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 Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Kashmir joy over poll result
Crowds in Pulwama
The ruling party's defeat has been widely welcomed

The defeat of the ruling National Conference in Indian-administered Kashmir has been welcomed by the state's residents.

Good riddance from the Abdullahs

Kashmiri voter
Across the state, people huddled around transistor radios and in front of television sets, to keep up with the latest updates being broadcast by Indian channels.

And as it became apparent that the ruling party and the Abdullah dynasty - which has dominated politics here for some 50 years - was on its way out, their wonder turned to obvious delight.

In the heart of Srinagar, people stopped in the midst of their daily shopping to congratulate each other quietly.

"We have thrown the National Conference out of power for their years of misrule," said one person who refused to be identified or photographed.

PDP supporter in Kashmir
An opposition supporter celebrates the results

"All they have done in the past five years is line their pockets. They deserved to go," he said, before looking over his shoulder to see if he was being overheard.

Another man made his displeasure more evident.

"Good riddance from the Abdullahs", he said spitting on the ground.

"Father and son have destroyed our lives," he added.

He was referring to outgoing chief minister Farooq Abdullah who had only a few months ago anointed his son, Omar, as his successor.

Shock defeat

Just a few miles away, in a heavily-guarded counting centre, Omar Abdullah looked tense and nervous as he watched his chances of victory slip away.

The results mean nothing. The only issue before us is independence

Young Kashmiri man
Then, as it became obvious all hope was gone, he jumped into his four-wheel drive, visibly upset, and drove away at top speed, as his police escorts scrambled to keep up.

But if Mr Abdullah's National Conference party struggled to come to terms with its losses, the mood was distinctly upbeat elsewhere.

In the town of Pulwama, some 45 kilometres south of Srinagar, the town's residents came out in the hundreds to celebrate the ruling party's defeat and victory for the regional People's Democratic Party.

Victorious PDP candidates drove into the town's market square cheered on by crowds spilling on to the streets from nearby houses.

Local residents said they voted for the PDP because the party consistently spoke out against human rights abuses by Indian security forces.

Unresolved questions

But not everyone was as enthusiastic about the prospects for an end to violence.

"Nothing will happen here," nothing will change, said Mohammad Shafi.

"Delhi's writ runs here and whatever Delhi wants will happen."

Another young man nodded in agreement.

"The results mean nothing. The only issue before us is independence."

"Until that is achieved, nothing is resolved."

He, too, refused to give his name.

Mobeena, a young woman, summed it up.

"We voted for change."

"And Delhi says it will only talk to the elected representatives of the Kashmiri people. So we voted for the people we thought could best present our issues."

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See also:

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