from New Delhi has been under heavy guard in Srinagar hotel. Candidates made their rounds in bulletproof cars, escorted by three armoured vehicles and a truck-load of security forces.
But attendance was dismal at rallies. Among Kashmiris, who see the polls as a New Delhi tactic to ignore demands for talks on the valley's future, resentment runs deep.
The traditional Kashmiri political party, the National conference, has boycotted the polls as have activist organisations.
"Elections are not held and cannot be held in a region where the government exists in bunkers and the guns roar," said Abdul Ghani, a leader of the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference. The boycott left the field clear for political unknowns and the candidates belonging to government backed armed groups. "The candidates are not real militant," said one Sopore man, shaking his fist. "They are thieves, murderers and exploiters."
Civil servants have been on strike for days, shops have been shuttered since Monday, and newspapers have ceased publication.
In Sopore, local leaders say officers from the local Ninth Gurkha Rifles have harangued them daily for the past week.
"They have told us to make sure there was a queue outside the polling stations. They said : 'It doesn't matter if you vote or not, we will do the rest'," one local leader said.
The Times of India of 24 May, Sabina Indeijit
People came on their own and voted, and in large numbers, was the State Government's statement, while the refrain among -the -Kashmiris was "we were threatened, taken out of our homes and forced by the army to vote". The write-up further states, "the day began with an overcast sky and a light drizzle. At 7 a.m. no person in civilian clothes could be seen on the street of the State capital. The first halt was a check point where
reporters were asked to alight from the vehicles they were travelling in. "It is a NWCP - mobile vehicle checkpoint (for weapons and explosives)", explained an Army Officer. A Government vehicle with media persons in it, however, zipped by without even a wave by the guard. A group from Hatiwara village in Anantnag alleged: "the army came at 5 a.m. and threatened us that if we did not vote, we will be killed, our houses burnt out". The view was expressed by all who were approached by this correspondent.
The Statesman of 24 May , Aunohita Mojumdar's
"In a poll process that was neither free nor fair, but a successfully completed electoral exercise by the government, the Kashmir Valley underwent the first phase of elections after seven years. People were herded out of villages throughout the Valley., to ensure a voter turnout of 43% in Anantnag and 35% in Baramulla.
"However, though the Government achieved its goal of holding elections in the Valley, the voters, claiming they had been brought to the polling booths forcibly, remained alienated from the democratic process".
The residents of Awantipora said they were threatened that their houses would be burnt if they did not come out. Most villagers in the Anantnag district too, told a similar tale. Rounds by the security forces, announcements fromloud speakers, in some places from the Masjids, through the local residents and forcible eviction from the houses, were employed to get the voters to the booths. Resentment was high in Bijbehara, where in one locality 40 persons had lost their lives in October 1993, when the security forces opened fire on a demonstration. People said they had refused to come out despite announcements and several rounds by the forces, but had been forced out eventually after continuous pressure. They claimed that men of the counter-insurgency group, the Ikhwan-ul-Muslirnoon, had accompanied the Rashtriya Rifles on the third round around the village.
In village Delina the residents came out on the streets on seeing journalists. Despite the presence of the security forces around they raised pro-azadi slogans and gave free vent to their fire against the forces, who, they said, had beaten them to force them out of their houses. There was little secrecy at the polling booths and in several of them, the polling officers were showing voters where to stamp the ballot paper. Most of the polling booths had no polling agents of any of the contesting candidates and there was no method of verification of voters' identities, with administration more than happy to allow anyone to vote.
Telegraph of 24 May ,Murali Krishnan and Mukhtar Ahmad
"Voting was reduced to a farce when hundreds of reluctant voters were threatened and forced out of their homes in Anantnag and Baramulla. They were herded to polling stations and then directed to vote. The ridiculous ritual was repeated at every booth. In the end the angry but submissive Kashmiri was only keen that the indelible ink was marked on the fore-finger. This would at least ensure that security personnel did not harass him or his family. Every rule in the book was flouted today. Polling agents were missing. Security forces were present in the booths handling voters list and some candidates were canvassing openly in polling stations".
By JOHN F. BURNS New York Times.May 24, 1996
Indian Troops Used in Kashmir, to Force Muslims to Vote
BARAMULLA, Kashmir -- Indian troops moved into villages and urban neighborhoods across the Vale of Kashmir at dawn on Thursday, rousing Muslims from their beds to vote in the first election to be held in the only Indian state with a Muslim majority since a Muslim separatist rebellion began in 1989. By holding voting for the six seats in Parliament allotted to Kashmir, the Indian government aimed to show that a large fighting force has beaten back the insurgency.
But after a day marked by widespread allegations that tens of thousands of troops were deployed to force Muslims to vote at gunpoint, the message that India wanted to send to the world appeared likely to be lost, or at least heavily muffled. And the anger stirred by the troops' actions seemed likely to increase
the widespread alienation among the 6 million Muslims living in Indian-held Kashmir, who have borne the brunt of a war in which as many as 50,000 people are believed to have died.
The election in Kashmir, which followed the nationwide balloting, was held a week after a Hindu nationalist government took office in New Delhi, adding to uneasiness among Indian Muslims. The Hindu party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, had pledged to adopt a tougher policy on Kashmir and abolish long-established legal protections for India's Muslim minority.
On Thursday, along mile after mile of winding road that runs through the Kashmir valley, the lush heartland of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the voting hours were marked by crowds of angry Kashmiris defying Indian troops, often after being herded to polling stations and made to stand in line to vote.
