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Indian elections: Kashmiri voters speak out as violence continues



Over the years, he's given up dreaming for peace. "If you can not give us peace, give it to the bunkers at least," says the 76-year-old, who lives in the town of Uri in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Uri sits perilously close to the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. The two sides fire shells at each other – a common problem that's worsened in the aftermath of aerial dogfight in late february.

"This is injustice," Rasul says.

"We want the bunkers so that we have a place to hide during intense shelling." This is injustice, "Rasul says.

India's main political parties , according to Rasul, are ignoring the area's real problem ̵

1; unemployment – and instead are just using the Kashmir issue for political gain, especially in the run-up to a nationwide vote which has underway earlier this week.

the regular cross-border shelling, there are constant clashes between local militant groups and Indian troops and police. The relentless cycle of violence has rocketing during flare-ups.

"Living here is expensive." Rasul says.

Local political activist Nadim Abbasi organizes protests aimed at bringing these issues to light. On his mobile, he shows photos of Reyaz Ahmad, who was critically injured when he hit a shell near his home in Uri in early March.

 The town of Uri Indian controlled Kashmir, close to the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that divides this disputed region between India and Pakistan.

"A bunker could have saved his life," Abbasi says.

Forums seller Nadim Khan, 75, the cross-border shelling is nothing out of the ordinary.

"Coming here must be exotic for foreign journalists like you, right?" Khan says mockingly.

"This is an everyday reality for us." I want to see this, and I'll be seeing this. I want the day and the way Allah wishes, "Khan adds.

India and Pakistan are Muslim Kashmir but each claim the region in its entirety. A revolt since 1989 in the Indian section, by groups seeking independence or union with Pakistan, has claimed thousands of lives.

Kashmir including Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-controlled section.

 Kashmir protesters say violence has a severe impact on their daily lives.

When visited in March, the city center resembled a ghost town. Local separatist group had called for a shutdown after a teacher arrested for alleged terror left died in police custody.

For visitors, the city is one of juxtaposing realities: A mesmerizing landscape, with A backdrop of tall mountains, in what is one of the most heavily militarized places on Earth.

Last year in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in a decade: 238 militants died while 86 police or troops and 37 civilians lost their lives. 2017 which is hardly less deadly.

  Life goes on in Uri, despite frequent shelling.

The death in 2016 of Burhan Wani , an influential young militant leader, sparked a wave of unrest that has claimed scores of civilian lives and thousands injured. Many were partially or fully blinded by the use of pellet guns, a controversial move by Indian security forces to source protests.

The separatist insurgency and the frequent quarrels between India and Pakistan have hit the local tourism industry hard. Some 12.5 million tourists visited Jammu and Kashmir in 2012, a figure which dropped to 7.3 million in 2017.

 Tourists used to start flocking to the region in early spring.

Tourists used to start flocking to the region in early spring. Not anymore. The houseboats on the idyllic Dal Lake – one of the most popular destinations in Srinagar – sit empty and dozens of boatmen on the shores wait desperately for customers.

Hotel taxi driver Mohammad Shafi complained that he did not have a single customer for a couple of weeks in early March, when India and Pakistan were on the brink of war.

"The tulip gardens of Srinagar are expected to Inshallah (God willing), the tourists will start coming soon again, "he says hopefully.


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