By Zahid Rafiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir, India (AA)- Six civilians were killed and at least 50 were wounded Sunday in disputed Jammu and Kashmir when Indian forces opened fire on massive pro-independence protests.
The protests were against the Indian parliamentary elections for the Srinagar constituency, which saw a meager voter turnout of only 6.5 percent, down sharply from 25.55 percent in 2014.
The Srinagar constituency went to the polls again after Srinagar representative Tariq Hamid Karra, elected in 2014, resigned his seat in protest of the killing of over 90 civilians by Indian forces last summer.
The killings started soon after the polls opened when Indian forces fired at hundreds of young people who took to the streets across the Budgam district in central Kashmir shouting pro-independence slogans and throwing stones at the Indian forces.
Police spokesperson Manoj Pandita confirmed to Anadolu Agency that six people had been killed during the day, and sources in the police department, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media, said two of the wounded are in critical condition.
Sunday’s election was held amid an information blockade after the Indian government completely shut down Internet services in the region Saturday night.
The situation in disputed Jammu and Kashmir under Indian control remains tense as news of the killings spread through TV channels and word of mouth. The pro-independence resistance leadership called for a complete shutdown on Monday and Tuesday against the killings.
On Sunday all businesses remained shut and cars kept off the roads in protest of the polls. The pro-independence leadership, which rejects the validity of elections under the Indian system and instead seeks a referendum, had called for a boycott of the elections. The situation is likely to remain tense, as South Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency will go to polls on Wednesday, as its elected representative Mehboob Mufti has stepped down to take over as chief minister.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region is held by India and Pakistan in part and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
The two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965 and 1971 – since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.
Kashmiri resistance groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.
[Phoro: Indian army soldiers take positions near the encounter site in central Kashmir’s Chadoora some 20 kilometers from Srinagar the summer capital of Indian controlled Kashmir on March 28, 2017. Three civilians were shot dead by Indian police Photographer: Muhabiri Faisal Khan/AA]