"Azadi!" the crowds shouted, meaning freedom in Urdu, the language spoken by most Kashmiri Muslims. "India get out!"
The pattern of apparent intimidation by Indian troops held throughout the 90-mile-long valley, home to most of the state's Muslims and the center of the insurgency. In at least a dozen villages between Srinagar and Barramulla, at the north end of the valley, none of the hundreds of voters questioned said they had voted freely.
Broadly similar accounts were given by other reporters who traveled south of Srinagar into the Anantnag district, where the same scenes of troops fanning out into the villages were repeated.
Many villagers said that they had been caught between the soldiers, who had ordered Muslim elders to use the loudspeakers at mosques to issue the dawn summons to vote, and heavily armed insurgent groups that had passed through the villages before the election threatening death to anybody who voted.
"We have the army at our front, and the militants at our back," said Ghulam Ahmed, 50, a rice farmer who was walking along a poplar-lined causeway to vote near the village of Panjinara. "What can we do?"
Instead of convincing the United Nations that India has at last obtained a popular mandate for its rule here, the election seemed likely to add to the animosities that have made Kashmir an international flashpoint.
With India and Pakistan each occupying parts of Kashmir since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, and both claiming the right to rule all of Kashmir, concern has focused on the risk of a new war between the two countries, both of which possess at least small stockpiles of nuclear weapons.
At dusk Indian officials announced that the turnout in the Barramulla and Anantnag parliamentary districts had been 43 percent and 35 percent respectively, out of a total electorate in the districts of about a million people.
The figures were only 10 to 15 percent below the turnouts recorded elsewhere in India during the election, which concluded everywhere but Kashmir two weeks ago, and provided the basis for India's top officials to say that the insurgents had suffered a decisive rebuff. "I think it is very, very obvious that people are sick and tired of the kind of environment that has prevailed in this state," said Ashok Kumar, who, as chief secretary, is the top civil servant in the state. "It is a mandate from the people for the return of peace and democracy."
But Kumar, who acknowledged that he had not visited either of the districts where the polling took place, found himself in the middle of an angry melee at a news conference called to discuss the voting.
Indian and foreign reporters described scenes in which soldiers with automatic rifles and bamboo canes moved through Muslim neighborhoods threatening inhabitants with reprisals if they did not vote.
What reporters might have seen, Kumar said, was troops offering protection to voters against the reprisals threatened by insurgent groups. "You can shout all the stories you want, but I am speaking the truth: there was no herding of people," Kumar said. "People cannot turn out in such numbers from reasons like this. I do not accept this at all."
For India, holding the election was a vast logistical exercise. In addition to at least 350,000 troops and paramilitary policemen previously deployed in the state, some 100,000 troops and policemen were moved north from other parts of India, along with 10,000 polling officials.
Because of the insurgent threat, the election has been held over three days, with troops and the police moving from one polling district to another. The final day of voting, in the cities of Srinagar and Udhampur, is scheduled for next Thursday.
Whatever else was accomplished on Thursday, the large troop presence in the two polling districts appeared to have deterred the insurgent groups from interfering directly with the voting, apart from scattered reports of grenade-throwing and at least one bomb blast.
Indian officials said that this proved what they have been saying for at least a year, that tough Indian military actions have broken the back of the insurgency and convinced Pakistan, which India says arms and finances the insurgent groups, that the state cannot be won by force.
Apart from showing that an election could be held, the voting appeared to have little political relevance. Every political group with a major following in the state, including all of the political wings of the diverse insurgent groups, boycotted the election.
A measure of the caliber of the parties that did compete was that many of the votes that were not deliberately spoiled appeared to be going to a new group, the Awami League, which is composed of former insurgents now armed and financed by the Indian forces. The group is widely feared in the Kashmir valley, where it has been accused of indiscriminate banditry.
Fri, 24 May 1996
BARAMULA, Kashmir (AP) -- Armed troops herded Kashmiris to the polls today for the rebellious state's first elections in seven years, forcing them to pick representatives to an Indian government they reject.
Combating a boycott called by separatist leaders, soldiers roused villagers and townspeople from their homes soon after dawn and escorted them to polling stations to elect members to the parliament in New Delhi.
These are the first elections in the predominantly Muslim state of Jammu-Kashmir since a campaign for independence from Hindu-dominated India turned violent in 1989. At least 13,000 people have been
killed in the uprising by rival rebel groups, which seek independence from India or unification with neighboring Islamic Pakistan.
Kashmiris were voting for six of the 545 seats in the federal parliament's lower house, but the results will have no bearing on the makeup of India's government. That was determined in three previous rounds of voting in the rest of India that ended May 7 and put a Hindu nationalist government in power.
India portrayed today's election as evidence that Kashmiris are weary of war and that the insurrection is waning. Officials have said that even a voter turnout of 20 percent will be enough to show the region has become less violent.
But in dozens of towns and villages, few people said they were voting voluntarily. Most did not know who the candidates were, and many said they deliberately spoiled their ballot by marking more than one name.
In the town of Baramula, 35 miles north of the state capital, Srinagar, police fired tear gas and live ammunition in the air to scatter hundreds of demonstrators. No one was hurt. In nearby Sopore, hundreds of people gathered in a square and shouted independence slogans, defying orders to vote.
"The army came early in the morning and dragged people from their houses. But we gathered all the men, women, boys and girls to come here. We will not vote," said Mohammed Safi, a pharmaceuticals salesman.
