SRINAGAR, India: Militants killed two local officials and another man in Indian Kashmir before issuing a warning to Kashmiris against voting this week in the country’s mammoth election, police and residents said on Tuesday.
The militants targeted two village council heads in separate attacks late on Monday in Pulwana district south of the main city of Srinagar, a senior police officer said.
“Three people including two village heads were killed by local militants active in the area and the attack is aimed to keep the voters away from polling,” Inspector General of Police AG Mir said.
“The attackers belong to the local militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen, they were two in number and we have identified them,” Mir told Agence France-Presse.
Police were hunting for the attackers, who entered the home of one village head and shot him dead in Tral area of Pulwana district. They killed another senior village official and his 24-year-old son about an hour later in the same area.
Separatists have called for a boycott of the general election which ends next month, when hardline Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi and his party are expected to vault to power after a decade of Congress-party rule.
Posters warning residents of punishment if they went to the polls appeared early on Tuesday morning in the Tral area where the attacks happened, according to residents who have seen them.
Voting in India’s only Muslim-majority state of Kashmir and Jammu is being staggered because of the tight security required. The Kashmir constituency which includes Pulwana district votes on Thursday.
The warnings, which say they are from the region’s biggest rebel group, the Hizbul Mujahideen, were posted outside several mosques and in the main bazaar of Tral town.
“Be warned, voting for tyrants will entail punishment,” the posters saidy.
The rebels say in the posters that they have been compelled to change their “freedom movement” strategy from “defensive” to “offensive” mode.
A dozen rebel groups have been fighting for years for Indian Kashmir’s independence or for merger of the territory with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, dead.
At least a dozen council members have been killed by suspected rebels since elections were held in 2010 for the region’s “panchayat” or village councils.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 and the neighbors have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.