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Saturday, September 18, 1999 Published at 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK

World: South Asia

Clashes disrupt Kashmir polling

Women protested at being forced to vote by the security forces

By Altaf Hussain in Srinagar

Police in Indian-administered Kashmir say seven people have been killed and another six injured in election-related violence.

Indian Elections 99
Full results
While Kashmiri militants carried out violent acts to disrupt the polls, Indian soldiers opened fire to break up an anti-India demonstration at the village of Shilvath on Saturday morning.

Local villagers were protesting against being coerced into voting by the soldiers. Three protesters were killed and another four wounded.

Soldiers also fired at a similar demonstration at Haigam, killing a boy of 17.

Forced to vote

Allegations of coercive polling have been received from a large number of places across the Baramullah-Kupwara constituency.

[ image: Voters failed to show up in many polling booths]
Voters failed to show up in many polling booths
I saw about 200 people assembled in open ground at the village of Palapora in Rafiabad area - they were then forced by soldiers to go to the polling booths.

At some places, people complained that they had been called out of their homes even before they could have any breakfast.

A large number of people, including women, also held a demonstration at the village of Chogul, near Handwara town, against the behaviour of the security forces.

Hardly any voter turned up at the polling booths in areas where the security forces did not force them into voting.

No votes had been polled at all at in some booths of Sopore town. However, long queues of voters were seen at several polling booths in Pattan, Baramullah, Handwara and some other areas.

Many voters at booths said they were voting by their own choice. But such booths were exceptions rather than a rule.

Militant attacks

Meanwhile, police say two soldiers of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police were killed and another three wounded as militants attacked a polling booth at Ajas in Bandipora.

[ image: Clashes broke out between protesters and security forces]
Clashes broke out between protesters and security forces
One militant is also reported to have been killed in retaliatory fire by the paramilitary soldiers. A polling booth also came under fire in Bandipora town.

The militants carried out landmine and grenade explosions at dozens of places across the constituency to disrupt the polling.

A member of the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly, Saifullah Mir, failed to cast his vote as the militants fired at his vehicle.

The militants also fired at the vehicle of a minister, Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari near Pattan without causing him any harm.

Three militant groups, the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Lashkar-e-Toyeba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen said they were behind the attacks.

Kashmiri separatist groups also said they were jubilant over the overwhelming response to their call for a boycott of the polls.

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