"We don't want to be with India. They have destroyed our lives. We want only freedom," he said. "These are fake elections."
At Delina, a village on the road from Baramula to Srinagar, a half-dozen soldiers herded a line of men toward a polling station. Wearing camouflage helmets, the soldiers blew whistles and waved sticks to keep the men moving, and tried to prevent reporters from interviewing them.
"We are being forced to vote. We do not want this election," said one man, as dozens of others shouted their support.
The Independent, Tim McGirk, Baramulla, Friday 24 May, 1996
In the old Kashmir town of Baramulla, the Indian army obliged people with 5am wake-up call so they would not forget to vote in yesterday's elections. It was not a courtesy call but a threat.
Armed soldiers filed through the rainy alleys of Baramulla, forcing their way into the cedar beamed houses and dragging people from their beds. "They took down my name and said if I hadn't cast my vote by 5pm, they would beat me so hard that my face would be unrecognizable," said one bearded youth afraid to give his name.
But when polls opened at 8am the expected queues of eager Kashmiri voters failed to appear. So the soldiers went back. This time they used their rifle butts and bamboo sticks to herd the people through the mud like frightened animals. One grizzled old man held out his thumb, marked with an indelible stain by polling officers which showed he had voted. He was relieved but bitter.
"The army said that if I didn't come back with this ink on my thumb, I'd be shot dead. But none of us wanted these elections. We want freedom from India", said the old man. The crowd pressing in on us shouted "Azadi-Azadi" (freedom).
The army's coercion in Baramulla, was not a single, ugly incident. Throughout Kashmir valley, systematic use of intimidation and vote-rigging was carried out by Indian authorities. When an Indian polling officer, Jalil Khan, told news conference that yesterday's elections in Kashmir, were "free of irregularities", he was met with loud jeers.
Everywhere, from Baramulla to Anantnag in southern Kashmir, the story was the same: Indian soldiers and police forced the Kashmiris to vote. It was a fraud of careless transparency and brutality, one that has convinced many Kashmiris that Indian democracy, at least in the troubled Himalayan state, is only a sham.
INDIAN GUNS FORCE KASHMIR VOTERS TO THE BALLOT BOX
From Christopher Thomas in Baramulla The Times May 24 1996, London
"The Kashmir valley's first elections in seven years yesterday undermined India's promise of a free and fair poll. People were forced out of their homes by soldiers and ordered to vote, producing an artificially high turnout. Most polls in Kashmir have been manipulated; this one was no different"
Voters told the same story from polling station to polling station where long queues formed, watched by large number of soldiers or paramilitary forces. Villagers said they were forced out of their homes at gunpoint and warned by troops that they were expected to vote. People went to polling stations to obtain an indelible ink mark on their finger so they could prove they had done so "Many people who refused to vote said they feared visits from security forces today to check if they had an ink mark on their fingers. "If they don't find the mark, we will be beaten. They will be very angry. This election is farce", a local doctor said.
"Nobody wants to vote because that would legitimise India's occupation of Kashmir. Every man, woman and child is crying for azadi (freedom). We want our independence back," he said.
US media term occupied Kashmir elections sham, fake - Shaheen Sehbai
WASHINGTON, May 24: The US media on Friday almost unanimously reported that the elections held in Indian-occupied Kashmir were "a sham, fake and a parody of democracy" with heavily armed Indian troops forcing people out of their houses to go and vote.
The Washington Post put the elections story as its lead in the `World News' section showing pictures of Kashmiri women shouting anti-India slogans and a convoy of troops passing by a line of voters in village Awantipora in northern Kashmir.
The headlines of the Post, Washington Times, New York Times and the Los Angeles Times screamed against the use of force by the troops as special correspondents of these newspapers reported their experiences from various parts of the occupied valley.
"Troops in Kashmir force people to vote" said the Washington Post headline. "Kashmiris forcibly taken to polls in India" noted the Washington Times. The Los Angeles Times said: "Voters In Muslim Areas Say They Are Forced to Vote", while the New York Times used the headline: "Indian troops used in Kashmir, some say to force Muslims to vote." John-Thor Dahlburg of the Los Angeles Times began his report from New Delhi saying: "In an exercise denounced by many as a parody of democracy, voters in predominantly Muslim areas of the troubled Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir were called to the polls Thursday for the first elections in seven years.
"Witnesses told reporters that crowds in at least one town charged polling booths, complaining that security forces were trying to force people into voting..."
John F. Burns of the New York Times, reporting from Baramula in Kashmir said: "Indian troops moved into villages and urban neighbourhoods across the Vale of Kashmir at dawn on Thursday, rousing Muslims from their beds to vote in the first election to be held in the only Indian state with a
Muslim majority since a Muslim separatist rebellion began in 1989.
"By holding voting for the six seats in Parliament allotted to Kashmir, the Indian government aimed to show that a large fighting force has beaten back the insurgency.
"But after a day marked by widespread allegations that tens of thousands of troops were deployed to force Muslims to vote at gunpoint, the message that India wanted to send to the world appeared likely to be lost, or at least heavily muffled."
"Azadi!" the crowds shouted, meaning freedom in Urdu, the language spoken by most Kashmiri Muslims. "India get out!"
SOLDIERS FORCE KASHMIR TO POLLS
Suzanne Goldenberg in Kashmir ,The Guardian, Friday 25 May 1996, London
Beaten and herded like cattle, Kashmiris were driven from their homes at daybreak yesterday to cast their votes for the first time in seven years, in an exercise stripped of any pretence of choice or freedom.
