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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Kashmiris vote amid sporadic violence
A voter in Kashmir
High turnout was reported in some areas
Voting has ended in the first of four days of elections in Indian-administered Kashmir amid reports of sporadic violence.

India's independent Election Commission said nearly 44% of electors cast their votes.

The turnout has been uneven - low in some areas, higher than expected in others.

Election Dates

Phase 1: 16 Sept
Phase 2: 24 Sept
Phase 3: 1 Oct
Phase 4: 8 Oct
Results due: 12 Oct
Two people were injured when suspected Islamic militants threw grenades at a polling station.

The Indian security forces say they have killed a number of people described as infiltrators from Pakistan-administered Kashmir who were trying to disrupt polling.

Boycott call

Deputy Election Commissioner Sayan Chatterjee told a press conference in Delhi that the commission was "satisfied" with the voter turnout.

The Indian government will be keen to highlight those constituencies where voters seemed to defy a boycott called by Islamic militants and separatist political groups opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir.

Police commando on duty for election day
Violence continues despite a huge security operation
In some areas though, there were allegations that the security forces were asking people to vote against their will, but officials have firmly denied this.

Kashmir's main separatist parties are boycotting the poll, and Islamic militant groups have vowed to disrupt the election and kill anyone taking part.

The election campaign has been overshadowed by a surge in violence by militants.

Two candidates - one the state's law minister - have been killed during campaigning, and on Sunday the state's tourism minister escaped an attempt on her life.

The head of India's independent Election Commission, JM Lyngdoh, said that tight security arrangements were in place for the election, and there was nothing to fear.

Mixed expectations

Indian army officials say Pakistan and militants based in Kashmir are using terror to try to sabotage the elections.

Islamabad denies any involvement, but has dismissed the elections themselves as rigged and a farce.

There has been some optimism that these elections could prove a turning-point if voter turnout notably increased.

Some analysts have warned that public disillusionment, opposition to Indian administration, and this climate of on-going violence could all deter voters.

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Kashmir says India wants to use the elections to show the world that democracy can solve even the thorniest of problems.

Final results are expected on 12 October.

The BBC's Jill McGivering in Indian Kashmir
"Thousands of Kashmiris risked their lives to stand up and be counted"
President of National Conference Omar Abdullah
"Whatever we achieve will only be through concensus"
Click here fror background reports and analysis

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See also:

15 Sep 02 | South Asia
17 Sep 02 | South Asia
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12 Sep 02 | South Asia
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