Modi due in Indian Kashmir days after deadly attack
SRINAGAR, India – Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to hit the campaign trail for regional elections in Indian Kashmir Monday, December 8, just days after a militant attack left 11 soldiers and police dead.
Hundreds of extra troops have been deployed in the main city Srinagar where Modi is due to speak at a public rally to boost his Hindu nationalist party's bold bid to seize power in the troubled Muslim-majority region.
Modi is going ahead with the lunchtime speech despite a series of attacks on Friday including on the outskirts of Srinagar, blamed on militants from across the border in Pakistan, party officials said.
Violence has increased as the disputed, Himalayan region holds staggered elections for the local legislature, which Indian officials say rebels are attempting to disrupt.
Kashmir will hold its third round of voting on Tuesday for the elections, which has recorded more than 70 percent turnout as residents ignore calls by separatists to boycott.
Modi has condemned the strikes, which also saw grenade-hurling militants storm an army base, calling them a "shameful attempt to attack the democracy of India."
India and Pakistan have fought two of three wars since independence over Kashmir which is divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both.
About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces for independence or merger of the territory with Pakistan since 1989.
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a serious attempt to seize power for the first time at the elections -- a move unthinkable until very recently.
The party has traditionally had no base in the Kashmir Valley, where local resentment against Indian rule runs high.
BJP seeks breakthrough
But Modi's landslide win in national elections in May on a pledge to revive the economy, along with a meltdown in support for the chief minister after deadly September flooding have given the BJP hope of a breakthrough.
"Kashmir is economically sick and emotionally wounded," said Hina Bhat, one of 32 candidates for the BJP at the election.
"The BJP wants to work for development first, the political issue of Kashmir comes later," said Bhat, referring to the BJP's long-standing pledge to scrap a constitutional provision known as Article 370, which allows Kashmir to make its own laws.
"People here want employment and a few hours of clear water supply, many don't understand what 370 is about," Hina told Agence France-Presse.
Modi will make an address in a cricket stadium near the army headquarters in Srinagar. Police and paramilitaries were checking vehicles and pedestrians were being frisked at the many check points put up across the city.
"The PM is always a high value target. We are on maximum alert and strengthening the security apparatus," inspector general of police for the region, Abdul Gani Mir told Agence France-Presse.
During Friday's attacks, 11 soldiers and police and six militants were killed. It was the highest number of security officers killed in a single day in the state since June 2013.
Police say government forces have killed 25 militants since the elections were announced in late October. – Rappler.com