In village after village in Anantnag and Baramula, where voting for two of four parliamentary seats took place yesterday, the Indian army made little attempt to conceal its coercive campaign to ensure a high turnout.
The charade started soon after dawn. In the village of Marwal, men walked to the polls in groups of about 100, spaced at intervals of a few yards. They said the army had used the village mosque's loudhailer to order them to be at the polling station by the time voting started. "They told us we had to get out by 7.05am or they would beat us," one man said.
Inside the polling station at the local school, soldiers clubbed villagers into line with bamboo staves, and several old men fell into mud. The troops told villagers it would be unwise to spoil their ballot papers. "Only put your stamp on one symbol," an officer said.
Although the pattern of intimidation and force was clear in both Baramulla and Anantnag, those carrying it out varied. In areas under sway of the "renegades"..armed irregulars used by government to fight separatist guerrillas..tough-looking bearded young men with rifles barely concealed beneath their jackets took their place alongside Indian government troops.
When confronted 'with reporters' accounts of widespread force and voting irregularities, Kashmir government officials were unconvinced. "I do not believe at all this story," said Ashok Kumar, the most senior official in Kashmir's government. "I am speaking the truth: there is no question of security forces forcing the people to vote".
The Telegraph of 25 May , Prangy Sharma
The "negative" reports about security forces coercing people to vote in the Kashmir Valley has put India in an embarrassing position."Though it is trying to put a brave front and is legitimizing the high turn-out" in the strife-torn state, many government officials feel the entire exercise may prove to be counter-productive for the country. He further states that many government officials admit that India would have been in a "stronger position" had the turnout yesterday been 'lower' but more 'legitimate'. The fact that serious questions were raised about its fairness by the national media has put the government in a spot.
28/5/96 MICHAEL DRUDGE VOA, SRINAGAR
Intro: Foreign correspondents who covered last week's elections in Indian Kashmir have learned of army harassment of sources who spoke out against the polls. Correspondent Michael Drudge has followed the case of one young man who was arrested by the army and he has this first-hand account of what happened:
I traveled to the northern Kashmiri village, Delina, last Thursday as part of my coverage of the first elections in the region since a Muslim-separatist insurgency began seven years ago.
I traveled with correspondents from the Associated Press and the "Washington Post."
As we entered Delina, we spotted a group of soldiers using sticks to herd voters down the road toward a polling station. We began interviewing villagers who told us soldiers from the fourth Madras unit had been rousing them from their homes since early morning to make them vote against their will. One of the men who spoke to us was Parvaiz Ahmed Dar -- a 26-year-old pharmaceutical salesman.
Before I left Delina, I scribbled my hotel phone number on a business card and gave it to one of the villagers, suggesting he call me if they had any further trouble.
Friday morning, the phone rang. The caller said soldiers had returned to Delina late Thursday, looking for people who had spoken to the foreign correspondents. He said at least one man had been arrested and he asked me to do what I could to get him freed.
I contacted my colleagues from the A-P and the Post. We decided to return to Delina. When we got there, we learned Parvaiz Ahmed Dar had been arrested and four other men had fled the village fearing they also would be jailed.
We spoke to Mr. Dar's 20-year-old sister Dilshad.
She says about 10 to 15 troops had surrounded their house at about five in the afternoon, Thursday. She says the soldiers asked Mr. Dar why he had talked to the journalists. She quotes them as saying: "now that those people have left, we will deal with you." She says her brother was then shoved into a vehicle
and driven to Baramulla. She feared he would be beaten.
We three correspondents decided to visit Baramulla and contact the district's senior-most civil servant -A K Metha. When we asked him about Mr. Dar, Mr. Metha called a commander at the fourth Madras unit, who confirmed he was in detention. Mr. Metha assured us that if Mr. Dar's only offense was to have spoken to us he would be released promptly. As he put it: "this is a democracy and people can express what they want to express."
I got confirmation late Monday from Mr. Metha, Mr. Dar has been released. I intend to go back to Delina to see Mr. Dar, but I Wonder if he will still want to speak to me.
The Asian Age, 29 May 1996
The army is ready to probe charges of coercing voters in the second round of the Kashmir elections on May 23. Speaking to the Asian Age, a senior army officer, Brigadier Bindra, stated that so far the army has "not received any complaint of coercion". He disclosed that at several places, soldiers had to accompany people to the polling booths, "as they had asked for it in the face of the militants' threat". Despatch adds that Brigadier Bindra was worried about Srinagar which remained closed for the second day on Tuesday, in response to a strike called by the Kashmiri activists. Paper also reports that Brigadier Bindra is expecting a low turnout in Srinagar. However, he is optimistic that people in Badgam district and other areas outside Srinagar will turn up in large numbers.
FORCED VOTING IN SRINAGAR AS WELL - Khalid Sofi
The house arrest of senior Hurriyat leaders, public protests and intimidation of people by Indian forces marred the beginning of polling in the Srinagar constituency.
Indian authorities have put the senior Hurriyat leaders, Omar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Maulana Abbas Ansari under house arrest. Their houses have been cordoned off and no one is allowed to meet them. Indian officials have confirmed this action saying that they wanted to protect them, an Indian official said to Reuters.
However, Mr Yasin Malik was able to give them a slip and led a protest demonstration from Jama Masjid in downtown Srinagar, police stopped the protesters and 20 people were injured in the stampede. No one knew immediatly, what happened to Mr Malik, whether he was arrested or not. He was missing at the time of this information.
