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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
India praises Kashmir turn out
Doda district
The mountainous Doda region is rebel territory
The Indian authorities say turn out in the elections in the disputed territory of Kashmir was "higher than expected."


Those who took part in the voting have given a clear message to militants that they are not for violence

IS Malhi, Kashmir Chief Secretary
India's independent Election Commission says an average of 44% of electors voted in the four stages of polls in Indian administered Kashmir.

Voting ended in the final stage earlier on Tuesday.

Shortly after voting began, suspected militants attacked a polling station in the town of Doda leaving three dead, including two Indian troopers and a militant.

At least 80,000 soldiers and police were deployed to try and prevent violence by separatist Islamic militants.

Militants fighting Indian rule had threatened to disrupt elections, and separatist groups boycotted the polls.

Polls 'successful'

Election officials said that in the last phase, 52% electors turned out for voting in Doda and 44% in the Lolab constituency in the Kashmir Valley.

The officials have expressed satisfaction at "the successful conduct of elections".

"It is a major achievement for the administration in view of the threat of violence," Kashmir's Chief Secretary IS Malhi told reporters in Jammu.

"Those who took part in the elections have sent out a clear message to the militants that they are not for violence."

But fears were also expressed by independent groups that Indian forces would put pressure on people to vote to ensure that the polls appeared successful.

Attacks

Armed militants dressed in police uniforms lobbed grenades and opened fire in the polling station inside the town hall in Doda just before voting was due to begin in the early hours of the morning.

Election official in Doda region
Election officials had military back-up
The sudden burst of grenades and bullets left two members of the Indian security forces dead and five others, including a civilian, wounded.

In a gun battle that followed between the militants and security forces, one of the rebels was also killed.

Suspected militants also blew up a polling booth in the outskirts of Doda, leaving two civilians injured.

The state's top police official, AK Suri, flew down to Doda from the capital Srinagar, to assess the situation.

Voting

Correspondents say the attack in Doda frightened away voters, but they returned later in the day to cast their ballots.

Nearly 200 people have been killed in the state since the polling process began two months ago.

Moderate Muslim separatists boycotted the election while the militants threatened to disrupt the vote.

India hopes the four-round poll will quell growing protests against its rule in the region.

Counting of votes is due to take place on 10 October.

Neighbouring Pakistan has denounced the vote as a poor substitute for the plebiscite it wants for the people of Kashmir to decide between Pakistani and Indian sovereignty.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jill McGivering
"The final day of voting began with another militant attack"
Click here fror background reports and analysis

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See also:

03 Oct 02 | South Asia
01 Oct 02 | South Asia
24 Sep 02 | South Asia
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