India arrests 75 in Kashmir after local elections

India arrests 75 in Kashmir after local elections

The Indian government arrested at least 75 Kashmiri political leaders and activists to prevent political unrest after an alliance of Kashmiri regional political parties won local elections, leaders and a police official said on Saturday.

The Indian government arrested at least 75 Kashmiri political leaders and activists to prevent political unrest after an alliance of Kashmiri regional political parties won local elections, leaders and a police official said on Saturday.

The District Development Council elections, concluded earlier this week, were the first local elections since the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special status of the Muslim-majority region last year.

Later, New Delhi cracked down on the opposition, gathering hundreds of people to prevent protests and violence.

The latest arrests, which include separatist leaders and members of the banned group Jamat-e-Islami, were for preventive custody, said a senior police official, who asked not to be named.

But Imran Nabi Dar, a spokesman for the National Conference, a regional party and a key member of the alliance, said the arrests undermine the people’s verdict.

Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and head of the National Conference, said the alliance’s victory shows that Kashmiris have not accepted Modi’s decision to end Kashmir’s special status.

The People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), which is pro-India but favors self-government in Kashmir, won 112 out of a total of 280 seats in local elections, which were held in a staggered eight-phase process of the November 28 to December 19.

Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 74 seats with just three of them in the Kashmir Valley.

The Indian authorities have maintained strict control over Kashmir since revoking its autonomy in August 2019 and have arrested most of the separatist leaders, who in the past have called for a boycott of the elections.

New Delhi annulled Kashmir’s constitution, divided the area into two federal territories, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, and removed inherited protections over land and jobs.

The Kashmiri-based politicians said the election results made it clear that the Kashmiri people have rejected last year’s decision.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the entire region.

The rebels have been fighting the Indian government since 1989.

New Delhi accuses Pakistan of sponsoring separatist fighters from Kashmir, an accusation that Pakistan denies. Tens of thousands of civilians, combatants and government forces have died in the conflict.

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