Mr Javeed Mir, senior leader of JKLF was arrested while leading another protest demonstration in Lal Chowk. Police used teargas shells to disperse the mob, the protest was going on with same vigor even after the arrest of Javeed Mir. Men, Women and children participated in the protest.
There are also reports that people are being forces to polling stations , by Indian forces. Hurriyat Conference has issued a appeal to freedom fighters not to retaliate with arms, and allow people to exercise their opposition in peaceful manner.
Times of India
With chairman of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference Umar Farooq and four other senior leaders having been placed under house arrest since Wednesday morning, apparently to prevent any anti-election campaign, an uneasy calm prevails in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency in Kashmir which goes to the polls, alongwith Udhampur constituency in the Jammu region, on Thursday.
The whole Valley, barring a few small townships, is closed thanks to the bandh called by separatist groups opposed to the elections. Even light vehicles are not plying, except for those of journalists and the security forces. The Batmaloo area in Srinagar city has been sealed by the para-military forces.
Since last evening the militants have killed three persons including an army jawan, fired two rockets and abducted a person.
This will be the third and the last phase of polling in Jammu and Kashmir which has six parliamentary constituencies. The Jammu and Ladakh constituencies, far less affected by militancy, went to the polls in the first phase on May 7, which went off peacefully with more than 50 per cent turn-out.
In the second phase, last week, voting was held in the Baramullah and Anantnag parliamentary constituencies in the Valley. Thanks to unprecedented security arrangements, the militants did not make any serious attempt to disrupt the polls in the two constituencies.
But the voters in most places alleged that they had been forcibly brought to the polling booths. Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference had alleged that the election was a military operation and a farce. But chief secretary Ashok Kumar denied the allegations and said the 39 per cent turn-out was a vote for peace and democracy.
Eleven candidates are in the fray in the Srinagar constituency. Major national parties like the BJP, the Congress and the Janata Dal, have fielded their candidates though none of these parties has ever had any footing in the Valley.
Some "pro-government'' militant groups have also fielded their candidates. Among them is Javed Shah, vice-chairman of the Awami League, which is the political wing of the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon militant group.
The erstwhile ruling party of the state, National Conference, however, has stayed away from the polls to press its demand for restoration of the state's autonomy. Meanwhile the authorities, however, denied that the two, Gulmohammad Khan and Ghulam Qadir Ganai whose dead bodies were recovered from Kulgam area of Anantnag district on May 27, were ''election agents'' of a candidate of a political party.
The police on Wednesday also seized huge quantity of arms and ammunition from a Pakistan-trained insurgent here, foiling yet another ISI bid to thwart elections in Srinagar and Udhampur.
According to senior superintendent of police S.M. Sahay, militant Abdul Qayyum Zargar, nabbed from a hotel here on a tip-off, said he had been assigned the task of distributing the weapons among the militants in Doda, Jammu and Srinagar for subversive activities, by an ISI agent Zafar.
Meanwhile the United States plans to include the ``issue'' of alleged coercion of voters in Kashmir in a "very broad dialogue'' with the Indian government, state department deputy spokesman Glyn Davis told a Pakistani correspondent here on Tuesday.
"The U.S. is always concerned when there are reports of voting irregularities in countries around the world. We have seen those reports of coercion having occurred in Kashmir. We are doing what the American people would expect, which is looking into it and making that issue part of our dialogue, very broad dialogue, with the Indian government,'' Mr Davies said.
He was responding to the Pakistani correspondent's reference to Western press reports that Kashmiris were being forced to vote by the army.
The Hindu , 30 May
A four-member team of representatives of Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights Organizations which visited Jammu and Kashmir between May 19-23 to gather the public opinion about polls in the Valley has alleged that the government was forcing people to vote at gunpoint. The team said that the elections were held under the shadow of the gun. Talking to the press in Hyderabad on Wednesday (29 May), Dr. K. Balagopal, General Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), (claimed that the team consisting of Suresh Rajeshwar and M.J. Pandey of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Bombay, and he himself, was deputed by eight organizations to study the situation in Kashmir just before the elections.
The New York Times international May 31, 1996.
Anti-India protests erupted outside polling stations across Kashmir today as Indian troops clashed with demonstrators during the second part of balloting in the first election here in seven years. One person was killed by a sniper, the police said, and witnesses reported that dozens were injured as the police fired tear gas and shot in the air to disperse the crowds. The elections were part of the first since a separatist insurrection began in 1989 in Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in predominately Hindu India. Dozens of Muslim militant groups are fighting for the region to become independent or join Pakistan. More than 14,000 people have died in the conflict.
Voters were choosing four seats for India's Federal Parliament. Many residents were caught between militants warning them to stay away from the polls and Indian troops who went door-to-door prodding them to vote. It was impossible to say how many votes were not coerced.
Dygens Nyheter, May 31 : Low polling in Kashmir.
Two persons were killed and 30 people were missing when the final polling for the parliament elections in Indian-held Kashmir took place on Thursday last. The elections were characterized by a massive security mobilization and low polling.
About 10 journalists were assaulted by soldiers when they took photographs of a woman who was handled roughly during a protest action.
An umbrella organization for about 30 Muslim and political groups who had exhorted the voters to boycott the election, yesterday praised the people for their resistance. Official reports showed 40% polling in Srinagar but the independent observers in town thought it would be less than 20%.
India Today, 31 May 1996
A Risky Gamble by Harinder Bajwa in Srinagar.
