The by-election for a vacant parliamentary seat in Srinagar was always going to bring out the worst in the occupying Indian army in Kashmir. It was inevitable that Kashmiris, who have been subject to a vicious crackdown after their protests over the killing of Burhan Wani last July, would take to the streets to voice their anger. It was equally predictable that the Indian army would respond with lethal force. At least 12 people were killed and hundreds injured in various incidents around Kashmir. Once again, the Indian response to stone-throwing one of the few forms of resistance left for the Kashmiri people was to response with lethal force. The infamous rubber pellet bullets, which have been condemned by Amnesty International as inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate, were used once again. Since the latest revolt began in Kashmir, more than 6,000 people have been wounded by rubber pellets with more than a thousand many of them children suffering eye injuries. Ahead of the by-election, India had sent an additional 20,000 troops to the area and, given the trigger-happy nature of the occupying force, there was never any doubt that they would unleash further violence on the Kashmiris. India is obviously blaming what it calls militants but it is telling that the worst examples it could give of voting machines being snatched and damaged hardly calls for mowing down protesters.
Liberation groups had called on all Kashmiris to boycott the by-elections, a call that appears to have been heeded. Turnout was a measly seven percent, the lowest in the regions history for any election. India had taken every conceivable measure to silence protesters, from rounding up hundreds of people in the days before the election to suspending internet services so that protestors could not organise. It is a testament to the resilience of the freedom movement that they were still able to get their message out. The question now is if anyone is listening to them. Indias claim to be the largest democracy in the world is hollow when it violently occupies disputed territory and holds sham elections that the people themselves have rejected. Were it any other country, international observers would have poured in to monitor the election and denounced the way it was conducted in the midst of an occupying army. But this anger and thirst for liberation is ignored because it is India that is responsible for the subjugation. This latest election should serve as a wake-up call that the international community cannot ignore the daily violence being wreaked upon the Kashmiri people.
The Article First Appeared In The News International
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