Channel NewsAsia

Low voter turnout despite tight security in Kashmir

Security has been beefed up in Indian Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar for Wednesday's parliamentary polls. Top separatists who issued threats to voters as well as candidates have also been detained. But that's unlikely to boost voter numbers, which have so far been light.

INDIA: Voters queueing to exercise their democratic right in Kashmir -- this is despite several separatist groups calling for a boycott of the vote and threatening to attack if their orders are not followed.

They issue such threats every time an election is held, which has led to voter turnout falling from 68 per cent in 1984, to just 31 per cent during the 2009 election.

The conflict-ridden province of Kashmir has 12.5 million people, and more than 70 candidates will be fighting for six seats in the Lower House of Parliament.

Some even have to fight off attacks from militants -- at least five people have been killed during this election season, including a democratically-elected village head and his son.

To try and provide a more secure environment for the vote, security and election officials have been deployed at thousands of polling booths.

Kishore Prasad, public relations officer for the Central Reserve Police Force, said: "To ensure voter safety, (the police) force has been deployed and security bunkers have been placed at the polling stations.

"We are hoping that the various threats do not create any kind of trouble during this phase of the general elections and so far, it is peaceful and safe."

Some voters are defying the threat of attacks for the ballot.

Altaf Ahmed, a resident in Kashmir, said: "We need to exercise our right to vote to ensure that all the development work in our districts take place in a suitable manner. We should not express regret and ask ourselves why we did not cast our vote.

For some in Kashmir, the right to vote is worth the risk to their security, and they are hoping that through the ballot box, they can help move the province towards peace and security. But with voter turnout likely to be low despite the security boost, that wish may take some time to be realised.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna