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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK


World: South Asia

Kashmir strikes under fire

Anti-election strikes have been called since before voting started

By Altaf Hussain in Srinagar

A general strike is being observed in Indian-administered Kashmir.

It was called by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference to protest against the detention of its senior leaders as well as the killing of four people by Indian soldiers during an anti-election demonstration last Saturday.

Indian Elections 99
Full results
The strike has evoked response from most parts of the valley. Shops and other business establishments are closed, but transport has been only partially affected.

Two prominent militant leaders, Mushtaq-ul-Islam and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, both in jail for more than seven years, have criticised the Hurriyat's frequent calls for shutdowns, saying such protests have little impact on the Indian Government.

The jailed militants said only an armed struggle could resolve the Kashmir problem.

Raids

Over the past few days the police have raided houses of several Hurriyat leaders such as Yasin Malik, Javed Mir, Shahidul Islam and several others. While these men have gone underground, another leader, Molvi Abbas Ansari, was taken into custody during a raid on his house on Monday night.

The Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and another senior leader, Professor Abdul Gani, have already been put under preventive detention for one month.

The two men were held under the law which provides for detention for up to two years on the grounds that a person's activities are prejudicial to the security of the state.

Mr Geelani, who had been in a Srinagar hospital, has now been flown to a hospital in Delhi after he complained of chest pains.

Elections

But the Hurriyat leaders say they have been held because of their campaign for a boycott of the ongoing parliamentary elections in the state.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Indian army has denied allegations that Indian troops coerced people into voting in the Baramullah constituency.

The spokesman said the army is an apolitical force which has no role in the election process, except to ensure a safe and secure environment for voting by the electorate.



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