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Sat. May 25th, 2024

India’s six-week election resumed Monday including in Kashmir, where voters are expected to show their discontent with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cancellation of their disputed territory’s semi-autonomy and the security crackdown that followed.

Modi remains popular across much of India and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win the poll when it concludes early next month.

But his government’s decision in 2019 to bring Kashmir under its direct rule — and the subsequent clampdown — have been deeply resented among the region’s residents, who will be voting for the first time since the move.

“What we’re telling voters now is that you have to make your voice heard,” said former chief minister Omar Abdullah, whose National Conference party is campaigning for the restoration of Kashmir’s former semi-autonomy.

“The point of view that we want people to send out is that what happened… is not acceptable to them,” he told AFP. 

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947. Both claim it in full and have fought two wars over control of the Himalayan region.

Rebel groups opposed to Indian rule have waged an insurgency since 1989 on the side of the frontier controlled by New Delhi, demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of backing the insurgents, a charge that Islamabad denies.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of soldiers, rebels and civilians in the decades since, including a spate of firefights between suspected rebels and security forces in the past month.

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