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Curfew is enforced in Srinagar

By Altaf Hussain
BBC News, Srinagar

Confrontation in Ganderbal - 13.11.08
Tensions have been high in Ganderbal for some time

A de facto curfew is in place in the city of Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir, ahead of the second phase of elections for a new state government.

Police are restricting people's movements to prevent anti-election protests by separatists seeking an end to Indian rule.

Police opened fire in the Ganderbal constituency in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.

Polling is due on Sunday in Ganderbal and five other constituencies.

Although pro-Indian political groups are feeling upbeat following a huge turnout of voters in the first phase of polling last Monday, the authorities are not taking any chances.

Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers in Srinagar (1 November 2008)
The security presence in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir is high

Earlier a police official who did not want to be named said any casualties caused by police or paramilitary forces dealing with anti-election protests might prove disastrous for the electoral process.

However, trouble developed in Ganderbal when a group boycotting the poll pelted the motorcade of a candidate with stones, damaging several motorbikes and at least one car, eyewitnesses say.

The police opened fire injuring one person. Later anti-election protests were held in the town and police used tear gas to break them up.

Police have also used force against protesters in the town of Sopore.

High turnout

The unusually strong turnout in the first phase of elections for a new state government in Indian-administered Kashmir took everyone by surprise.

Voters queue outside a polling station in Ajas, in Bandipora constituency in Indian-administered Kashmir on November 17, 2008
An unusually large number of voters turned out for the first phase of polls

Queues of hundreds of voters formed from early morning, defying a boycott called by separatist groups.

The turnout in Muslim-majority constituencies was just over 50%, with many Muslims voting despite not accepting Indian rule in their troubled state.

In recent months, there have been a series of pro-independence demonstrations in Kashmir. These have frequently been met with force by the security services, resulting in several deaths.

Dozens of separatist leaders have also been detained to prevent them leading demonstrations against the election.

Voting in the state is being held in seven phrases, lasting until 24 December. The counting of ballots will begin on 28 December.

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