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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Kashmir elections announced
Protests in Srinagar
Kashmiri separatists have boycotted previous polls
India's independent poll body has announced fresh elections in Indian-administered Kashmir beginning next month.

Polling for the state legislative assembly is to take place in four phases starting on 16 September and ending on 8 October.

Final results are expected by 12 October.

Kashmiri separatists have so far refused to participate in the polls which in previous years have been marked by violence and poor voter turn-out.

Kashmir polls
Phase 1: 16 Sept
Phase 2: 24 Sept
Phase 3: 1 Oct
Phase 4: 8 Oct
The Indian Election Commission said elaborate security arrangements would be made for the poll.

"We have taken this election more seriously than we have taken any election in India in the past," Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh told journalists in Delhi.

But he acknowledged that there was only so much the authorities could do to encourage people to vote.

"A little bit of personal courage is required if you want to cast your vote," he said.

Monitors

During a visit to the region last week, US Secretary of State Colin Powell urged India to allow access to international poll monitors.

But the chief election commissioner said while foreign nationals were welcome to watch the poll taking place, they would not be designated as official observers.

"Observing means white man coming and observing what the native is doing. India doesn't want this," he said.

Instead, he said, Indian observers with a reputation of being "independent and tough" would be deployed to monitor the elections.

Last month, the country's election authorities warned the security forces in Kashmir not to force people to vote.

Past elections in Indian-administered Kashmir have often been marred by reports of soldiers forcing unwilling Kashmiris into polling stations.

Kashmir has been the focus of tensions between India and Pakistan - both of which claim the region - since the two neighbours massed their troops along the Line of Control dividing the state.

The region has been devastated by a separatist insurrection since 1989 and thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in clashes between security forces and militants.

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12 Feb 02 | South Asia
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
17 Jul 02 | South Asia
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