May 16, 2009 / 3:26 PM / 10 years ago

Sajjad Gani Lone loses election

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Sajjad Gani Lone, Kashmir’s first separatist leader to contest Indian elections since a revolt broke out in the region two decades ago, lost polls, results showed on Saturday.

Sajjad Gani Lone shows his ink-marked finger after he cast his vote at a polling station during the fifth and last phase of general elections in Handwara, 80 km north of Srinagar May 13, 2009. REUTERS/Umar Ganie/Files

The vote was part of India’s general election, won nationally by the ruling Congress-led alliance.

Lone, who opposes Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan state and defied a long-standing separatist policy of boycotting elections, said he wanted to take Kashmir’s “freedom” struggle to parliament in New Delhi.

He said there was a need to change strategy after last year’s state election, which saw a turnout of more than 60 percent despite the boycott.

New Delhi was encouraged by the turnout, although many said it was a vote for better governance, not an acceptance of Indian rule.

“Fighting elections is a change of strategy and not ideology,” Lone told reporters.

Lone, 42, who led some of the massive anti-Indian demonstrations in Kashmir last year, contested the election in Baramulla in north Kashmir.

He walked out of Kashmir’s main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference, after his father, senior separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen in 2002.

Kashmir’s ruling pro-India coalition partners, the regional National Conference party and Congress, were leading in five of the six seats.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Muslim-majority region in the revolt against Indian rule.

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