Kashmiri leaders woo voters before the first phase of multi-phase election

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Jammu, Nov 16 : Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mufti Mohammed Sayeed on Sunday said to resolve Kashmir problem concede something to the people of Kashmir.

Sayeed was addressing a news conference in Jammu today ahead of the seven-phase polling, which will begin from November 17, and end on December 24.

"Our agenda of self-rule is in the realm of possibility. We don't want to talk in imagination, we say that if you want to address alienation of people of Jammu and Kashmir, if you want to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, if you have to finish the uncertainties, then you have to concede something to the people of Kashmir," Sayeed told reporters in Jammu.

On the other hand pro-India political parties say elections will not resolve the dispute in Kashmir, where officials say about 43,000 people have died in violence involving Muslim militants and Indian troops. Human rights groups put the toll at 60,000.

Sayeed also added that his party wants the state to act as a 'bridge' of friendship between the neighbouring nations.

"If people support us and we succeed, we will resolve the Kashmir issue. As we have said that Jammu of Kashmir, which had been a bone of contention between our country and Pakistan, we will make it a bridge," said he.

Thousands of troops will guard the vote in one of the world's most militarised regions, which witnessed some of the biggest pro-independence demonstrations this year since a separatist revolt against Indian rule in the Himalayan region broke out in 1989.

Separatist leaders have called for a boycott. They say New Delhi will use draconian anti-terror laws and its thousands of troops to try to legitimize their rule.

New Delhi believes the separatists are a small and often violent group. The government hopes the vote will see a high turnout for the parties -- all of which broadly accept New Delhi's rule -- competing in the vote.

The PDP took power at the head of a coalition following the last state election in 2002, ending a two-decade rule by the National Conference. But now the state is under direct rule after the violent protests.

It will be the third vote in the state since an insurgency began in 1989.

In the past, separatist guerrillas have attacked and killed scores of candidates and political workers, vandalised polling stations and attacked rallies to thwart elections.

But an estimated 500,000 Indian troops are stationed in the region to defend the frontier, fight separatist militants and now provide security to the elections.

ANI

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