Ghulam Hussain, 42, who runs a matting shop in Srinagar's Haiderpora colony, is not looking forward to the morning of May 30 when he is supposed to cast his vote. On May 7, standing outside his shop, he can already foresee the pressures. Army troops line the street on one side, CRPF personnel on the other. It is the first phase of elections in the state, and the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference has called for a hartal. Haiderpora is one of the few Srinagar neighbourhoods open despite the call. Not because the people have defied the Hurriyat, but as Hassan says, "The army came yesterday and threatened us saying if you don't keep your shops open tomorrow, you will never be able to open them."
The Valley has been inundated with troops : 500 additional companies of paramilitary forces have been sent to assist the 450-odd-para-military companies and two army divisions that are already present. The 3,050 polling stations have been categorised 'hypersensitive' and 'sensitive', and placed under the umbrella of the BSF and the CRPF. While 2,212 stations have been classified as hypersensitive and 838 as sensitive, there is no polling booth which fits the 'normal' classification. Between 25 and 30 security
personnel are to guard the hypersensitive booths and 10 to 15 will be on alert outside the sensitive ones.
Nearly 9,000 Urdu-speaking employees have been flown in, in special LAF and Indian Airlines planes, with the lure of one month's extra salary and a life insurance of Rs. 5 lakh each to work as polling officers. And even though state employees who are daily wage earners are being tempted with regular jobs, the Government is not sure of their participation. These employees, who on earlier occasions never hesitated to issue a boycott call, are in a similar predicament as the voters this time. Faced with the threat of being chargesheeted by the Government on the one hand and targeted by the militants on the other, the employees' union leaders have gone underground.
LEADERS STILL UNDER ARREST, Fri, 31 May 1996, Khalid Sofi
Kashmiri leaders, Omar Farooq, Shabir Shah, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Prof. Ghani Bhat are still being detained in their own homes. They were put under house arrest by Indian authorities to prevent them from mobilising public support against elections.
Two senior JKLF leaders Javeed Mir and Shakeel Bakshi , are also still imprisoned. Javeed Mir was arrested after he led a protest demonstration in Lal Chowk in the morning against the election. He was severly beaten before arrest and has been detained in Kothi Bagh Police station.
Shakeel Bakshi, who all these days camped at the Hurriyat HQ to oversee the anti-election campaign was arrested from the Hurriyat HQ at about 2 pm local time and has been detained in the Ram Munshi Bagh Police station.
Yasin Malik , Chairman JKLF who led a very successful protest demonstration from the historic Jama Masjid has so far managed to evade arrest. He was also beaten by Indian forces.
KASHMIR GOES TO POLLS AMID VIOLENT PROTESTS AND STRIKES
Christopher Thomas in Delhi, The Times, 31 May 1996
India conducted a second unconvincing round of voting in the Kashmir Valley yesterday. It was a day of violence and strikes, with four people killed and dozens hurt and the streets almost bare, save for protesters who were forced back by security forces firing teargas and warning shots.
Witnesses said one person died and two were hurt when the paramilitary Border Security Force opened fire on a crowd after being attacked by suspected Muslim rebels in Srinagar. A border guard died after accidentally shooting himself during a stampede at an anti-election demonstration in the Kashmiri capital.
Another border guard died in a grenade attack by militants near Srinagar's police headquarters and the body of a third guard was found in Gurez district. Four soldiers on poll duty were wounded when their vehicle struck a mine at Brindaban in Udhampur.
Most leading Kashmiri Muslim separatist leaders were rounded up by the security forces...for their protection, according to the authorities. Border guards attacked journalists with rifle butts, injuring four. Much of the valley was at a standstill, proof of the continuing power of separatists who called a stoppage in protest at the elections.
Some people were ordered to polling stations by troops and paramilitary forces at the point of the gun, repeating the widespread practice of last week when two other parliamentary constituencies voted in the Kashmir Valley.
Despite an official turnout of 37 per cent, yesterday's voting in Srinagar, which marks the end of the Indian election, will be an embarrassment for Delhi. Kashmir was separated from polling in the rest of the country to enable extra security forces to move in. This probably took the security presence to more than 400,000.
Only pro-India parties took part. The Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of 30 separatist groups boycotted the polls. Many voters complained of being sandwiched between armed separatists ordering them not to vote and troops telling them to do so.
FOUR KILLED IN POLL VIOLENCE, The Guardian, 31 May 1996
Four people were killed and dozens were injured in apparently election related violence between anti-India demonstrators and security forces in Kashmir yesterday. Protests erupted outside polling stations in Srinagar. summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state. Police fired tear gas and gunshots in the air to disperse protesters yelling "the election is a farce."
Separatist militants hurled a grenade at security forces outside one polling station, wounding several troops. Two people were killed in the search for the assailants. Another paramilitary trooper was shot by a sniper and the bullet-riddled body of a fourth person was found in a separate Incident.
Six journalists covering another demonstration were injured. After voting began in Srinagar troops were said to have fired at hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the mosque, Jamia Masjid.
JKLF LEADERS SHIFTED TO CENTRAL JAIL, 01 Jun 96, Khalid Sofi
Javeed Mir and Shakeel Bakshi, two senior JKLF leaders have now been shifted to Srinagar Central Jail for further detention by Indian authorities on 31 May 1996. Both were arrested on 30 may, the election day for Srinagar constituency.
