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India: Militants attack in Kashmir amid elections

May 19, 2024

Gunmen have carried out two attacks in southern Kashmir, including killing a former village head and firing at an open tourist camp, injuring two people.

Indian security forces deployed in Kashmir
Police officials in Kashmir said they have cordoned off the site of one of the attackImage: Faisal Khan/AA/picture alliance

A tourist couple was injured and a former village leader shot to death in two separate militant attacks in India's Kashmir on Saturday, officials said.

The militant attacks come amid ongoing parliamentary elections in India.

Both the attacks took place in southern Kashmir. The couple was attacked in the Anantnag-Rajouri district while the former village head was gunned down in the Shopian district in the same region.

The militants had fired at an open tourist camp injuring the tourist couple, according to the Indian daily Mint.

The couple was taken to the hospital and the area where the incident took place was cordoned off, Kashmir police said on social media.

Aijaz Ahmad Shaikh, the former village leader, who was also a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was attacked while he was inside his home.

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Ahmad sustained "six firearm injuries" and was dead before reaching the hospital, according to the sources cited by The Indian Express newspaper.

Attacks come amid elections

General elections are being held in multiple stages in India until June 1. In India-administrated Kashmir, candidates are already vying for three out five seats, with the two remaining ones set for polls on May 20 and May 25. One of polls, in Anantag district, was originally scheduled to take place on May 7 before being moved to May 25.

"The timing of these attacks given that the South election was delayed without any reason is a cause of concern," Mehbooba Mufti, the former chief minister of the state told The Indian Express.

Various parties are campaigning in the restive region, although Narendra Modi's BJP has decided not to contest the Kashmir elections for the first time since 1996. The ruling party said it would support regional parties instead.

The voter turnout in Kashmir has seen an uptick in the ongoing election — the first national election since Prime Minister Narendra Modi nullified the semi-autonomous status of the state in 2019.

Observers say the BJP is skipping the elections in Kashmir because it fears the result of the elections would challenge its narrative of Kashmir being a more peaceful and consenting region since 2019.

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mfi/dj (Reuters, DW sources)