Voting for Kashmir's state government has been continuing over the weekend to decide who will gain control of the sensitive north western state.
Voting for Kashmir's state government has been continuing over the weekend to decide who will gain control of the sensitive north western state. The elections could well decide whether or not the divided state gains a measure of independence from New Delhi.
SYNOPSIS: Kashmir is strategically vital to India's central government. The primarily Moslem state was divided during the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. Since then it has been a thorn in the side of both countries, and its border with Pakistan is still in dispute. Ten other Indian states are also holding state assembly elections in what has been called a mini general election, but it is Kashmir that is attracting the most attention both from Delhi and from India as a whole.
As the Kashmiris line up at polling stations, they're watched with some apprehension by the ruling national Janata Party, victors in the general elections earlier this year. The Janata Party have made sweeping gains in other state elections, but they're not so sure of Kashmir. Here they're faced with the challenge of the locally-based National Conference Party of, Sheikh Abdullah -- the 'Lion of Kashmir'. Tensions have run high enough for an extra 10,000 police to have been brought in to control the elections.
In his election campaign, Sheikh Abdullah told voters that the state of Jammu and Kashmir would separate from India if they could not live with honour and dignity as part of it. This is a real threat as Pakistan still insists on a plebiscite being called in Kashmir to decide its future. The Janata Party of Premier Desai says that Kashmir will always remain a part of India.