Javeed Mir was arrested on 30 May, while leading a demonstration in famous Lal Chowk against the election. He was severly beaten, and teargas shells were used to break the strong procession, he was leading. He continued to defy the authorities and resisted the severe beating for a long time. He was finally arrested, but protest, which included a large no of women and children, continued. He was first put in Kothi Bagh police station.
Shakeel Bakshi was arrested on 30 May from the Hurriyat Headoffice in Rajbagh Srinagar. He was gathering and disseminating information about elections to media and other people. He resisted the arrest , but was dragged. He was first put in Ram Munshi Bagh Police Station and has now been shifted to Srinagar Central Jail along with Javeed Mir. The motive behind their arrest seems to prevent them from mobilising public support against Indian election.
There are fears, that they are also looking for Mr Yasin Malik, Chairman JKLF who has gone underground to evade arrest. He only appears to address public, meet press or carry on other important business.
Weekly Outlook of June 5, 1996
The report which is based on eye witness account of the conduct of polls on 23 May in Baramulla and Anantnag Constituencies confirms that "there is enough evidence to suggest that to achieve 'outstanding' voter response, the security forces did resort to various forms of persuasion and hustling the men and women to the polling booths". It asserts that "any observer who visited these constituencies (Baramulla and Anantnag) on May 23 minus Government public relations bifocals will tell you that the impressive turnout was rather suspect and that the efforts of the security agencies to pressurize people to vote was not entirely democratic".
The report adds that in Baramulla town voters whose names did not figure on the list were actually hustled towards polling booths and warned that the index finger of those above 18 would be inspected to see if it has the indelible voter mark. The cover report also carries interview with the Deputy Commander of renegade Ikhwanul Muslemoon who has confessed that his job during elections was to ensure "voter turnout".
DOUGLAS BAKSHIAN, 6 June 1996
Intro: Pakistan has reacted skeptically to India's offer of greater autonomy for Indian Occupied Kashmir. VOA Islamabad correspondent Douglas Bakshian is following the story.
Text: Pakistan has played down statements by New Nelhi about possibly granting a large degree of autonomy to Indian Occupied Kashmir. A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman in Islamabad says there is nothing new in this concept.
Such offers were made by previous Indian governments, which were instantly rejected by the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmiri people have time and again made it clear that only a UN supervised plebiscite could offer a viable solution to this long-standing dispute.
The spokesman also dismissed plans by India for state assembly elections in Kashmir. He said previous elections have been fraudulent. Kashmir is a disputed territory, divided between Pakistan and India. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting an armed rebellion inside Indian Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan denies this. Pakistan favors a UN plebiscite in which Kashmiris would choose to become part of either India or Pakistan.
The countries have not held talks on Kashmir for over two years. The new Indian government has said it will hold discussions to bring peace to Kashmir. Pakistan says prime minister Benazir Bhutto has issued an invitation to formal talks and is awaiting an official response from New Delhi.
Pioneer News Service Srinagar.
In polling marred by violence, 37 to 50 percent of the electorate cast their franchise in the Srinagar and the Udhampur constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir.
Violent incidents were in evidence in Srinagar, which witnessed two bomb blasts, police firing and teargassing on stone pelting demonstrators. Two persons, including a BSF personnel, were killed in an attack on a BSF picket.
Many Srinagar residents alleged that they had been threatened by security forces to vote or "face the consequences". State Government officials denied the allegations, saying they were only a "defence" against the militants, who had called for a poll boycott. They also referred to the low turnout in some polling stations to prove their point.
In Srinagar city, JKLF leader Yasin Malik, who evaded house arrest on Wednesday, addressed a gathering at the Jamia Masjid, which later went on to demonstrate against the elections. Security forces used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse the crowd which started pelting stones. Yasin Malik escaped in the melee and his associate, Javed Mir was arrested in the Maisuma area, while leading some demonstrators. At Batmaloo, BSF men hit some photographers with rifle butts, injuring four persons.
The Baltimore Sun
"Indian troops wake up reluctant Kashmiris, force them to polling stations - Islamic rebels,diplomats chide elections tactic in secession-minded region"
"Diplomats from the United States, Great Britain and Japan toured polling stations, escorted by local police. One diplomat said the election was a sham".
"The reports of forced voting cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election that India had hoped would demonstrate both a growing discontent with the independence struggle and the desire of Kashmiris for a normal life".
S Iftikhar Gilani, 14 May 1996 20:52
New Delhi: A bomb exploded in the office of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Srinagar last night severely damaging the water supply system and a wall of the building. However no one was injured in the blast.
The police today found another bomb in the building, planted under the stair case, which was later de fused. Senior Hurriyat leader and member of the executive, Mr. Abdul Gani Lone while informing the press about the blast, blamed government forces and government sponsored militants for the blast.
He said that these are the tactics of the Indian government to terrorise people and to make Hurriyat leaders to bend on their knees. Citing recent attacks on the Hurriyat leaders he appealed to the world community to impress upon India to come to senses and shun such inhuman tactics. Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani had a miraculous escape on Thursday when a grenade was hurled on his cavalcade allegedly by the renegade militants in presence of Indian Army in the outskirts of Srinagar. Other top leaders Molvi Abbas Ansari and Qazi Ahdullah also had a narrow escape when a mine blasted near their car on their way to Charar-e-sharief on Saturday. "Indian Army has a definite plan to eliminate Hurriyat leaders to render Kashmiris as political orphans," Mr. Lone told media in Srinagar. Indian forces are leaving no stone unturned to prevail upon people to take part in new Delhi sponsored elections. They are harassing people and warning them that in case of boycotting the poll process, their houses will be blasted. "In several areas, Mr. Lone alleged, "security forces have taken into custody the sons ad relatives of local influential people and village headmen and are warning them that in case their area or village does not vote, their wards will be killed and dead bodies will be handed over to them." He told press that lot of villagers facing persecution from the forces have migrated to Srinagar. He also condemned the Government for closing the educational institutions in the Valley. He alleged that forces have occupied the buildings of schools. Meanwhile the presence of a large number of deceased voters has raised the serious doubts about the credibility of the postal ballot scheme conceived by the Indian Government for the Kashmiri Hindus residing outside the troubled Valley. "The list which was sent to Delhi by the Chief Electoral Officer from Jammu has at least 5,000 people who are known to be dead," reported Indian Express today.
