Srinagar, October 24 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, India is holding local body elections, today, in the territory amid a boycott by most political parties, which have termed it “undemocratic”.

Thousands of people along with hundreds of leaders of pro-India parties, including three former puppet chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, remain in detention since New Delhi revoked the special status of occupied Kashmir on 5th of August. Residents and political parties have criticised the timing of the forced elections as the territory remains under a military lockdown and a near-complete communication blackout.

The main political parties of occupied Kashmir such as National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party and other small parties have not put up candidates. Around 60 percent village council seats remain vacant due to the boycott by the regional parties.

Most of the 1,065 candidates in the fray have been accommodated in highly guarded hotels in Srinagar, hundreds of kilometres away from the villages from where they are contesting, putting a question mark on the validity of the election process.

“This is really worth seeing how the democracy of India lives in hotels in Kashmir,” said 30-year-old, Dilshad Ahmad. “This is a forced election. We don’t know what they plan to do here,” he added.

The ruling Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has abrogated the Article 370, is contesting the elections and is hoping for a major win.

Ghulam Ahmad Mir, a senior leader of Indian National Congress from south Kashmir’s Islamabad district, accused the BJP of destroying the territory. He questioned the election process as most party leaders are in jails or under house arrest. “This election is for the BJP, by the BJP and of the BJP. They (BJP) are forcing themselves on people in Kashmir. There is no democratic way,” he said.

The Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief spokesperson, Ravinder Sharma, in a statement in Srinagar said that forcing elections of Block Development Councils on party basis by keeping the opposition parties away from the electoral exercise was betrayal of electorates and mockery of democracy. He said that this was the first such election in the history of Kashmir when except ruling party no opposition parties was in a position to take part in it.

It is to mention here that occupied Kashmir remains under continued military siege on the 81st successive day, today, as internet blockade continues. The residents have launched a civil disobedience movement keeping the schools shut, public transport off the roads and a day-time shutdown of all shops in the territory.

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