Kashmir votes amid tight security

Other News Materials 17 November 2008 10:56 (UTC +04:00)

Voting has begun amid tight security in elections for a new state government in Indian-administered Kashmir, reported BBC.

A BBC correspondent says a sizeable number of voters have turned up to cast their ballots in Bandipora area in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.

Voters are queuing up since the morning in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region.

The poll, being boycotted by separatist groups campaigning for independence, is being seen as a stern test for Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region.

In recent months there have been huge pro-independence demonstrations in Kashmir which were put down by force.

And dozens of separatist leaders have been detained to prevent them leading protests against the poll.

Voting will be held in seven phrases, lasting until 24 December.

"I have visited at least 10 polling centres in Bandipora and Sonawari constituencies since the morning and there has been no impact of the poll boycott call in these areas," the BBC's Altaf Hussain reports from the valley.

A large number of enthusiastic voters have come out to vote braving the unusually chilly weather, our correspondent says.

Brisk polling is being reported in the three constituencies of Poonch district in the Jammu region.

Enthusiastic voters are queuing up since the morning to cast their votes early, reports the BBC's Binoo Joshi from Jammu.

Security is tight across the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir for the elections with armed soldiers and policemen deployed on every road, at almost every junction in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.

Half a million troops are providing a massive security blanket for this election for a new state government.

Over the summer hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims staged some of the biggest protests in a generation against Indian-rule.

The row began after the state government allotted a plot of land to a Hindu religious shrine trust.

Following violent protests, the government revoked the land transfer order.

This led to violent protests in the Jammu region too.

Police broke up the demonstrations in the valley and the Jammu region and dozens of people were killed, many of them unarmed protesters.

The authorities have jailed or put under house arrest up to 100 separatist leaders who have called for a boycott of the vote.

They are now asking their supporters to march on polling stations.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Srinagar says India is hoping the election will help restore its battered credibility here.

Depending on the number of people who heed the call to shun the poll, the legitimacy of India's rule over Kashmir may well be questioned, our correspondent says.