SRINAGAR, India – Government soldiers opened fire on hundreds of stone-throwing Muslims protesting against elections in Indian Kashmir on Saturday, killing two people and seriously wounding another, police said.
Chanting "No election, no selection, we want freedom," the protesters took to the streets in Baramulla town and hurled rocks at police and paramilitary soldiers, a local police officer said.
Many Muslims who want Kashmir to be an independent state or joined with Pakistan oppose the elections, arguing they will only entrench India's hold on the troubled Himalayan region.
The elections, which began Monday and will be held in seven phases, follow some of the worst protests against Indian rule in Jammu-Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority state, in two decades. They were met with a tough crackdown by government forces, and at least 48 people were killed.
On Saturday, security officials opened fire on protesters who were throwing rocks, killing two including a 15-year-old who was shot in the chest, said the police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.
The elections are being staggered to allow the government to deploy thousands of forces to each area when it votes in an attempt to prevent a repeat of violence during elections in 2002. Dozens died during those polls.
More than 30 leaders who called for a boycott of the polls have been detained in recent days under a law that allows police to hold people for up to two years without trial.
Militant separatist groups have been fighting since 1989 to end Indian rule. The uprising and subsequent Indian crackdown have killed about 68,000 people, most of them civilians. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the region in its entirety.