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Hurriyat Conference calls for poll boycott in Kashmir

Hurriyat Conference calls for poll boycott in Kashmir

2 senior separatist leaders put under house arrest after group's statement.

Srinagar: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Kashmir's main separatist alliance on Friday appealed to the people of the region to boycott general elections in the country, prompting authorities to place two separatist leaders under house arrest.

The decision by the alliance, which bands nearly a dozen political, social and separatist groups, comes after United Jihad Council (UJC) asked the separatist alliance to support their call to shun the poll.

"Elections are no substitute for the aspirations of the Kashmiri people and for the resolution of the dispute," Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in a statement.

At least a dozen people were hurt in Srinagar, as hundreds of demonstrators clashed with troops in an anti-election protest, police and witnesses said. Security forces fired teargas shells and chased stone-throwing protesters who shouted:

"No election, no election, we want freedom." General elections in the country began last week, and voting in the Kashmir Valley has been split into three phases starting from April 30.

"Elections in the presence of 700,000 Indian troops is itself a dispute. I appeal to people to stay away from polls," Farooq said.

Hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani has already called for a boycott of the April-May election. But another senior separatist leader, Sajjad Gani Lone, who walked out of Hurriyat in 2002, said this month that he would contest the poll and take his struggle to parliament in New Delhi.

On Friday morning Hurriyat's Farooq and Geelani were placed under house arrest as they prepared to lead anti-poll rallies, police said.

first published:April 24, 2009, 21:32 IST