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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Mixed response to Kashmir vote
Women queue up for the vote
Voting in two districts was brisk despite violence
Voting has ended in the crucial second phase of elections in Indian-administered Kashmir, which was marred by violence and a boycott call by separatists.

Kashmir vote day 2
Voting in Budgam, Jammu and Srinagar districts
28 constituencies
263 candidates
Over 2 million voters

The Indian Election Commission says 42% of voters cast their ballots on Tuesday.

Few people voted in the summer capital, Srinagar, where security forces blew up a house ending a siege with separatist militants, leaving one militant dead.

But polling in two other districts, including the winter capital, Jammu, further south, was much brisker despite violence between the security forces and militants that saw six killed.

Thousands of security personnel were deployed after a series of gun battles and explosions in the disputed territory as suspected Islamic militants tried to disrupt the elections.

Poll boycott

The main Kashmiri separatist alliance has called for a protest strike in Srinagar to coincide with the vote.

Officials arriving ready for the second round of elections.
Officials arrive for the second round of polls

"Nobody has so far come to vote," a poll official, Majid Husssain, was reported as saying in the heart of Srinagar by early afternoon local time.

The polling centrea at Habba Khadal registered the lowest turn out with just one percent.

However, voting in the surrounding countryside was brisk and large numbers of people turned out to cast their ballots.

And in predominantly Hindu Jammu, nearly 59% votes were cast, election officials said.

According to the Election Commission, the highest turn out, at about 70%, was in the Chhamb constituency near the Pakistani border.

"We have no fear. We have cast our vote without any problem," Ravi Gupta, a teacher, told Reuters news agency.

Violence

In the Srinagar stand-off, one policeman was killed and two others wounded before security forces blew up the building in which the militants were hiding.

Elsewhere, police in Jammu said they had killed six militants in two separate incidents.

In the past few days, militants have launched a string of attacks on security forces and party workers in the state:

  • Four rebels and one soldier were killed in the Banihal area between the two capitals in fighting on Monday
  • Monday also saw at least one person die when separatists triggered an explosion in Udhampur
  • Late on Sunday, at least five people were killed in a gun battle in the town of Tulial, close to the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan
  • The same night, security forces killed a militant and ended a siege at a police camp housing families of servicemen

More than 500 people, including a state minister and about 30 political workers, have been killed since the elections were called on 2 August.

India has viewed the level of violence during the elections as a key test of Pakistan's pledge to stop militants crossing into Indian-held Kashmir.

Pakistan, which rejects the poll as a farce, has insisted all incursions have halted except those by rogue elements.

The third round of the staggered poll will be held on 1 October.

Other violence-hit areas in southern Jammu will vote in the last round on 8 October, and the election concludes two days later with the counting of votes.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Satish Jacob
"The threat of violence has ensured that the voters have stayed at home"
Alexander Evans, elections analysist
"In rural areas it's easier for voters to ignore a boycott"
The BBC's Binoo Joshi
"The turnout was good in the border areas"
Click here fror background reports and analysis

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See also:

22 Sep 02 | South Asia
21 Sep 02 | South Asia
19 Sep 02 | South Asia
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