S Iftikhar Gilani, Sat, 18 May 1996
Another rocket was fired at the residence of Syed Ali Geelani tonight at 10.30 p.m IST. This is the second attack in less than 24-hours. Also a rocket attack was reported at the All Parities Hurriyat Conference office at Rajbagh Srinagar half an hour before the attack on Geelani sb's house. Whole of the Kashmir looks like an army contonment these days. India has made the elections a prestigious issue. BJP which had earlier denounced the elections in Kashmir has now joined the chorus with congress saying that polls will be held at any cost. One of my friend working for the Kashmir Times in Srinagar had recently gone to visit some areas in Handwara and Kupwara. He said that in the villages of Handwara Army has told the village headmen that if their village boycotted the polls then they will be eliminated. In some areas they have taken the relatives of some 'nambardars' and village headmen as hostages. They will be released only if the village votes in sufficient numbers. They have been also warned that not to make any presentation or not to narrate their tale of woe before the press especially the observer teams expected to monitor elections. Hurriyat leaders are in tremendous pressure to stop the anti-election movement.
20 May, 1996, Press Release
United Council of Kashmiri armed opposition groups upholds peaceful boycott of Indian sponsored elections in occupied territory
The United Council of Kashmiri militant groups, struggling against Indian occupation of Kashmir, has said that "it supports the All Parties Hurriyet Conference call for peaceful boycott of the polls".
The council chairman and Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Syed Salahuddin, has said in his reply in response to Amnesty International's letter (14 May, 1966) of fears for the safety of electoral officials in Jammu and Kashmir.
He has said "our position is that since the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is a UN recognised disputed territory and the final status of the territory is to be determined by the people in a UN supervised referendum hence the current elections in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir are a farce, meant to hoodwink the international community".
"The Indian government is holding current elections on the strength of more than 60,000 armed men and wishes to coerce the general populace in Kashmir to cast votes at gun point. Further more a host of Indian sponsored terrorist groups have also issued threats to force people to vote through coercive methods", he said.
Mr Salahuddin said that it was likely that some Mujahideen groups might have issued threats to counter the Indian army and Indian sponsored groups pressure tactics.
"The policy of the Hizbul Mujahideen and other components of United Jehad Council is to support the All Parties Hurriyet (Freedom) Conferences peaceful boycott of elections to show to the world that Kashmiris want their right of self-determination and not another farcical election under the Indian framework".
Mr Salahuddin has sent his reply to Amnesty International's letter to Mr Fabrice Sacre in Belgium and to Dr J.D.E. Bcynon in London. He has lauded the noble efforts of all human rights organisations and hoped that all such efforts might see the light of the day.
It may be mentioned that the Amnesty International had, in its letter of 6 May 1996, called upon the Indian authorities that they "should take immediate steps to disarm and disband groups of so-called renegades (members of the armed groups and criminal elements given direct support by security forces, who have committed numerous killings in recent weeks, apparently with official acquiescence)".
It had, in the same letter (6 May 1996), also called upon armed opposition groups to immediately and unconditionally stop human rights abuses.
Kashmiri youth with remote control bomb tied to his body blasted by Indian forces in occupied Kashmir, 22 June, 1996
A young Kashmiri with remote control tied to his body was blasted by Indian occupation forces in Littar village of Pulwama, 30 kms from Srinagar yesterday, report from occupied Kashmir said.
This is the first time in occupied Kashmir when a person with bomb tied to him was blasted by remote control by the occupation forces.
People were forced by Indian authorities to watch the punishment for the young Kashmiri's crime of supporting the cause of self-determination and for wanting his homeland freed of invaders. The staged killing in the open was to put scare among the people.
Today Kashmiris are observing a strike in protest against the blatant killing, and the rape by Indian forces of a minor girl in Langate village of Handwara district earlier this week on the call of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference.
According to ex-Justice Bahauddin Farooqi, Chairman of J&K People's Basic Rights (Protection) Committee, nine-year old girl Ayesha, a student of second primary school, was playing with her three class mates, when personnel of the Border Road Organisation pounced on them. Other girls managed to escape, while Ayesha was caught by soldiers, who then raped her.
Ayesha was later found naked and crying by the villagers who were alerted by her class mates. A lady doctor on examination confirmed the rape. But Indian government authorities denied the lady doctor's report.
Villagers demonstrated in front of the local police station and demanded arrest and proper punishment of the offenders. FIR has also been filed with the police. Two-day strike was observed throughout the district of Handwara.
Observers say Kashmiri people are being subjected to a new wave of oppression and atrocities by the Indian authorities, and human rights abuses by Indian occupation forces are on the increase, perhaps with a view to forcing the masses not to oppose any future elections in the occupied territory.
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